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The Screwtape Letters: Review

 I just finished reading The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. It didn’t take that long to read, and probably wouldn’t have taken as long as it did if I hadn’t read several sections over and over again. Every time I read something that C.S. Lewis has written, I’m in awe all over again. If you haven’t read it, I warn you now, that this is a spoiler and you will know the ending if you continue to read this post.

This book, first published in 1942, consists of 31 letters written by Screwtape, an older demon, to his nephew, Wormwood. The letters all give Wormwood advice on how to turn the “patient”, a human living in England during the war, toward Satan or “Our Father” and away from God, “the Enemy”.

After the first letter, Wormwood is in trouble because his “patient” has converted to Christianity. Wormwood is threatened with penalties at the House of Correction for Incompetent Tempters. Through these letters, it was easy to see that Wormwood is what I would think of being the typical demon, one that desires to trip me up and sin on every occasion, and would be extremely happy to see me suffering. Screwtape is quick to advise Wormwood that it’s not important to get the “patient” to commit any nasty sins, because “the safest path to hell is the gradual one.”  Screwtape believes that the demons’ goal should be to confuse and corrupt.

Lewis warns us that even intellectuals are not impervious to the influence of demons, especially in being led down the broad path. In one letter, Screwtape becomes so incensed, because Wormwood has allowed his Patient to fall in love with a Christian girl, that he turns into a centipede. If you have read John Milton, you will be reminded of Paradise Lost, where the demons so raged against God that they turned into snakes.

In the end, we learn that the “patient” has been killed in an air raid, and has gone to Heaven. Wormwood is punished by the justice that would have been in store for his Patient had he been successful. Screwtape’s response is that he is his “increasingly and ravenously affectionate” uncle. Yuck! 

Despite the gravity of soul-fighting among the principalities of light and darkness, I couldn’t help but be entertained by the demons’ correspondence. However, I also couldn’t deny the great reminder of the “devil being in the details”. In the fictional tale, Lewis’ point is an eye-opener you can’t ignore, the little foxes will spoil the vine (Song of Solomon 2:15), and the real enemy seeks to control the little foxes.

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