The The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis is one of my favorites as well as one of his more popular works.
A very simple overview of the book: it contains a series of letters from one demon to another, giving advice on how to influence a human for their cause.
The book makes you think, at least it did for me, about all the lies we tell ourselves. How we tend to operate from a backwards perspective. In the book the demons assume their way is “good” and the other way “evil.”
I find I often do that, I’ve learned that these little lies are just playing over and over in my head but they don’t need to be believed. It just seems so normal, believing my pride, selfishness, self-doubt, apathy and so on are truths. But, they aren’t, and this book makes that very clear.
While I think it’s a great book, here are a few things to keep in mind while reading:
Lewis believes demons are real.
He states this in the premise of his book, and it’s reasonable to assume since most Christians believe demons real. So while the work is fiction, demons are not.
God is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. Demons and the devil are not.
When reading through The Screwtape Letters, it can seem as though the demons have more power than they actually do. Don’t start believing that demons can hear and/or control your unspoken thoughts. They can’t. Remember, this work is fiction and meant to be so. It’s also reasonable to assume that Lewis is letting the demons act like they believe they have more control than they do. (Let’s leave demon possession out of this, for this isn’t what we are talking about here nor do I believe it was what Lewis was writing about.)
What the book does is make apparent that we are all born sinners and are all depraved. I believe many of the negative attitudes and thoughts Lewis talks about in the book come simply from within our own selves, even after we become Christians.
I remember watching the show Touched by an Angel. It was a bit corny, but generally uplifting. The premise had an angel appear in someone’s life when needed, usually appearing as another human, and guide them through a situation. If I remember correctly, sometimes a demon would also appear, as a human, and also try to guide said person through the situation.
This is more of how it works. Things outside of you are being influenced. It doesn’t take much of a psychologist to guess what will influence someone’s attitude or decision. If you’ve spent any time with someone you can usually guess how they’ll respond. Throughout The Screwtape Letters, this is the influence being suggested.
You can’t lose your salvation.
Personally I’m a firm believer in “once saved, always saved.” I’ll admit not every Christian believes this stance. Many do though, and most believe that if losing your salvation is possible, it would be from a literal turning from God, not by simply doing something bad.
In The Screwtape Letters, the human mark becomes a Christian and the demon is still encouraged to try to dissuade, distract and corrupt. The demon even says that many Christians “have been reclaimed.”
Keep in mind everything said in this book is from a demon character, who by definition is a liar. The demon writing could reasonably know that reclaiming Christians is not possible, but still wants to wreck havoc and thus encourages the recipient of his letter to continue.
I hope with these tips you can read the book and enjoy it while also reflecting on some theology.
Photo by Muffet