In the month of February we are reading The Screwtape Letters, by CS Lewis, one letter at a time. Today, we read the first letter. If you’ve not read this book before (it’s a classic, that bears re-reading over and again!) we encounter in it an imaginary correspondence between a senior tempter, Screwtape, and a junior devil, Wormwood. Although full of satire and good humour, we find ourselves drawn to consider our responsibility for our choices and our living.
In reading this book, there is a danger that we will come to view the Spiritual dimension of our lives as part of a fantasy world filled with characters such as Screwtape and Wormwood. This would be a significant mistake. Indeed, the apostle Paul says,
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.Ephesians 6:10-12
For Lewis, it is not so much that we must be delivered from demons that possess and control us; it is that we are constantly and quietly influenced by them. The demons are eager to corrupt and pollute, dissuading godly choices which cultivate faith and virtue. But it is the Christian that is ultimately accountable for their choices. In his famous sermon, “The Weight of Glory,” Lewis noted that there are no ordinary people; we are all becoming either eternal wonders or eternal horrors. Similarly, The Screwtape Letters show that there are no ordinary actions. It is a battle all the way from here to heaven.
After reading the first ‘letter’, you might consider the following questions:
- Why is the man that Screwtape and Wormwood talk about referred to as the “patient”?
- So far, how are you responding to the premise of Lewis’ book?
- How did Screwtape use what he called the “pressures of the ordinary,” and the familiar, to “rescue” him from the influence of the Enemy?
- Why do you think Screwtape encourages propaganda over argument?
If you have not been able to purchase the book, you can do so here. If you would like to download the first letter, you can do so here: