Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts . . .
A Problem of Doctrine
Over the years, the Christian Evangelical community has expressed concern and shown reservation over the doctrine of C.S. Lewis. Oh don’t worry, they acknowledge and heavily applaud his writings still, but in our legalistic fashion as MacArthur-ites, John Piper enthusiasts, and Lloyd-Jones followers, we have upbraided Lewis for his failure in the area of theological doctrine. I haven’t looked into these claims myself thoroughly enough to understand what the problem is; however, I do know this: C.S. Lewis’s writings have impacted me greatly and I am a stronger Believer because of his books.
Sarcastic anger aside, I desire to look into the allegations against Lewis’s doctrine. It is of importance for the purpose of discernment and true wisdom. But let us now see one of the treasures from Lewis’s collection and ponder it’s depths, all preconceived judgments set aside.
One Devil to Another
The Screwtape Letters are exactly that: letters from a senior devil named Screwtape. He writes to his “beloved” nephew, Wormwood, as this younger, unpracticed devil has come into an ownership of sorts of one human soul. This man has become a Believer, much to the dismay of Screwtape and the higher authority (Satan himself.) But, don’t worry, the devils have many plans that can pull a man as far from the clutches of the Enemy (God the confoundedly loving One Himself) as is possible. Salvation may be the final step to permanently remove a man from Hell’s clutches, but a man can still stray far from his Lord and his morality when given a little help.
It’s Better Than You Think
Don’t let the description scare you away! This book is written from a devil’s perspective which is abnormal to say the least. It does not sound like Christian literature. But hear me out: to see our temptations, trials, lusts, and vices from another angle is incredibly helpful.
The Psalms and the Proverbs bear witness to us that the heart is deceitful, lustful, ruinous, devilish, and entirely self-centered to its very core. Even as Believers, I think we underestimate the power of our own hearts to lead us into sinful habits and ungodly modes of thought. In these letters, the devil Screwtape urges Wormwood to manipulate the sinful tendencies of his “patient” to encourage further ungodliness. It is in the small and quiet places of the heart that we see these things carried out. How often do we consider the small gluttonies, the moments of irritation and distraction, the fretful and frenzy days?
While going about it in an an unorthodox manner, C.S. Lewis still gets to the heart of the matter: we do not serve God in every single area of life as we ought, and the prince of this world will take advantage of that. This book calls us to consider the small things, the inner recesses of the heart, our friend groups, our discussion topics, and our very motivation for even the good things we do.
There is no problematic material here, although there is caution that should be taken in the reading of this book. This difference in perspective isn’t difficult to read, but it is not a topic to be taken lightly. If you are willing to be serious about the issues at hand here, it is well worth your time. I believe every Christian should take the time to read it!
To Read or Not to Read
I walked away from this book shocked and ashamed of myself. How have I let the enemy slip in so easily and distort my view of sin, my own evil heart, and my Lord Himself? You can’t help but be changed when you read this collection of letters. No doubt, we must be careful. Lewis himself acknowledges that it did his soul some harm to continually think like a demon in order to write this book. There is a reason this book is not longer and that is because Lewis regarded the safety of his soul to be an important matter. Still, there is wisdom in approaching a situation from the enemy’s side, to see what he thinks, how he acts, what he believes are his advantages.
In taking the wicked view of myself, I have seen many of the ploys, difficulties, temptations, tricks, and terrors mentioned in these letters in my own life. I was greatly humbled and have been convicted to stand a greater guard over my soul. You also would benefit greatly from this book I wager, dear reading friend! Take the leap, and read this classic treasure to its fullest. I daresay you will not regret it.
If you look at my article, Books I’ve Finished in 2021 , you will see that I rated this book at 5 stars. It is well-earned. I daresay I haven’t read 5 star books back-to-back very often, but it’s happened a few times this year already. After you’ve read The Screwtape Letters, check out my review of Evidence Not Seen and find a copy to read for yourself!
Before I start writing in a British accent, I bid thee farewell and do go read a book! 🙂
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