Friday, July 15, 2011

Saturday Review of Books: C.S. Lewis The Screwtape Letters

"We want cattle who can finally become food," says the demon, "He wants servants who can finally become sons."

I originally posted this on my other blog, Notes in the Key of Life, on January 29, 2004.

I read "The Screwtape Letters" yesterday, and was once again struck by the wit and wisdom of C. S. Lewis.

Yes, I read the entire book...it's actually a pretty slim volume...and no, I had never read it before. I was home sick from work, fighting this bronchial/sinus/icky thing that has been making me feel rotten for the past few days. And there was nothing to read. So I breached the haven of my daughter's bedroom and found the book, which had been one of her Christmas presents. (She had read a library copy before and loved it.)

In case you're unfamiliar with it, the book is in the form of letters from a mentor demon (Screwtape) to a less experienced one (Wormwood.) Screwtape gives Wormwood advice on how to handle his "patient," the human to whom he has been assigned. His advice on methods to use to keep this man away from "the Enemy"...which is how he refers to God...is not only entertaining in a macabre sort of way, but convicting, as we see how often we as Christians cooperate with the real enemy's agenda.

A couple of things really stood out for me. One is how frustrated and bewildered the demons are by God's love for humans. "He actually likes the little vermin," Screwtape writes disgustedly at one point. That sentiment was repeated often.

Screwtape also talks about the fact that God wants to people the universe with little replicas of Himself...yet in making them more like Him, he also gives them back their own distinctness, making them more themselves than they ever were. "We want cattle who can finally become food," says the demon, "He wants servants who can finally become sons."

Another was (and this is a spoiler if you haven't read it) Screwtape's reaction to the patient's death. While furious that Wormwood has allowed a soul to slip through his clutches, he resignedly describes what the human must have been experiencing when his soul left his body. Screwtape is appalled that this "creature of slime" is now able to stand up and converse with spirit beings whose light the demons are unable to bear.

He also observes that, when meeting these spirit beings, the human instantly feels recognition...not asking "Who are you?" but saying, "So it was you..."

Wonderful book, with a lot of food for thought. Some people criticize Lewis' theology, but when I read one of his books, I'm usually inspired anew by the wonder of being a child of God...and that moves me to love Him more. And that's a good thing.

Participating today in Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books:

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11 comments:

Corey P. said...

Of all Lewis' books, The Screwtape Letters is probably my favorite. I read through it in a heartbeat, too. Once you get started, it's hard to stop. :)

Another excellent Lewis book is The Abolition of Man. Have you read it?

Corey P. said...

That's me, the Ink Slinger, who left the above comment, just so you know. :D

Cindy Swanson said...

Corey, I haven't read The Abolition of Man...or even Mere Christianity, or the Great Divorce, all of which I've always meant to do!

I'm glad you told me you're the Ink Slinger or I might not have connected the dots!

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I'm reading The Narnian now, and I just read a part about The Screwtape Letters, so this was very timely for me. I need to re-read Screwtape! Thanks for visiting my blog (again)!

Corey P. said...

The Great Divorce is a good one, and Mere Christianity is excellent, too.

However, before reading MC, I recommend you take a look at this article by Kevin DeYoung. I found it quite helpful, as it addresses some of the flaws in the book (namely Lewis' inclusivism and faulty views on the atonement).

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2011/01/28/cautions-for-mere-christianity/

BookBelle said...

I love C.S. Lewis. He is one I want to meet upon arriving in Heaven.

Robin Lee said...

I love The Screwtape Letters. It is such a great way to understand how the enemy works against us in tiny ways. If you want a real treat, get the audio edition read by John Cleese. His voice is perfect for Screwtape!

And then you should read Lord Foulgrin's Letters by Randy Alcorn. He picks up the story after Screwtape's demotion. Because Randy is a huge fan of CS Lewis and knows Lewis's works intimately, he does an amazing job. Love it, too!

Becky said...

A few years ago, there was a audio production of it starring Andy Serkis that was very good! I'd definitely recommend it!

Brandy said...

I love this book. I read it once a year and always am gaining new insight from it. It is my favorite Lewis (tied with Til We Have Faces and The Horse and His Boy). I really like That Hideous Strength too. Pretty much everything the man wrote was genius.

Thanks for stopping by my blog earlier!

seth said...

This is one I tore through the first time I read it too, and it's a favorite of mine. My wife got to see Max MacLean's one-man-show adaptation of it and said it was amazing.

Glynn said...

Screwtape is one of my all-time favorite books, and your review does it justice.

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