Book Review: The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis (4/5)

23 Dec

One of my really good friends from college recommended this to me back in August. During my crunch to finish my book goal, I grabbed it as an audiobook on my phone and listened to it while I made Christmas cookies. Jealous yet?

Cover Image from Goodreads.com

Cover Image from Goodreads.com

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

C.S. Lewis is remembered most for the Chronicles of Narnia though he is sometimes called the greatest Christian writer of the modern era. This was my first endeavor into his Christian writings. The book is structured as a series of letters from Screwtape, a senior demon, to his nephew Wormwood. Wormwood has been assigned to his first ‘patient’ and acts as a tempter, trying to turn the patient toward an afterlife in Hell. Wormwood falls into many pitfalls along the way and Screwtape has to advise him as to what is most likely to corrupt a Christian man whose friends are all strong Christians and who’s truly in love with woman he’s seeing. I now know that there are an unlimited number of ways to trip up such a man.

The patient lives in England during World War II. As to his identity, we get very small hints to his intellect, social class, and preferences from the suggestions Screwtape offers for undermining the patient’s soul. Wormwood is constantly missing opportunities that Screwtape chastises him for, reminding his nephew that the consequences for not turning the man to ‘their father’ (the Devil) are very severe and painful and that he would do well to apply himself more firmly.

I really enjoyed this book. Lewis was able to point out so many potentially condemning existences that many Christians tend to over-look or make excuses for in everyday life. He would point out the different ways that one can be a glutton or the ways in which intelligence can corrupt a person to believe that they are better or entitled to things.

I think that there are many people who are Christians who believe that because they are, their souls are saved. Lewis is responding to this group of Christians and telling them that despite what they can say about their love of God, there are innumerable ways for the Devil to insert himself into their lives and tempt them into an eternity in hell. To be truly saved, we have to live the lives that God wants for us and listen to his commandments and will. Screwtape describes those who are in God’s hands as ‘untouchable,’ that the tempters are not able to get near them because they are surrounded by the Holy Spirit. This is the state Lewis is advising us all to reach.

It’s easy to imagine that this book doesn’t sit well with some people. I’ve met a lot of people who unfortunately have the life philosophy of ‘Do as I say, not as I do.’ These are people who say they’re solid Christians but at the slightest provocation will indulge in one of the seven deadly sins or turn their back on a neighbor in his time of need. This book calls those people out by using a man similar to them as an example. The patient doesn’t realize he is flawed and thinks of himself as virtuous. Screwtape points out the temptations in his life, the ways that he is only millimeters from damnation at every step. He gives Wormwood hundreds of ways to bring the patient to the Devil but, on his own virtue, the patient is saved.

This book made me think of a novel I read way back in high school, The Wish List by Eoin Colfer. The main character dies suddenly and is stuck in purgatory, being neither good enough for Heaven nor bad enough for Hell. She has to go back to Earth and is given a second chance to make up for the wrong she’s done and prove she deserves a spot in Heaven. I feel that Colfer’s book is a juvenile edition of Lewis’s work as the same message is told inside a fictional tale.

Writer’s Takeaway: Similar to my message about The Martian Chronicles, I liked that Lewis was delivering a message without hitting the reader over the head with it. If one chose to turn off the religious lens, this book is still worth the read. He found a way to write about religion without writing a strictly religious text. During my 2-Hit Google search, I found that some people call this book a satire and I’m semi-inclined to agree. It had a similar feeling to A Modest Proposal which was one of my favorites in British Literature.

Inspiring, eye-opening and engaging. 4 out of 5 stars.

Until next time, write on.

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