When I began reading this novel I found it so strange that Screwtape references Him (God) as the Enemy. I had to read it a few times over to actually understand who he’s talking about, now I just find it funny. And he refers to those humans him or his nephew are trying to turn away from Christianity as “patients”.
What I found even more extraordinary was that two pages into the story was this remark in Screwtape’s letter to his nephew Wormwood; “Remember he is not like you, pure in spirit. Never being human (oh that abominable advantage of the Enemy’s!)”… Wouldn’t it be amusing if this is actually what they thought, that Jesus has an advantage… Who knows though.
I love the disclaimer given by Lewis at the beginning of the novel, it reads: “Readers are advised to remember the devil is a liar.” – so poignant.
Ok so to get to the actual reviewing of the book:
The novel starts off with Screwtape’s (a demon and highly placed assistant to the devil) first letter to his nephew, Wormwood (a novice demon).
In all his letters he advises Wormwood on the best methods to ensure that his patient’s soul ends up in hell when he dies. And always ends his letters with the words; “You affectionate uncle,
Something that stood out to me in one of the letters was when Screwtape mentioned to his nephew, that in order to make the patients damnation certain, it is not necessarily just about putting thoughts into their minds but also keeping thoughts out ( thoughts about God, their salvation, eternity, heaven etc). This realization led me to think about how wicked and deceiving my own mind and heart can be. One of the scriptures that points to our minds being deceitful is Proverbs 28: 26, “Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.” (ESV). Two scriptures that talks about the heart is Matthew 15:19, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (ESV) and Jeremiah 17: 9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (ESV).
One of the topics also brought forth in the letters is that of the acquaintances of the patient. To Screwtape, the type of people/friends he (the patient) surrounds himself with can be desirable. The new acquaintances of the patient are “rich, smart, superficially intellectual, and brightly skeptical about everything in the world.” (Lewis 49). These and other characteristics in humans will be used by the demons to play on our vanity.
The humility of the patient is also a tactic used by Screwtape. He asks Wormwood to draw the patients attention to the fact that he is being humble. Being in right standing with God requires, amongst other things, a humble heart but the enemy seeks to mar this humility by making his patients so aware of it that their vanity comes to the forefront. Screwtape explains it well when he says, “All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is especially true of humility. Catch him at a moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By jove! I’m being humble’, and almost immediately pride – pride at his own humility – will appear. ” (Lewis 69).
I realize that I could analyze each letter from Screwtape and highlight the ways in which Christians can be manipulated daily by the enemy into reverting to their sinful natures and giving in to temptation. But that is not why I am writing this – this is a book review after all! And my only point is that this book is a definite MUST read, for believers and non-believers. It is a novel filled with humour and great anecdotes.
I’m not just giving 5 stars because it’s C.S Lewis and I’m a fan of all his works (Although it’s quite possible that this is the reason I’m giving 5 stars 😅) – This story really makes me think about the daily ways we are deceived by the enemy. I know it’s fiction but it’s so compelling.
“screwtape-letters-by-izabela-wojcik1”. A Pilgrim in Narnia, Brenton Dickieson. 15 January 2014. https://apilgriminnarnia.com/2014/01/15/conception/, 08 December 2020
“the-screwtape-letters-special-illustrated-edition1”. A Pilgrim in Narnia, Brenton Dickieson. 15 January 2014. https://apilgriminnarnia.com/2014/01/15/conception/, 08 December 2020
Lewis, C.S. “The Screwtape Letters. A View of Our World from the Dark Depths of Hell“. Harper Collins Christian Publishing.