Screwtape Letters John Cleese
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Following the advice of C. S. Lewis, we want to help our readers “keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing in our minds,” which, as he argued, “can only be done by reading old books.” Continuing our Rediscovering Forgotten Classics series, we want to map out some of the forgotten Christian classics that are still relevant and serving the church today.
Screwtape Letters John Cleese
C.S. Lewis would be shocked to see The Screwtape Letters series on the benefits of reading old books. He said his book is not old enough. When he talked about old books, he meant it
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Books – the works of Plato, Athanasius or Aquinas. But I find that the gap between his writings in the 1940s and my current re-reading is long enough to qualify as “a test against the great mass of Christian thought through the ages” (
, I thought it would be fun. How could a fictional series of letters from an older demon to a young apprentice not be fun? (If you ever want to feel the full force of that humor, watch the audio version read by John Cleese.)
Your patient has become humble; have you brought it to his attention? All virtues are less frightening to us when one is aware that one possesses 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 delightful reflection, “Wonderful! I am humble,” and almost at once pride appears—pride in his own humility.
Let him, if he is bent in that direction, write a book about it; it is often an excellent way to sterilize the seeds that the Enemy sows in the human soul.
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But I soon found the book much more exploratory than entertaining. Lewis shines a light on Christian reflection on sin and temptation in a revealing and disturbing way. He makes me laugh – but that only puts me off long enough to feel conviction and regret. I look at myself more honestly and turn from sin with more determination after eavesdropping on this diabolical dialogue.
This profound and striking account is a series of letters from Screwtape, a high official in Hell, to his nephew Wormwood, a younger colleague on his first mission on Earth, trying to secure the young man’s conviction. who has just become a Christian. Although the young man appears to be a willing victim at first, he changes his ways and is “lost” to the young devil.
I have often wondered how Lewis knew my darkest secrets. Apparently I’m not alone. In the preface to Pekkakantinen’s edition, he wrote:
Were the ripe fruit of many years of studying moral and ascetic theology. They forgot that there is an equally reliable, though less meritorious, method of learning how temptation works. “My heart”—I do not need the heart of others—”shows me the wickedness of the wicked.”
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While preparing to write this article, I thought I would read the book once more. I couldn’t do it. I simply can’t read
Quickly. After only two letters I had to put it down, think deeply, repent thoroughly and pray fervently. Lewis may have had similar struggles in writing it. When many asked to write more letters for the second volume, he refused: “Although I had never written anything more easily, I had never written with less enjoyment.”
Goes beyond the mere “how” and ponders the essence of things – the essence of human nature, the essence of sin and temptation, and the essence of time and eternity.
When it comes to human nature, Lewis helps me understand what it means to live in a physical body, but also in a spiritual nature. Some of this duality is experienced as ripples. Our emotions ebb and flow, and our sense of closeness to our Creator fluctuates. God can use both ups and downs to make us more like him. But those ups and downs also provide great opportunities for the devil. Remembering this has helped me profoundly both during the highs (when I’m tempted to arrogance) and the lows (when I’m spiraling towards despair).
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Don’t be fooled, Wormood. Our cause is never in greater peril than when man, no longer willing but still intent on doing the will of our Enemy, looks upon a universe from which all traces of Him seem to have disappeared, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.
When it comes to sin and temptation, it’s easy to treat them all the same way. But Lewis helps me identify the challenges associated with specific sins. It is certain that all sin is the same when it comes to its ultimate consequence (judgment) and its only solution (the cross). However, homogenizing sins is not as helpful (or biblical) as analyzing them individually in order to better combat them.
Anger, lust, greed, and other evils manifest in different ways, requiring different coping strategies. Anger is triggered when I insist that the time is mine (as if I produced the minutes and seconds). Lust is triggered by other reasons – loneliness, hurt or misunderstanding. I have to remember that gluttony isn’t just about overeating. It can rear its ugly head as a subtle, demanding demand that the food taste just the way I like it and that it be served at the exact moment I – the ruler of my culinary empire – demand.
More than 10 years ago, I faced the challenge of heart surgery. I had to wait in the hospital for almost a week before the different blood values leveled out to ensure a safe bypass procedure. While I was waiting, I read again
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People live in time, but our Enemy condemns them to eternity. Therefore, I believe he wants them to focus mainly on two things, eternity itself and the time they call the present. Because the present is the point where time touches eternity. . . . He therefore wanted them to be constantly concerned either with eternity (which means they are concerned with Him) or with the present—either by contemplating their eternal connection or separation from themselves, or else by obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross. , receive present grace, give thanks for present joy.
? Without reservation. Consider a slower pace than usual and plan to read it more than once. But trust that the laughter will decrease and the improvement will increase with each re-read.
Randy Newman is a senior fellow in apologetics and evangelism at the C. S. Lewis Institute and occasionally blogs about evangelism and other topics at connectpoints.us. He is a writer
Access to the church is difficult. But that’s part of the value of going to church every Sunday. It sets the tone for the Christian’s daily struggle to live in a personal relationship with Christ. In 2010, vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin shocked the mainstream media when she said her favorite author was C.S. Lewis. In classic cynicism, The View’s Joy Behar asked:
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Yes, Joy, she wrote children’s books and much, much more. Arguably the most influential Christian writer of the 20th century has been C.S. Lewis. Best known for his Narnian Chronicles (the first three of which have been made into Hollywood movies, probably why Joy Behar even heard of him), his writing spans an amazing spectrum.
A professor at Oxford from 1925 to 1954, he published several scholarly academic works, including one on English literature in the 16th century, which won him election to the British Academy (a very high literary honour). However, after converting to Christianity in the 1930s, he began writing a wide variety of works about his faith. Works of popular theological works such as
, appears on serious big lists as one of the most important books of the 20th century.
. But as popular as these are, one of the most deeply and often quoted works of them all is the curiously titled,
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. Others have written fantasy and science fiction from a Christian perspective, but no one has described the mind of the devil as brilliantly as C.S. Lewis.
Was born in Lewis’s mind as he sat in church in July 1940. He probably noticed the hypocrisy surrounding him at the time and imagined the elder demon, Screwtape, writing advice on practical deception and temptation for his nephew and patron, Wormwood. Comprised of thirty-one short messages, Lewis captures the essence of Satan’s work to discourage and deceive the believer in masterful form.
It takes some getting used to hearing references to God as “The Enemy” and Satan as “Our Father below”. Lewis himself admitted that it was the most difficult book he ever wrote because he had to turn his mind backwards in a kind of theology in reverse in order to write it.
Anyone could have used a series of demon letters as an apprentice, but only Lewis could have written them with such wit, wisdom and literature. Each letter has at least one