Re-Reading Screwtape

It had been a few years since I last read C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters”, so I decided to listen to the audio book to take the edge off a long drive to southern California. I had read the book over twenty times, and my dull journey seemed a good time for a refresher of this great Christian classic.

If you’re not familiar with “The Screwtape Letters”, it was Lewis’ clever expose of the devil’s tactics to destroy devoted Christians. His approach was unique: Lewis devised thirty-one “letters” allegedly composed by a senior level demon, Uncle Screwtape, who was tasked with advising a novice, Wormwood, on how to neutralize a “patient”. The book is like reading the devil’s training manual. The letters are eerie, often hilarious and a devious revelation of hell’s tactics in a spiritual war.

But this time I found it a very different book. As Screwtape scrawled his usual poisonous counsel to Wormwood, I was stunned by something in the content I never noticed. It seemed prophetic. I always viewed Lewis’ book as a whimsical, practical warning about the machinations of The Enemy. This time it was more of a lens—a tingling revelation of the power and malice behind today’s mindless cultural upheaval that mocks truth and cultural mutilates logic, nature and science.

I was even more startled to discover a postscript that I somehow missed, “Screwtape Proposes a Toast”. It was longer than the other “letters” and a bit tedious—until Screwtape enlightened his graduates to a subtle counterattack whereby they could lead the whole of human society by the nose. Stunned. It’s us. We’ve become that society, nose and all, without ever knowing we were being led, much less how we got that way. What was this “counterattack”? I guarantee it’s not what you think. Now you’ll have to read the book…

The world was a different place when Lewis died in 1963—today it looks like the Letters. Are they prophetic? Perhaps. They are certainly enlightened, and the devil hates the light. But he doesn’t sleep in the dark, he just sings lullabies. Then he goes to work. Perhaps “The Screwtape Letters” is a hearing aid—a device that amplifies the dark whispers of a patient, deadly enemy. But it is also a sudden flash—a bolt from Heaven and a thunderclap that knocks us out of our beds. The world has changed—God warned us and Lewis reminds us.

Time to take the battle to the Enemy.

Read this book…

 

“…do not ever forget, when you hear the progress of lights praised, that the loveliest trick of the Devil is to persuade you that he does not exist.” —Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)

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