Book Review: The Screwtape Letters

{By Taylor Turner}

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The devil is in the details.

If you haven’t said it or had it said to you, I’m certain you will hear this phrase soon enough. Many times, we narrow this phrase down to only certain areas of our lives and don’t recognize its truth everyday of our lives. Life is made up of little moments that build on each other to ultimately shape our lives.  If we are not careful, though, we will gloss over the little moments. We will not take those moments one at a time. Jim Elliot once keenly said that “Wherever you are, be all there.” I definitely don’t live this way all the time, but am probably not the only one.

In one of his most famous works The Screwtape Letters, C. S. Lewis warns us of the dangers of not noticing the details and the little moments of life, because without being keenly aware of those little moments we will get off course. Lewis makes his point through thirty-one insightful allegorical letters.

Screwtape and Wormwood are two very astute devils on a mission to work away at the faith and Christian walk of their patient, a man struggling through life during the Second World War. Screwtape and Wormwood are extremely hard working little devils, ultimately questioning Jesus in the patient’s life both rationally and practically. Since we do not have the space to analyze every letter Screwtape wrote to Wormwood, I am going to give you the two letters that hit home in my life.

Some of the most perceptive advice that Screwtape provides to Wormwood is against “mere Christianity.”

Isn’t it interesting that one of the areas in which the devil nudges Christian is with regard to the simple truths of Jesus?

Screwtape explains that: “What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in a state of mind of ‘Christianity And.’” In other words, do not let the simple joyous truth of Jesus satisfy; get Christians to isolate and weaken themselves into different camps and become “Christians with a difference.” Convince people to have uniformity on what they think is important and add Jesus on their resumes as a plus. However, we must instead cling to the good news of Jesus and embrace the only formula that truly sets us free – “Jesus + nothing = everything.”

Another one that really hit home for me on the practical level was Screwtape’s 13th letter of advice to Wormwood. The part of this letter that cut me to the quick was the final part. Screwtape commands Wormwood to not allow the patient to do anything. Screwtape explains:

“As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance. Let the little brute wallow in it. . . . Let him do anything but act. No amount of piety in his imagination and affections will harm us if we can keep it out of his will.”

In other words, the Christian life of only thinking and not doing is what Screwtape wants because the more we feel without doing, “the less [we] will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less [we] will be able to feel.” Do not become only an inside Christian without action or a nominal Christian without inside transformation. Christ is not about an external transformation and neither is he about you having a private faith for your own sake. Christ is about holistic transformation for His glory – inside and out!

I highly recommend The Screwtape Letters, not only to get another Lewis book under your belt but also for spiritual growth. Reading the letters of Screwtape will open your eyes to the reality of the multi-faceted work of Satan against the work that Christ is doing in his children.

Get it. Read it. And grow from the inside out. 

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