Screwtape Letter #18 – Discussion Guide

Letter #18

Screwtape is now going to get into marriage

– no doubt to corrupt it.


My dear Wormwood,

Even under Slubgob you must have learned at college the routine technique of sexual temptation, and since, for us spirits, this whole subject is one of considerable tedium (though necessary as part of our training) I will pass it over. … by persuading the humans that a curious, and usually shortlived, experience which they call ‘being in love’ is the only respectable ground for marriage; that marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement permanent; and that a marriage which does not do so is no longer binding.

18.1) Consider these two “versions” of what marriage is about. Compare God’s original intent to what C. S. Lewis wrote about 60 years ago to what’s happened since C. S. Lewis wrote Screwtape Letters.





From the Bible
From Wikipedia

This idea (the previous paragraph) is our parody of an idea that came from the Enemy.

The whole philosophy of Hell rests on recognition of the axiom that one thing is not another thing, and, specially, that one self is not another self. … ‘To be’ means ‘to be in competition’.

Now the Enemy’s philosophy is nothing more nor less than one continued attempt to evade this very obvious truth. He aims at a contradiction. Things are to be many, yet somehow also one. The good of one self is to be the good of another. This impossibility He calls love, and this same monotonous panacea can be detected under all He does and even all He is—or claims to be. Thus He is not content, even Himself, to be a sheer arithmetical unity; He claims to be three as well as one, in order that this nonsense about Love may find a foothold in His own nature. … At the other end of the scale, He introduces into matter that obscene invention the organism, in which the parts are perverted from their natural destiny of competition and made to cooperate.

18.2) Screwtape’s philosophy in this letter comes down to believing that a person is the same as an inanimate object.

What is the contradiction between (a) love and the difference between cooperation & competition and (b) the belief that humans share characteristics with inanimate objects?

How can we use this conflict to begin to show non-Christians the fallacy of Screwtape’s twisted logic?



(a) Cooperation versus competition –

Consider what Paul wrote in Romans on cooperation vs competition
Does the U S Constitution really say (mean) we are all created equal
What conclusion do you reach?

(b) As far as the inanimate object “problem” – 

We need only look as far as creation
Things we have / do - but inanimate objects don't

His real motive for fixing on sex as the method of reproduction among humans is only too apparent from the use He has made of it. Sex might have been, from our point of view, quite innocent. … The whole thing, in fact, turns out to be simply one more device for dragging in Love.

18.3) Screwtape continues to misunderstand love.

Take a look at the definition of rape – the unlawful compelling of a person through physical force or duress to have sexual intercourse.

How does this compare with the views held by Screwtape and those of God?



For this reason ... a man ... wife...
Paul's charge to husbands


What would happen to the family “organism” if we reproduced like spiders? Can you see what would happen if Screwtape actually got his wish on this one?





Think about what God wanted - and what would be different

Now comes the joke. The Enemy described a married couple as ‘one flesh’. He did not say ‘a happily married couple’ or ‘a couple who married because they were in love’, but you can make the humans ignore that. … In other words, the humans are to be encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly-coloured and distorted version of something the Enemy really promises as its result.

18.4) Uh Oh. Screwtape’s quoting scripture again. Does he get it twisted (again)?

Here’s what Paul really said – in context:

Sexual Immorality


Wives and Husbands

Looking back at the first question in this letter on what Satan has done to the word marriage – and now looking at what Paul actually had in mind when he talked about “the two will become one flesh” – how far has the corruption really gone?





Pay special attention to verse 5:32

Two advantages follow. In the first place, humans who have not the gift of continence can be deterred from seeking marriage as a solution because they do not find themselves ‘in love’, and, thanks to us, the idea of marrying with any other motive seems to them low and cynical. … But more of this in my next,

Your affectionate uncle


18.5) Screwtape ends this letter with another “To be continued” type of closing.

Continence (as used by C. S. Lewis) isn’t the opposite of incontinence (like what we see on commercials). It does have something to do with self-control though. Why is Screwtape unable to tell the difference between “love” and “being in love”. If Wormwood can succeed in getting his patient to feel the same way, what are the possible outcomes for him – and why?



What is the relationship between God and Love?


Two advantages follow. In the first place, humans who have not the gift of continence can be deterred from seeking marriage as a solution because they do not find themselves ‘in love’, and, thanks to us, the idea of marrying with any other motive seems to them low and cynical.

Continence – self-restraint or abstinence, especially in regard to sexual activity; temperance; moderation.

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