Screwtape Letter #18 – Questions

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.





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?





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?

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?





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. You can also make them forget that the man they call Paul did not confine it to married couples. Mere copulation, for him, makes ‘one flesh’. You can thus get the humans to accept as rhetorical eulogies of ‘being in love’ what were in fact plain descriptions of the real significance of sexual intercourse. The truth is that wherever a man lies with a woman, there, whether they like it or not, a transcendental relation is set up between them which must be eternally enjoyed or eternally endured. From the true statement that this transcendental relation was intended to produce, and, if obediently entered into, too often will produce, affection and the family, humans can be made to infer the false belief that the blend of affection, fear, and desire which they call ‘being in love’ is the only thing that makes marriage either happy or holy. The error is easy to produce because ‘being in love’ does very often, in Western Europe, precede marriages which are made in obedience to the Enemy’s designs, that is, with the intention of fidelity, fertility and good will; just as religious emotion very often, but not always, attends conversion. 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?





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?







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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