Introduction to Screwtape Letters Study



Something to keep in mind as we study the book:

The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of
Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.
LUTHER

The devil…the prowde spirite…cannot endure to be mocked.
THOMAS MORE

The quote is from the epigraph to The Screwtape Letters.  It’s something to keep in mind as we study the book.
Open quote on Amazon.com

 


 

Spiritual Warfare

Yes – it’s real.

Some people are fascinated with Spiritual Warfare.  Spend lots of time on it.
Others would prefer to ignore it.  Like to pretend it doesn’t exist.

Speaking of The Bible – here are some things to consider:

We are involved:

1Pe 5:8 Control yourselves. Be on your guard. Your enemy the devil is like a roaring lion. He prowls around looking for someone to chew up and swallow.

What can we do about it?

1Pe 5:9 Stand up to him. Stand firm in what you believe. All over the world you know that your brothers and sisters are going through the same kind of suffering.

Can we resist Satan?

1Pe 5:10 God always gives you all the grace you need. So you will only have to suffer for a little while. Then God himself will build you up again. He will make you strong and steady. And he has chosen you to share in his eternal glory because you belong to Christ.

1Pe 5:11 Give him the power for ever and ever. Amen.

To sum it up:

James 4:7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

 


 

About C. S. Lewis

For those new to C. S. Lewis or not familiar with his background, here’s a brief excerpt from http://www.cslewis.com

Born in Belfast Ireland – November 29, 1898. When he was four, he gave himself the nickname “Jack” after a neighborhood dog named “Jacksie” died. His family & friends called him Jack for the rest of his life.

At age 15, he became an aethiest while enrolled at Malvern College in England, despite being raised a Christian up to that point.

About 18 years later, while working at Oxford, he converted to Christianity. Among those influencing his decision was J R R Tolkien.

Also while at Oxford, Lewis was the core member of the now famous literary group “The Inklings.” This group was an informal twice-weekly gathering of friends which included Tolkien, … among others. The meetings took place on Mondays and Thursdays. Monday meetings were held at a handful of local pubs, including The Eagle and Child, known to locals as The Bird and Baby and The Lamb and Flag. Thursday meetings were held in Jack’s rooms.

Lewis was married late in life at age fifty-eight to Joy Davidman Gresham, an American writer fifteen years his junior. They married in 1956, two years after Lewis accepted the chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge, where he finished out his career.

After a four-year fight with bone cancer, Joy passed away in 1960. Lewis continued to care for her two sons, Douglas and David Gresham.

C. S. Lewis died at his home “The Kilns” on November 22, 1963. His grave is in the yard of Holy Trinity Church in Headington Quarry, Oxford. Warren Lewis <his brother> died on Monday, April 9, 1973. Their names are on a single stone bearing the inscription “Men must endure their going hence.”

So we see that as a child, he was raised a Christian – left the faith and decided to be an atheist – returned to the faith and came to be regarded as the most significant Christian writer of his time.
To be sure, an atheist is a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings. What a path his life took!


The Setting and Main Players

The Setting

England – during World War Two

Screwtape

A highly (or is it lowly) placed assistant to Satan – aka “Our Father Below”

Wormwood

Screwtape’s nephew – a novice demon in charge of making sure that his “patient” goes to Hell

The “Patient”

The young man Wormwood is assigned to

The Letters

Communications from Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood giving advice, comments, suggestions, criticism, Etc on his progress (or reversals) with the patient.


From the Preface to The Screwtape Letters

Hold onto these thoughts – we will return to them shortly:

There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight. The sort of script which is used in this book can be very easily obtained by anyone who has once learned the knack; but ill-disposed or excitable people who might make a bad use of it shall not learn it from me.

Readers are advised to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle.

 


Some Years Later

Before getting any further into what the book is about, it’s important to look at something Lewis wrote years later about the book:

I was often asked or advised to add to the original ‘Screwtape Letters’, but for many years I felt not the least inclination to do it. Though I had never written anything more easily, I never wrote with less enjoyment. The ease came, no doubt, from the fact that the device of diabolical letters, once you have thought of it, exploits itself spontaneously, … It would run away with you for a thousand pages if you gave it its head.

But though it was easy to twist one’s mind into the diabolical attitude, it was not fun, or not for long. The strain produced a sort of spiritual cramp. The world into which I had to project myself while I spoke through Screwtape was all dust, grit, thirst and itch. Every trace of beauty, freshness and geniality had to be excluded. It almost smothered me before I was done. It would have smothered my readers if I had prolonged it.

I had, moreover, a sort of grudge against my book for not being a different book which no one could write. Ideally, Screwtape’s advice to Wormwood should have been balanced by archangelical advice to the patient’s guardian angel. Without this the picture of human life is lop-sided.

But who could supply the deficiency? Even if a man—and he would have to be a far better man than I—could scale the spiritual heights required, what answerable style’ could he use? For the style would really be part of the content. Mere advice would be no good; every sentence would have to smell of Heaven.


Here We Go

From Letter #8:

So you ‘have great hopes that the patient’s religious phase is dying away’, have you? I always thought the Training College had gone to pieces since they put old Slubgob at the head of it, and now I am sure. Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?

Humans are amphibians—half spirit and half animal. (The Enemy’s determination to produce such a revolting hybrid was one of the things that determined Our Father to withdraw his support from Him.) As spirits they belong to the eternal world, but as animals they inhabit time. This means that while their spirit can be directed to an eternal object, their bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change.

Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation—the repeated return to a level from which they repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks. If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life—his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down.

As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty. The dryness and dullness through which your patient is now going are not, as you fondly suppose, your workmanship; they are merely a natural phenomenon which will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.

To decide what the best use of it is, you must ask what use the Enemy wants to make of it, and then do the opposite. Now it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of His special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else.


I’d like to put in a couple notes here.

1st – you notice that the contents of the letters to Screwtape are in pink letters.  It’s intentional on my part.  You may remember what James wrote –

Jas 2:19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

And you may remember that from the very beginning, Satan knew enough of what God said to be able to twist it.

I represent that shadow of twisted knowledge by putting the letters not in red (like the words of Jesus in a Bible), but in pale red – pink.

While I put a large quote here, the remainder of the lessons will have a few sentences from the beginning of the section to be studied – plus a link to the book at Amazon.com.  It will look like this – 

page 37 of 209; location 358 of 1812  — Amazon Cloud ReaderOpen quote at amazon.com

The page # and location are from the e-book I bought from amazon.com.  You can either enter one of them as a “go to” value or use the slider to move to that page, depending on whether you are using a desktop or mobile reader.
The “Amazon Cloud Reader” link will open the Amazon Cloud Reader in your web browser.  I have not yet found a way to open the book at the correct page from this link.  If anyone knows, please let me know.
The “Open quote at amazon.com” will give open up a page for you to buy the book from Amazon.


We went through the chart below in a different class at our church. It’s described and applied to how the 7 Letters to the 7 Churches in Revelation can be viewed by us, even today, at the parent site of this one – with a series on the concept. The first article called Revelation & Hype Cycles is located here <sorry – it’s not moved over yet>. It shows how it applies to so many things in life. We also talked about how, if we’re not careful, it’s easy to slip backwards – even all the way back to the beginning.

It was developed by an IT consulting company to show how people react to new technology products. Really – it applies to many more things.

And if you remember what C. S. Lewis said in chapter 8 about the peaks, troughs and undulations – it’s the same thing.

 These are the practical applications that we can look for and use in our everyday lives.

Yes – C. S. Lewis is a very deep writer. But – he also has what I call a “firm grasp of the obvious” – we can find things like this throughout his writings. More experience – more study – more prayer – more re-reading – all will lead us to a deeper understanding of God. But – we all start someplace – and it’s most definitely not full of knowledge. Even for “Jack” – by age 15 he was way down in the troughs – and ended up as much on the plateau as anyone in his time.

In the rest of chapter 8 – we’ll learn just how much hope that leaves for us.

S0 – with that as background and the context for reading The Screwtape Letters,

here we go…..

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