Summertime brings a change of pace. Using this time profitably in ways that benefit the soul requires planning. For this reason, I love to engage with people in reading Christian classics from the 20th century. Over the years, many people have joined me on Tuesday nights in August to read various books: C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, John Stott’s Basic Christianity, Francis Schaeffer’s True Spirituality, and others. This year, I’m looking forward to returning to a classic work by C. S. Lewis.
The Screwtape Letters, published in 1942, is a fictional book of letters from Screwtape, a senior demon, to his nephew and demon-in-training Wormwood. Throughout the letters, Screwtape instructs Wormwood on the means and methods of temptation and how Christians have fought against principalities and powers. As Screwtape mentors his nephew Wormwood, his goal is to help this apprentice secure the damnation of a British man known as “the Patient.”
The 31 letters that fill the book are short, detailed instructions on how a devil might undermine God’s Word and work. By looking at temptation from the eyes of a devil, Lewis helps Christians to think about how they must take an active role in faith to resist the devil so he might flee from us (Jas. 4:7).
Originally published as a weekly series for the Anglican periodical The Guardian during 1941, Lewis did not find this work to be one that was easy to write. Yet its enduring quality speaks to Lewis’s insights on temptation and human nature.
While I don’t remember the first time I read this book, I have returned to it several times. In the opening of the book, Lewis quotes the Reformer Martin Luther who said, “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.” A.W. Tozer encouraged people to “talk back to the devil.” And I hope that this little work might encourage you to do just that.
At the outset of the book, Lewis warns that there are two dangers people fall into when talking 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.”
The goal of this book is not to cause us to question whether demons exist or to look for a demon behind every bush, but to help us not to be led into temptation but be delivered from evil.
If you have some time in August, consider signing up in the church foyer or email me as we reading the Christian classic together, thinking about how to resist the devil so that he might flee from us!
Fight the good fight!