Thursday, January 23, 2014

"The Screwtape Letters" by C.S. Lewis [Book Review]

The Screwtape LettersThe Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Many reviews of this book describe it as diabolical, satire in it's fullest form, or inaccurate. C.S. Lewis himself said the Letters received "... a reception I had never dreamed of. Reviews were either laudatory or filled with that sort of anger which tells an author that he has hit his target..." (I seriously giggled when I read that.) So, when I read 'Screwtape letters' I read it with the understanding that it is purely fictional and took into account Lewis' description of the book as "myth" or "symbolic" ... in fact he writes in his preface that the purpose of the book is to "... throw light from a new angle on the life of men." (Did he ever do that for me!) Who would've thought that letters written from demon to demon describing in full detail how to drive a human to Hell would be effective in shedding light on the lives of men? C.S. Lewis, of course. (That was meant as a compliment.)

Although the story line itself is fictional, it is filled with "hidden" truths. One of my favorite truths is this line: "It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed, the safest road to Hell is the gradual one - the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts." (p.38-39)

By fictional I mean the characters Screwtape, Wormwood, Principle Slubgob and the like. I believe in demons, and I believe that Satan (the worst of his kind) is the king of lies. This story, although genius, is fiction. The ideas and principles found throughout, however, (I believe) are not too far fetched. I truly believe demons believe God is the enemy and I do believe they whisper lies in order to turn you from Him. I like how C.S. Lewis himself describes these characters in his author's preface: "The commonest question is whether I really "believe in the Devil. Now if by "the Devil" you mean a power opposite to God, and like God, self-existent from all eternity, the answer is certainly No. There is no uncreated being except God.God has no opposite. No being could attain a "perfect badness" opposite to the perfect goodness of God; for when you have taken away every kind of good thing (intelligence, will, memory, energy, and existence itself) there would be none of him left. The proper question is whether I believe in devils. I do. That is to say, I believe in angels, and I believe that some of these, by the abuse of their free will, have become enemies to God and, as a corollary, to us. These we may call devils. They do not differ in nature from good angels, but their nature is depraved. Devil is the opposite of angel only as Bad Man is the opposite of Good Man. Satan, the leader or dictator of devils, is the opposite, not of God, but of Michael."

After reading the book, I HIGHLY recommend you go back and read the author's preface, because it will shed more light on the ending and reveal why C.S. Lewis wrote what he wrote. I won't go into detail about that -- I don't want to spoil it -- but there's one final quote I have to share. It's one that everyone needs to understand before reading this book, "Some have paid me an undeserved compliment by supposing that my Letters were the ripe fruit of many years' study in moral and ascetic theology. They forgot that there is an equally reliable, though less creditable, way of learning how temptation works. "My heart" - I need no other's - "showeth me the wickedness of the ungodly." I became a C.S. Lewis fan just because of that one statement, more so than the entire book itself. Thank you C.S. Lewis for being transparent and accomplishing what you set out to do: throw light on the life of men.

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