Written by: Liam Watts
It is usually reserved for the authors of science fiction to boldly and wildly make claims towards the pattern of the future. As I read through C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, I could not shake a feeling of dread predicated by the sense that what had been written down here nearly eighty years prior was at once contemporary and familiar. A collection of letters sent from a mysterious figure known as Screwtape to his nephew and pupil, Wormwood, The Screwtape Letters is the disturbing and candid correspondence that occurs between a senior demon and his protégé. Adding to the disquiet produced by this novel on the secret lives of demons, the effect of reading someone else’s private letters is a disconcerting and at times an unsettling experience. All these elements combine to create a novel that is timeless and necessary.
Perhaps the greatest aspect of The Screwtape Letters is the incredibly imaginative and visual way that Lewis captures one of the more fantastical aspects of Christianity. In our modern era, it is easy to distance oneself from the miracles and spiritual aspects of the Bible. However, as Lewis illustrates, there truly are forces waging a war for the souls of humanity. Demons really are trying to tempt humans away from God, and by ignoring or being ignorant of this fact, you only make it easier for them to do so. The more one dives into this novel, the deeper this fact will be driven home.
Another important aspect of this novel is the way that Lewis blends difficult concepts into simple narrative elements. By using the dialogues between the demons, Lewis is able to translate philosophy and theology into conversational language. This strategy of using stories and narrative to instruct is one that has been used by some of the greatest teachers throughout history. Socrates, Aristotle, and even Jesus used stories and conversation to help others learn.
Numerous students began reading The Screwtape Letters for the first time this semester while taking the Christian Classics class. Sophomore Andrew Bevis says, “I loved reading this book because it made me more aware of spiritual warfare and the importance of being intentional in my relationship with Christ.” Other students expressed that they felt similarly.
If you’ve ever wondered about the day-to-day affairs of demons, or if you’ve ever thought you might truly have an angel and a devil sitting on your shoulder, The Screwtape Letters might be for you. A deep and thought-provoking novel, Lewis’ work will leave you with a brand-new perspective and many more questions than it answers.