The Screwtape Letters
Who among us has never wondered if there might not really be a tempter sitting on our shoulders or dogging our steps? C.S. Lewis dispels all doubts. In The Screwtape Letters, one of his bestselling works, we are made privy to the instructional correspondence between a senior demon, Screwtape, and his wannabe diabolical nephew Wormwood. As mentor, Screwtape coaches Wormwood in the finer points, tempting his patient away from God. Each letter is a masterpiece of reverse theology, giving the reader an inside look at the thinking and means of temptation. Tempters, according to Lewis, have two motives: the first is fear of punishment, the second a hunger to consume or dominate other beings. On the other hand, the goal of the Creator is to woo us unto himself or to transform us through his love from tools into servants and servants into sons. It is the dichotomy between being consumed and subsumed completely into anothers identity or being liberated to be utterly ourselves that Lewis explores with his razor-sharp insight and wit. The most brilliant feature of The Screwtape Letters may be likening hell to a bureaucracy in which everyone is perpetually concerned about his own dignity and advancement, where everyone has a grievance, and where everyone lives the deadly serious passions of envy, self-importance, and resentment. We all understand bureaucracies, be it the Department of Motor Vehicles, the IRS, or one of our own making. So we each understand the temptations that slowly lure us into hell. If youve never read Lewis, The Screwtape Letters is a great place to start. And if you know Lewis, but havent read this, youve missed one of his core writings.