Book Review: The Screwtape Letters

Clive Staples Lewis is one of the most engaging, thoughtful, and challenging Christian writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. And he’s funny. Very funny. Even when dealing with the gravest of matters, he always finds a way to incorporate a liberal dose of humor and wit. Which is just one of the many reasons I love his work.

Humor – albeit grim at times – plays a key role in The Screwtape Letters. Lewis, in the introduction, begins by asserting with deadpan bluntness that he has “no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands.” And throughout the rest of the book, the reader can’t help but chuckle at the deliciously clever way in which he spins out the diabolical dialogue between senior devil Screwtape and his nephew Wormwood, a budding tempter who has just been assigned his first “patient”.

This “patient” – a young man – soon afterwards embraces the Christian faith… much to the dismay of those who would undo him. Through a series of letters, Uncle Screwtape advises his nephew on how best to eradicate (or at least neutralize) the young man’s faith. As the book progresses, we see the two devils labor unstintingly – through means subtle and devious – to lure Wormwood’s “patient” away from Christ and destroy his soul.

As I said, there is much humor woven throughout the book. And yet, amazingly, it does not undermine the seriousness of the subject matter. “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about devils,” Lewis warns. “One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.” God forbid that we should do either.

Too often, Christians have the tendency to disregard the clear and present danger of “spiritual wickedness in high places”. (Ephesians 6:12) They brush it off, ignore it, when they ought to be taking it seriously. “Put on the whole armour of God that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Ephesians 6:11) We are engaged in a desperate war with eternal ramifications. To close one’s eyes to it, or treat it as a trivial matter, will inevitably be fatal.

Now, this is not to say that we should go to the extreme of being obsessed with spiritual warfare or demons or demonic arts. We should, however, be aware and vigilant. “Wherefore,” says the Apostle Paul, “let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” ( I Corinthians 10:12)

The Screwtape Letters will help you cultivate a “healthy interest” in devils, and also make you more acutely aware of the destructive ways in which Satan and his fallen angels work in the hearts, minds, and lives of men – especially Christians.

6 thoughts on “Book Review: The Screwtape Letters”

  1. What I really love about this book is that Lewis himself wasn’t very impressed with it. It’s also a very deep book but extremely readable and entertaining.

    I’d love to see Max McLean’s stage adaptation, if only I lived somewhere but the west coast.

    1. Wow. I didn’t realize that Lewis wasn’t impressed with The Screwtape Letters. That’s too funny. It’s probably my favorite Lewis book.

      And you’re right. The book is incredibly deep, and yet lucid and engaging. A formidable feat when you think about it.

      I’ve heard McLean did a stage adaption of The Screwtape Letters, and I too would very much like to see it. Also, Focus On The Family recently did a radio theatre adaption which I hear is very good, with Andy Serkis (who played Gollum in The Lord of the Rings films) as Uncle Screwtape. Now that would be fun to listen to… :)

      Thanks for your comment!

  2. I just finished reading The Screwtape Letters. We read it for an Adult Sunday School class and we had some excellent discussions. I thought the most disconcerting part of the book was thinking in the opposite. When Screwtape talked about the enemy he is referring to God and My Lord, he is referring to the Devil. I kept getting goofed up. I really think all Christians should read it.

    I’m stopping by from the Saturday Book Review Tour.
    -Anne
    http:headfullofbooks.blogspot.com

    1. Yes, Anne, The Screwtape Letters certainly makes for some excellent discussion. There are literally tons of thought-provoking material packed into its 150 pages. Pretty amazing. :)

      I initially found it a bit odd to think in the opposite, too. And actually, in the introduction, Lewis wisely anticipates this: “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… There is wishful thinking in Hell as well as on Earth.”

      Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  3. This is definitely a book that makes you think. I also have the Focus on the Family audio adaptation of this and found it to be excellent!

    Thanks for the comment and recommendation on my review.

  4. I’ve been wanting to read this book ever since I began my interest in supernatural warfare. I just need to get around to seeing if my parents have a copy or if I need to borrow it from the library. ;)

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