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.