Screwtape Letters Part 9: Repost

UPDATE: This is a repost (with certain edits/improvements) of my most popular blog series in honor of the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death. Click here to get your copy of the 50th anniversary annotated edition.

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screwtape50thbChapter 12 This chapter offers a disturbing, yet enlightening look at how men can be deceived, distracted, and destroyed by Satan’s lifeless offerings. While Screwtape is writing specifically about a “lukewarm Christian,” I think the illustration is also valid for professed unbelievers who believe their own moral values sufficiently replace the “need” for God. After bringing his target to be sufficiently dull toward his relationship with God, Demon Wormwood is told that he (Wormwood) “will be gradually freed from the tiresome business of providing Pleasures as temptations . . . [you] will find that anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his [the target’s] wandering attention” (italics added). Screwtape continues,

“You no longer need a good book, which he really likes, to keep him from his prayers or his work or his sleep; a column of advertisements in yesterday’s newspaper will do. You can make him waste his time not only in conversations he enjoys with people whom he likes, but in conversations with those he cares nothing about on subjects that bore him . . . All the healthy and outgoing activities which we want him to avoid can be inhibited and nothing given in return, so that at last he may say, as one of my own patients said on his arrival down here, ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked‘” (italics added).

Take note of the tragedy and waste found in the last sentence: ‘I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.” Imagine: In the end that you discover that not only have you not done what you should have done, but you also realize that you didn’t even like what you had done instead. You were the ultimate sucker. Screwtape’s conclusion is that, “Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” Beware: The gentle road is one that dulls our senses and leaves us vulnerable to Wormwood’s deceptions. To be continued . . .

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