My first book of 2017 stressed me out so much that I literally had to take a three day break in the middle of reading it in order to catch my bearings.
I decided that I should follow that experience up with a light and easy read, so I chose The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.
In case you’re not familiar with the premise, this piece of fiction is written from the perspective of Screwtape, a senior demon. Each chapter is a different letter he writes to his nephew, Wormwood, a junior tempter who has been charged with making sure his “patient”, an ordinary British man, ends up eternally in hell.
Like I said, a light and easy read.
It’s impossible to sum up all my thoughts and applications about this book into one essay. There’s too much. I’ll still be processing its implications well into summer, I shouldn’t wonder.
Instead, I think I’ll let the book speak for itself.
So, here are seven quotes that were, for me, the most thought-provoking, convicting, or revelatory (more likely, all three).
(A helpful tip: first person pronouns (we, us, our) and second person pronouns (you) are in reference to the demons, while third person pronouns (he, him) discuss the man being tempted.)
Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily ‘true’ or ‘false’, but as ‘academic’ or ‘practical’, ‘outworn’ or ‘contemporary’, ‘conventional’ or ‘ruthless’. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church. Don’t waste time trying to make him think that materialism is true! Make him think it is strong, stark, or courageous–that is the philosophy of the future. That’s the sort of thing he cares about.
It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.
One of our best weapons [is] contented worldliness.
Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.
Let him do anything but act. No amount of piety in his imagination and affections will harm us if we can keep it out of his will…The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.
You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption ‘My time is my own’. Let him have the feeling that he starts each day as the lawful possessor of twenty-four hours.
Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it’, while really it is finding its place in him…build up in him a sense of being really at home in earth, which is just what we want.
There’s a New York Times commercial airing right now which you’ve likely seen. Now, I certainly don’t want to get into the politics behind its timing or its overall message, but I was struck today as I watched it because the last sentence to flash across the screen pretty succinctly sums up the main thing I took away from this book:
The truth is more important now than ever.
The battle for Truth is real (Lewis gave me an important reminder of this), and each day I must make a conscious choice to look for it in the right place and the right Person.
Now, in keeping with the long-standing tradition that I have newly created, I’d like to send my copy of The Screwtape Letters to someone for free. Books are worthless if you keep them to yourself. (Shout out to Courtney who got to add The Nightingale to her bookshelf!)
I can’t recommend this book highly enough. It’s heavy and not very fun, but (more importantly) it’s important and thought-provoking.
So, if you want my copy (complete with the occasional highlighted phrase!), you can either
- Comment straight on this post.
- Comment on or reply to whatever social media outlet led you to this post.
Just throw up a few hand-raising emojis or tell me a book I can add to my list that will not stress me out or place heavy pressure upon my chest.
Note: I already started March’s book, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr, so I’m not kidding: Happy. Books. Only.
3 thoughts on “february book review + giveaway”
After “Screwtape’s” success, Lewis was constantly urged to write a follow-up. If the story is true, he steadfastly refused because he really didn’t want to put himself into such a diabolical character, ever again.
We read “Mere Christianity” and “Screwtape” my first quarter at Asbury (now) University (then it was but a mere College. Those two books, and the Thompson Chain Reference Bible my mother gave me were, and remain, absolutely foundational in my journey to Aslan’s Country.
I’ve given a few away myself over the years, wittingly or un… and am currently in my ninth or tenth romp through the Chronicles. Further up, and further in!
I don’t know if you’re into detective lit, but “In The Bleak Midwinter” by Julia Spencer-Fleming is the first of a series of really well written and enjoyable “whodunit” and relationship story about Rev. Claire Fergusson, the new priest at St. Alban’s Episcopal, and police chief of Miller’s Kill, NY, Russ Van Alstyne. It and the other seven in my set are excellent fictions, with heart and (literally) Spirit.
Thanks for your good work here. I am proud the call you “niece”.
Somehow I missed this when you initially posted it. Thank you for all this, Uncle Harry! The Chronicles of Narnia is actually on my list of things to re-read this year. I don’t own all of them which seems a bit of a travesty, so that’s first on the list of things to do 🙂 I’ll look into “In the Bleak Midwinter!”