Monday, March 19, 2007

Screwtape and the Christian Life

I have just finished reading the book Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis. This makes the third time I have read the book and I love it every time. The book contains fictional letters written from a demon named Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood. Wormwood is a young tempter who is trying to make sure his patient rejects God. Throughout the book, Screwtape gives advice to Wormwood through these letters. Lewis deals with a number of themes related to the Christian life as he cleverly writes these letters.

Screwtape’s first effort is to help Wormwood keep his patient from becoming a Christian by keeping him from thinking about Christianity as true or false, ut for him to see it as just another opinion. Once he fails at this and his patient becomes a Christian, he tries to get Wormwood to attack his patient’s Christian faith by leading him to worldly friends, attacking his chastity, and by attacking several important aspects of his spiritual and devotional life. When this fails, Wormwood thinks he can lead his patient down the wrong road by using the war to break his faith. Screwtape tells Wormwood to keep him alive because if he were to die in the war, all hope would be lost for leading him away from God. Sure enough, Wormwood looses and his patient dies in a bombing raid.

In the last letter Screwtape says that in the end the patient saw Wormwood, who had been tempting him and then understood all along all the things that had been negatively affecting him. Reading this book for the third time made me raise some interesting questions about spiritual warfare. Do we really have a demon or demons who are out there trying to tempt us? Do we also have angles helping us? How real is spiritual warfare?

Most of the time I attribute my sin to the fact that I am a fallen person who still has some pride issues. When I think about all the things that I have done wrong, I can’t help but realize how selfish I truly am. I can account for all my wrong doing by attributing it to myself. However, thinking about spiritual warfare makes me wonder how much of the things I do can be attributed to evil forces in the world.

Even if there are demons in the world, I guess the main point is that I have to be able to take responsibility for my own actions. If we believe temptations are psychological or produced by demonic forces, we are the ones who can say yes or no to the temptation. In taking responsibly, we can also take action by praying that God would give us the means to lead us away from temptation and that God would deliver us from evil. After all, Jesus died on the cross to defeat the evil in the world.

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