The Screwtape Letters: With Screwtape Proposes a Toast

The Screwtape Letters: With Screwtape Proposes a Toast

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by C. S. Lewis

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In this humorous and perceptive exchange between two devils, C. S. Lewis delves into moral questions about good vs. evil, temptation, repentance, and grace. Through this wonderful tale, the reader emerges with a better understanding of what it means to live a faithful life.


In this humorous and perceptive exchange between two devils, C. S. Lewis delves into moral questions about good vs. evil, temptation, repentance, and grace. Through this wonderful tale, the reader emerges with a better understanding of what it means to live a faithful life.

Editorial Reviews

John Updike
I read Lewis for comfort and pleasure many years ago, and a glance into the books revives my old admiration.
New Yorker
If wit and wisdom, style and scholarship are requisites to passage through the pearly gates, Mr. Lewis will be among the angels.
Los Angeles Times
Lewis, perhaps more than any other twentieth-century writer, forced those who listened to him and read his works to come to terms with their own philosophical presuppositions.
Library Journal
Lewis's satire is a Christian classic. Screwtape is a veteran demon in the service of "Our Father Below" whose letters to his nephew and prot g , Wormwood, instruct the demon-in-training in the fine points of leading a new Christian astray. Lewis's take on human nature is as on-target as it was when the letters were first published in 1941. John Cleese's narration is perfect as he takes Screwtape from emotional height to valley, from tight control to near apoplexy. This will be a popular in most libraries.--Nann Blaine Hilyard, Lake Villa Dist. Lib., IL Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

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The Screwtape Letters

Chapter One

My dear Wormwood,

I note what you say about guiding your patient's reading and taking care that he sees a good deal of his materialist friend. But are you not being a trifle naïve? It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy's clutches. That might have been so if he had lived a few centuries earlier. At that time the humans still knew pretty well when a thing was proved and when it was not; and if it was proved they really believed it. They still connected thinking with doing and were prepared to alter their way of life as the result of a chain of reasoning. But what with the weekly press and other such weapons we have largely altered that. 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, or stark, or courageous — that it is the philosophy of the future. That's the sort of thing he cares about.

The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle on to the Enemy's own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient's reason; and once it is awake, who canforesee the result? Even if a particular train of thought can be twisted so as to end in our favour, you will find that you have been strengthening in your patient the fatal habit of attending to universal issues and withdrawing his attention from the stream of immediate sense experiences. Your business is to fix his attention on the stream. Teach him to call it 'real life' and don't let him ask what he means by 'real'.

Remember, he is not, like you, a pure spirit. Never having been a human (Oh that abominable advantage of the Enemy's!) you don't realise how enslaved they are to the pressure of the ordinary. I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years' work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defence by argument I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear what He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line for when I said 'Quite. In fact much too important to tackle at the end of a morning,' the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added 'Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind,' he was already half way to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man's head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of 'real life' (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all 'that sort of thing' just couldn't be true. He knew he'd had a narrow escape and in later years was fond of talking about 'that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberrations of mere logic'. He is now safe in Our Father's house.

You begin to see the point? Thanks to processes which we set at work in them centuries ago, they find it all but impossible to believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before their eyes. Keep pressing home on him the ordinariness of things. Above all, do not attempt to use science (I mean, the real sciences) as a defence against Christianity. They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can't touch and see. There have been sad cases among the modern physicists. If he must dabble in science, keep him on economics and sociology; don't let him get away from that invaluable 'real life'. But the best of all is to let him read no science but to give him a grand general idea that he knows it all and that everything he happens to have picked up in casual talk and reading is 'the results of modern investigation'. Do remember you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!

Your affectionate uncle


The Screwtape Letters. Copyright (c) by C. Lewis . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably the most influential Christian writer of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. His major contributions in literary criticism, children's literature, fantasy literature, and popular theology brought him international renown and acclaim.

He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year. His most distinguished and popular accomplishments include, The Chronicles of Narnia, Out of the Silent Planet, The Four Loves, The Screwtape Letters, and Mere Christianity.

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) fue uno de los intelectuales mÁs importantes del siglo veinte y podrÍa decirse que fue el escritor cristiano mÁs influyente de su tiempo. Fue profesor particular de literatura inglesa y miembro de la junta de gobierno en la Universidad Oxford hasta 1954, cuando fue nombrado profesor de literatura medieval y renacentista en la Universidad Cambridge, cargo que desempeÑÓ hasta que se jubilÓ. Sus contribuciones a la crÍtica literaria, literatura infantil, literatura fantÁstica y teologÍa popular le trajeron fama y aclamaciÓn a nivel internacional. C. S. Lewis escribiÓ mÁs de treinta libros, lo cual le permitiÓ alcanzar una enorme audiencia, y sus obras aÚn atraen a miles de nuevos lectores cadaaÑo. Sus mÁs distinguidas y populares obras incluyen Las CrÓnicas de Narnia, Los Cuatro Amores, Cartas del Diablo a Su Sobrino y Mero Cristianismo.

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
November 29, 1898
Date of Death:
November 22, 1963
Place of Birth:
Belfast, Nothern Ireland
Place of Death:
Headington, England
Oxford University 1917-1923; Elected fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford in 1925

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The Screwtape Letters 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 136 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Screwtape Letters makes you think in a fashion that is unexpected. C.S. Lewis puts into words the unnoticed ideas and processes that go on everyday. The indirect (everything in the Screwtape Letters is indirect) messages concerning morality and faith are still valid today. It is eerie to realize that the same battles over worldliness have gone on since time began.
Moriarty More than 1 year ago
The Screwtape Letters, by C.S. Lewis, consists of a series of correspondence between Screwtape, an administrator of relatively high (or, from his point of view, low) position in Satan's bureaucracy; and his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter just graduated from "temptation college," as it were. These letters -or at least those of Screwtape to Wormwood, we never read the actual replies- concern Wormwood's attempts to secure an ordinary man's soul for hell. This demonic point of view makes for an interesting read. One note about the book is how, due to the viewpoint, there is a complete reversal of good and bad. Screwtape regards human "virtues" as exceedingly detrimental to the cause, and vices just their opposite. Satan becomes "our father below," and God as we know him is "the Enemy." If Screwtape recommends that Wormwood ought to encourage something in his Patient's (the person he is assigned to, and the human focus of the book) life, then we, as people, ought to discourage it. (Hence, Screwtape's being "low" in his master's service, mentioned earlier.) At first, this can be rather confusing; "Screwtape's black is our white." (Lewis, the forward.) It takes a moment to change back, transforming "good" back into bad, so that his "advice" can become helpful to the reader. However, after becoming used to the style, one can easily execute this reversal without much thought. I found the book to be just fantastic. It is chock full of advice to aid the common Christian on their way, and I for one believe it is one book besides the Bible itself that every Christian should read. Of course, this overwhelmingly positive perception might not prove true for all. Lewis' very 20th century-British style might prove less accessible for some; and what seems to be of infinite importance to one might appear rather insignificant to someone else. Others still might think it just plain weird. But that does not change it for me; after initially picking up the book I have read it through three times and promptly proceeded to order a C.S. Lewis 'essentials' paperback box-set.
AmordeDios More than 1 year ago
A creative and thought provoking take on the reality of spiritual warfare.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the reading of the book one is whisked away as if he was Uncle Screwtape's pupil himself. Wonderful book to wake you up to how the other side thinks.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First, this doesn't say who the narrator is. Reviews mentioned John Cleese. First got an email of order confirmation. Second email, delays. Third email said this order is cancelled unless you reply. I didn't reply. Fourth email said 'shipped'. Not John Cleese. Tried to leave this review. Website doesn't respond. Second try, insisted on my account credentials. Couldn't just leave a review. Third try, signed in. Got my chance to whine. I'm all done with B&N.
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"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..." When people picture temptation, they usually picture a man with horns, red skin, and a pitchfork standing on their shoulder and whispering in their ear, maybe pausing to giggle or argue with the angel that is always standing on the opposite shoulder. But to C.S. Lewis, temptation was a business, a department of Hell with its own hierarchy ("Lowerarchy"), positions, and rules. The Screwtape Letters chronicles the letters between Screwtape, an under-secretary in Hell, and his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter trying to lead an average British man astray. In these letters, Screwtape advises Wormwood on how best to corrupt the man, who they call "the patient", as well as offering some general advice on steering the human soul towards Hell. At first glance, the book would seem like the farthest thing from Christian literature. But after reading it, I can say that The Screwtape Letters is the most compelling argument for Christianity I've ever encountered. When I first started reading the book, I knew it would be praising Christianity. It was C.S. Lewis after all, and a book about leading humans away from "the right path". I figured it would be a bunch of thinly veiled praises of God and Christianity in general. But the book really isn't about Christianity. It's about human nature, and the struggle for humans to look beyond themselves and their problems. The whole book is actually a beautiful example of antithesis, showing the reader what is right by promoting what is clearly wrong. The book actually addressed a lot of criticisms of Christianity, like the ease of conversion and the corruption of the Church. Instead of promoting Christianity above all else, Lewis instead encouraged a more charitable and humble attitude in general, saying that, not the patient's religion, is what got him into Heaven. Of course, the book does include plenty of Christian ideas, but they're all presented in a positive way, like when Lewis says, "We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons." Even though the language is tough and the philosophical concepts can be hard to digest, I would recommend this book. It's a stimulating look at the complex motivations and behaviors of good and evil, and it praises the appropriate use of religion without getting too denominational. C.S. Lewis is a beautiful writer, and what he writes about morality and God's infinite love is more compelling than any evangelical sermon. I'm a stout atheist, and my beliefs haven't changed after reading this book. However, I feel like I'm a little more conscious of what I think about others and how I live my life thanks to this book. And I don't think anyone can criticize that.
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