Sunday, February 16, 2014

C. S. Lewis. The Screwtape Letters (1942)

     C. S. Lewis. The Screwtape Letters (1942) Rereading these letters reminds me once again of Lewis’s clear thinking, and psychological insight. He understands that moral theology is about our thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. So this book is not only a wonderfully clear exposition of Christian moral theology (and theology generally), it is also a wonderfully astute exploration of how we behave, and how we delude ourselves about the motives and consequences of our behaviour. It’s also a very topical reminder that Satan is the Father of Lies: most of Screwtape’s letters deal with ways of deflecting the “patient’s” thinking away from truth into confusion, which is the first step towards falsehood. It’s not really Wormwood’s fault that he’s incapable of the subtlety required to do this well. He lacks experience, and seems a bit of an enthusiastic dimwit. This dooms him to become food for the elder demon, for in Hell only results count, not intentions and abilities. Rather like “objective testing” in schools.
     One of my favourite theological insights (based on a psychological one) is that Satan is incapable of producing pleasure, joy, happiness, and contentment: these are gifts from God. The best Satan can do is produce imitations, and delude us into thinking (not feeling, please note) that these imitations are the real thing. Nor is Satan capable of pleasure and joy himself. Poor devil! **** (2010)

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