References: Questions are from: “The Screwtape Letters Study Guide” by the C.S. Lewis Institute. Verses are from: “Discussion Guide for C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters” by Clay and Jean E. Jones.
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Letter 1: The Patient’s Materialist Friend
- Your man has become accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head…. Do remember that you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach! ~Screwtape
- Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape from the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will. 2 Timothy 2:25-26 (NIV)
- Doodles video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3MWVMKKY3A
1.Screwtape affirms Wormwood for encouraging his patient’s association with a “materialist” friend, ¶ 1. How would a preoccupation with the physical side of reality and ignorance of the spiritual be foundational for diabolical strategy?
2.How did Screwtape use what he called the “pressures of the ordinary,” ¶ 3, and the familiar, ¶ 4, to “rescue” him from the influence of the Enemy?
3.In what ways do you think the pressures of the “ordinary” make you susceptible to diabolical influence?
4.What do you learn about the diabolical and the divine when it comes to the value of both argument, ¶ 2, and science, ¶ 4?
5.What did you learn about the nature of both divine and diabolical strategies that is new or surprising to you?
Letter 2: Churchy Indignation
- Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anticlimax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman. The Enemy allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavour…. In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing. ~Screwtape
- Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9
- Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. 1 Corinthians 15:58
- The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 1 Corinthians 3:8
- Dana Carvey’s “Church Lady” – https://youtu.be/IXG5EluavRM
1.It appears that the church is the number-one tool for temptation. How do the tempters use hypocrisy and disappointment with other Christians as a snare, ¶ 2?
2.How might the church have been a snare for you?
3.What is it about the church that Screwtape does not want the patient to see, ¶ 2?
4.How does God use disappointment with the church for his own purposes, ¶ 3?
5.Screwtape celebrates how easy it is to highlight the hypocrisy of other Christians while encouraging Christians to ignore their own hypocrisies, ¶ 4. Consider what there is about your own conduct and character that you prefer to avoid or ignore?
Letter 3: Mom Issues
- Your patient must demand that all his own utterances are to be taken at their face value and judged simply on the actual words, while at the same time judging all his mother’s utterances with the fullest and most over-sensitive interpretation of the tone and the context and the suspected intention. ~Screwtape
- For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7:2-5
- JackDonaghy’s mom – https://youtu.be/vUzz986CL9E
1.Next to the church, the family is a choice tool for tripping up Christians. How can a false spirituality be a snare, ¶s 2 and 3?
2.Under the influence of the tempters, it seems that familiarity can indeed breed contempt. What does Screwtape encourage Worm- wood to highlight, ¶s 4 and 5?
3.How does Screwtape’s advice shed light on your own family interactions?
4.God works “from the center outward” to conform our conduct to his standard, ¶ 1. How have you seen your own conduct change under God’s influence?
5.Even our “religious” behavior can be used to get under the skin of family members. Are there ways that your family members might struggle with your faith and Christian conduct?
Letter 4: Prayer
- Keep them watching their own minds [during prayer] and trying to produce feelings there by
- the action of their own wills. When they meant to ask Him for charity,1 let them, instead, start trying to manufacture charitable feelings for themselves and not notice that this is what they are doing. ~Screwtape
- Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 1 Corinthians 13:4-6
- Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. Hebrews 4:14
- For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. James 1:7
- You ask, and receive not, because you ask amiss, that you may consume it on your lusts. James 4:3
- Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16
- Michael J – https://youtu.be/NVBBpM-SXX4
- The War Room clip – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DV4FxJErRKg
1.According to Screwtape, the best way to keep a “patient” from praying is to cultivate a “devotional mood,” ¶ 2. What is there about such a mood that Screwtape likes?
2.Next to a devotional mood, Screwtape recommends a focus on feelings, ¶ 3. What is there about feelings that Screwtape likes when seeking to twist prayer, ¶ 3?
3.Screwtape also likes imaginary pictures of God as a focus of prayer, ¶ 4. What is so diabolically attractive about praying to a mental image of God?
4.How can the advice of Screwtape to Wormwood help you to pray better?
5.What is there about Screwtape’s fulminations that could be encouraging for your own prayer life, ¶ 4?
Letter 5: War/Fear of Dying
- Consider too what undesirable deaths occur in wartime. Men are killed in places where they knew they might be killed and to which they go, if they are at all of the Enemy’s party, prepared. How much better for us if all humans died in costly nursing homes amid doctors who lie, nurses who lie, friends who lie, as we have trained them, promising life to the dying, encouraging the belief that sickness excuses every indulgence, and even, if our workers know their job, withholding all suggestion of a priest lest it should betray to the sick man his true condition! And how disastrous for us is the continual remembrance of death which war enforces. One of our best weapons, contented worldliness, is rendered useless. In wartime not even a human can believe that he is going to live forever. ~Screwtape
- Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life. 1 Timothy 6:18-19
- Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Corinthians 5:1
- Corrie ten Boom – https://youtu.be/kHjaUn2vII4
1.WW II was raging in Europe during the correspondence between Screwtape and Wormwood, so it is not surprising that war is a subject of several of the letters. What is the surprising devilish attitude toward war, ¶s 1–3?
2.Screwtape says that Wormwood’s primary business is to “undermine faith and prevent the formation of virtue” ¶ 1.What are some ways in which your faith has been diabolically assaulted and your development of virtue hindered?
3.In Screwtape’s scenario, why do devils prefer death in a nursing home to death during war, ¶ 2?
4.How does the Enemy use war to his advantage, ¶ 2?
How might this letter change the way you view death?
Letter 6: Fear
- We want him to be in the maximum uncertainty, so that his mind will be filled with contradictory pictures of the future, every one of which arouses hope or fear. ~Screwtape
- Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34
- Doodles – https://youtu.be/fFhLvycmdJ0?list=PL9boiLqIabFiwsdA4OSW2JX16SeBaovBL
1.Why would the devils want us to be preoccupied more with the future than the present, ¶s 1–3?
2.What insight do we gain from Screwtape’s advice on how God helps us face our difficulties and challenges, ¶ 3?
3.What burdens and challenges are you carrying that could be helped by the godly “resignation” that Screwtape wants us to avoid, ¶s 2 and 3?
4.In what ways does Screwtape guide Wormwood in regard to the self-conscious and un-self-conscious attitudes of his patient, ¶ 4?
5.Why is it that the devils are much more interested in our actions toward others than in our attitudes, ¶ 6?
Letter 7: Means to What End?
- Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or the Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part…. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours—and the more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours. ~Screwtape
- No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer. 2 Timothy 2:4 (NIV)
Questions for Discussion
1.What advantages do devils gain by making their presence known, ¶ 1?
2.What advantages do devils gain by hiding their existence, ¶ 1?
3.At the time those letters were written, it was the policy of hell to keep demonic existence a secret. What do you think their policy would be at the present?
4.The themes touched on in this include causes, factions, and zeal, ¶s 2–5. Why is zeal to be encouraged, ¶ 2?
5.Why would Screwtape want to make Christianity a “means” and the world a “goal,” ¶ 4?
6.Pacifism and patriotism were the chief opportunities for turning Christianity into a “means” at the time of WW II. What are some of the ways in which Christianity might be treated in the same way today?
Letter 8: Free Will
- And that is where the troughs come in. You must have often wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see that the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. ~Screwtape
- In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. He prayed to the LORD, who answered him and gave him a miraculous sign….But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart. 2 Chronicles 32:24, 31 (NIV)
Questions for Discussion
1.According to Screwtape, we humans are “amphibians—half spirit and half animals, ¶ 1. What key does this provide for understand- ing human nature?
2.How might this insight into human nature be helpful for understanding your own life experiences and responses to God, ¶ 2?
3.God uses the lows of our spiritual experience as means to do deep work in our souls, ¶ 3. How have the lows in your own life been used to enhance your connection with God?
4.Screwtape says God “cannot ravish. He can only woo,” ¶ 4. What do you think that means?
5.What fresh insights do you gain into the devilish and divine ways of working with and on humanity from Screwtape’s instruction about human depression and difficulties?
Letter 9: Spiritual Undulation
- But there is an even better way of exploiting the Trough; I mean through the patient’s own thoughts about it. As always, the first step is to keep knowledge out of his mind. Do not let him suspect the law of undulation. Let him assume that the first ardours of his conversion might have been expected to last, and ought to have lasted, forever, and that his present dryness is an equally permanent condition. ~Screwtape
- When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” O LORD, when you favored me, you made my mountain stand firm; but when you hid your face, I was dismayed. Psalm 30:6-7
1.Screwtape continues his guidance to Wormwood on how to exploit “down” times, ¶ 1. How is it that sex and sensuality are especially powerful diabolical tools during times of darkness and depression, ¶s 2 and 3?
2.How do our temperaments affect the way the devils tempt us, ¶ 3?
3.One of the underlying themes of Screwtape’s advice is that reality is shaped by truth, not by feelings. Why is it important to take all our phases and feelings with a grain of salt, ¶s 4 and 5?
4.Have you ever been tempted to give up your faith, either by denying or just ignoring it?
Letter 10: Worldly Friends
I was delighted to hear from Triptweeze that your patient has made some very desirable new acquaintances and that you seem to have used this event in a really promising manner. I gather that the middle-aged married couple who called at his office are just the sort of people we want him to know—rich, smart, superficially intellectual, and brightly skeptical about everything in the world. ~Screwtape
Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.” 1 Corinthians 15:33
He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm. Proverbs 13:20
- Clever, slightly sophisticated intellectuals especially fashionable during WW II were “just right” for diabolical use. How would they be a snare for Wormwood’s patient, ¶s 1 and 2?
- What social set would be just the right tool for a tempter to use on you?
- The devils had devalued warnings about Worldly Vanities, the Choice of Friends, and the Value of Time by dismissively character- izing them as “Puritanism,” ¶ 3. How has this strengthened the demonic while damaging growth in godliness?
- How is it that the diabolical use of peer pressure can turn us into first-order hypocrites, ¶ 4?
- How do you handle peer pressure that could be spiritually polluting?
Letter 11: Worldly Humor/Flippancy
I trust this does not mean that you are under the impression that laughter as such is always in our favour…. I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy. ~Screwtape
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy. Then it was said among the nations, “The LORD has done great things for them.” Psalms 126:2
A modern-day example of crude, flippant mocking is presented in the trolling of celebrities on Twitter, as shown on the “Mean Tweets” segments of Jimmy Kimmel Live. Warning: Though the profanity is bleeped out, the tweets remain highly lewd and offensive.
- Wormwood receives detailed instructions on laughter. What is there about joy and music that is so detestable to Screwtape, ¶ 2?
- Screwtape doesn’t much care for fun either, ¶ 3. How have you discovered fun to be an aid to spiritual growth?
- Of the four types of humor, Screwtape prefers jokes and flippancy, ¶s 4–6. How is it that a joke can be a means of justifying bad behavior, ¶ 5?
- What is flippancy, and how does Screwtape find it useful, ¶ 6?
- How might the advice of Screwtape affect the way you “enjoy” parties and entertainments such as music, movies, and television?
Letter 12: Wordly Nothingness
If such a feeling [of dim uneasiness that’s he hasn’t been doing well] is allowed to live, but not allowed to become irresistible and flower into real repentance, it has one invaluable tendency. It increases the patient’s reluctance to think about the Enemy. ~Screwtape
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalms 139:23-24
- Why is it valuable for Wormwood to encourage church attendance, despite its spiritual snares, ¶ 2?
- How is it that Wormwood can combine spiritual degeneration and spiritual inclination into snares and roadblocks to spiritual growth, ¶ 3?
- Wormwood learns how to keep his patient from prayers through just wasting time, ¶ 4. What sorts of things keep you from prayer?
- On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 being low), how would you compare your current spiritual vitality with a year ago? What has encouraged your spiritual growth? What has hindered your spiritual growth?
Letter 13: Inspired Action
The great thing is to prevent his doing anything. As long as he does not convert it into action, it does not matter how much he thinks about this new repentance. ~Screwtape
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that–and shudder. James 2:18-19
- Wormwood’s patient did “wake up” from his spiritual drift and, for the time being, slipped through his fingers, ¶ 1. Try to identify ways in which pleasure can be a divine aid and a devilish snare, ¶ 3.
- What is the difference between the detachment of self that God seeks and the detachment from reality that the devils seek, ¶s 3 and 4?
- Why would Screwtape want to eradicate small pleasures, ¶ 3?
- What fresh insight does Screwtape provide into the way that God works, ¶s 2 and 4?
- What pleasures and pastimes do you find spiritually nourishing?
Letter 14: Inspired Humility
Your efforts to instill either vainglory or false modesty into the patient will therefore be met from the Enemy’s side with the obvious reminder that a man is not usually called upon to have an opinion of his own talents at all, since he can very well go on improving them to the best of his ability without deciding on his own precise niche in the temple of Fame. ~Screwtape
For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? 1 Corinthians 4:7
- According to Screwtape, virtues are less formidable to devils when they are known to the patient, ¶ 2. Why is this?
- How do the devils twist humility so as to destroy it, ¶ 3?
- What is the true nature of humility, ¶ 4?
- What is God’s goal for humility and all virtues, ¶s 4 and 5?
- What are your virtues and outstanding talents? How well do you “handle” them?
Letter 15: Inspired Presence
We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present. ~Screwtape
And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”‘ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:16-21
- Screwtape believes that the “Enemy” wants humanity to have a double vision, focusing on both time and eternity, ¶ 2. How is that double focus a benefit to us?
- In contrast to a focus on both eternity and the present, Screwtape wants to obscure both from our sight. How does a preoccupation with the future do just that, ¶ 3?
- Screwtape makes the enigmatic statement that “nearly all vices are rooted in the future.” Explain what is wrong with “the future,” ¶s 3 and 4?
- What is it about the future that worries you?
- In what ways can you discern concerns for the future that hinder your spiritual growth and hurt your heart?
Letter 16: Factionalism
Surely you know that if a man can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over the neighbourhood looking for the church that “suits” him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches. ~Screwtape
An unfriendly man pursues selfish ends; he defies all sound judgment. Proverbs 18:1
- Why does Screwtape want Wormwood’s patient to become a church “connoisseur,” ¶s 1 and 2?
- One church near Wormwood’s patient serves up a diluted Christianity. What does Screwtape especially like about it, ¶ 3?
- Another church has a minister who is a passionate protestor against almost everything. What does Screwtape especially like about this one, ¶ 4?
- Above all, Screwtape likes “party” churches in which members takes sides and are attached to causes, ¶ 5. What do you think Screwtape might like about your church?
Letter 17: Delicate Gluttony
Bring him into the state in which the denial of any one indulgence—it matters not which, champagne or tea, sole Colbert or cigarettes—”puts him out”, for then his charity, justice, and obedience are all at your mercy. ~Screwtape
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
The Help scene – https://youtu.be/mu36YYhJTb8
- We seldom think of gluttony as sin today; however, the devils do. What’s the difference between the gluttony of Excess and the gluttony of Delicacy, ¶ 1?
- Toward which type of gluttony are you inclined?
- It is clear that Delicacy, as present in the patient’s mother, is extremely irritating, ¶s 1 and 2. How does it shape her life and affect those around her?
- Toward what expressions of gluttony are men inclined, ¶ 4?
- The impact of gluttony is to make food a primary preoccupation which governs our lives. What role do you think food occupies in your life?
Letter 18: Sex & ‘Falling in Love’
In other words, the humans are to be encouraged to regard as the basis for marriage a highly- coloured and distorted version of something the Enemy really promises as its result. ~Screwtape
They regard the intention of loyalty to a partnership for mutual help, for the preservation of chastity, and for the transmission of life, as something lower than a storm of emotion. ~Screwtape
To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11
- God has placed humanity in a dilemma concerning sex—either complete abstinence or unmitigated monogamy, ¶ 2. How do the devils seek to twist sex so that we don’t live according to God’s standards?
- Why is God’s creation of love offensive and irritating to Screwtape, ¶s 3 and 4?
- The devils not only twist sex but love as well. How have they twisted love to destroy God’s intentions, ¶ 5?
- What do we learn about God’s true intention for sex and love from Screwtape’s instructions to Wormwood?
- How might the observations of Screwtape change the way you think about both sex and love?
Letter 19: Exploiting Love
In the meantime, get it quite clear in your own mind that this state of falling in love is not, in itself, necessarily favourable either to us or to the other side. It is simply an occasion which we and the Enemy are both trying to exploit. Like most of the other things which humans are excited about, such as health and sickness, age and youth, or war and peace, it is, from the point of view of the spiritual life, mainly raw material. ~Screwtape
Do not allow what you consider good to be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit… Romans 14:16-17
- Love is the fundamental difference between heaven and hell, ¶ 2. What does the conflict over love show about God and Satan?
- Screwtape also reveals the basic demonic strategy, making use of anything and everything so that we are drawn away from God, ¶ 3. How do the devils twist love to their own purposes, ¶ 2?
- How have you experienced love as being both a means of drawing you to God and also a means of being pulled away from God?
Letter 20: Exploiting Sexual Desire
For as things are, our man has now discovered the dangerous truth that these attacks don’t last forever; consequently you cannot use again what is, after all, our best weapon—the belief of ignorant humans, that there is no hope of getting rid of us except by yielding. ~Screwtape
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:8-11
- Temptations lose their power as God steps in, ¶ 1. Why do you think God even allows temptations at all?
- How has the demonic strategy of twisting sexual desire varied through the ages, ¶ 3?
- In what ways might the devils be twisting sexual desire for our time?
- Screwtape writes about the terrestrial and infernal Venus as temptations for men, ¶ 4. What are they like, and how are they useful?
- Although Screwtape doesn’t mention them, how might a terrestrial and infernal Mars be tempting for woman?
Letter 21: Life as Possession
Now he is not yet so uncharitable or slothful that these small demands on his courtesy are in themselves too much for it. They anger him because he regards his time as his own and feels that it is being stolen. You must therefore zealously guard in his mind the curious assumption “My time is my own”. ~Screwtape
For none of us lives to himself alone and none of us dies to himself alone. If we live, we live to the Lord; and if we die, we die to the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Romans 14:7-8
- Screwtape encourages Wormwood to attack his patient’s peevishness—that is, getting easily irritated by unimportant and insignificant things, ¶ 1. What’s devilish about being irritated by interruptions and intrusions on “our” time, ¶ 2?
- How do you respond when events and people intrude on your own plans?
- From a Christian perspective, what’s wrong with a personal sense of ownership?
- How would your attitude toward life be different if you cultivated a sense of time and possessions that would be more pleasing to God than to the devils?
Letter 22: The Power of Quiet Love
Music and silence—how I detest them both! How thankful we should be that ever since our Father entered Hell … no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to either of those abominable forces, but all has been occupied by Noise— Noise, the grand dynamism, the audible expression of all that is exultant, ruthless, and virile— Noise which alone defends us from silly qualms, despairing scruples, and impossible desires. ~Screwtape
The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.1 Kings 19:11-12 (NIV)
“Be still, and know that I am God … Psalms 46:10
Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord…
- What doesn’t Screwtape like about the new love of Wormwood’s patient, ¶ 2?
- Why would Screwtape call God a hedonist (one who lives for pleasure), ¶ 3?
- Screwtape clearly thinks that the holiness of the woman’s family has an infectious stink, ¶ 4. How would you describe the woman’s family?
- While he is on a rant, Screwtape goes after both music and silence, ¶ 5. How have music and silence been a means of pleasure and grace to you?
Letter 23: Historical Jesus
Only today I have found a passage in a Christian writer where he recommends his own version of Christianity on the ground that “only such a faith can outlast the death of old cultures and the birth of new civilisations”. You see the little rift? “Believe this, not because it is true, but for some other reason.” That’s the game. ~Screwtape
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! Galatians 1:6-8
- The search for the historical Jesus that Screwtape refers to is an attempt to reinvent Jesus according to the scholastic fashion of each generation. What does Screwtape like about this, ¶ 3?
- What do you think is the current “fashionable” teaching about Jesus in our generation?
- One devilish agenda is to destroy devotional life. How do they do that, ¶ 3?
- How are the devils of our time active in a diabolical mixture of faith and politics?
- The fact of the Resurrection and the doctrine of the Redemption were the heart of the early Christian message, according to Screwtape. What do you think is the heart of the currently popular Christian message?
- Why would Screwtape be glad to have Christianity be a means for accomplishing a political agenda for the good of society, ¶ 5?
Letter 24: Cliques of Spiritual Pride
It is an unobtrusive little vice which she shares with nearly all women who have grown up in an intelligent circle united by a clearly defined belief; and it consists in a quite untroubled assumption that the outsiders who do not share this belief are really too stupid and ridiculous…. Can you get him to imitate this defect in his mistress and to exaggerate it until what was venial [a small sin] in her becomes in him the strongest and most beautiful of the vices—Spiritual Pride? ~Screwtape
To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: “Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ “But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 18:9-14
- Evidently there is something about faith that is contagious; the patient’s girlfriend has “caught’ it from her family and friends, ¶ 1. How can Wormwood use this spiritual contagion principle to twist his patient’s faith, ¶s 2 and 3?
- Essential elements of twisting the patient’s faith are pride and confusion. How can Wormwood use them, ¶s 3 and 4?
- How is it that peer pressure can be both a positive and a negative for spiritual growth, ¶ 5?
- How has the influence of others been a positive force in your spiritual development?
- How might the influence of others be a negative force for your spiritual growth?
Letter 25: Same Old Thing [sigh]
(The Pleasure of Novelty)
We direct the fashionable outcry of each generation against those vices of which it is least in danger and fix its approval on the virtue nearest to that vice which we are trying to make endemic [widespread]. The game is to have them all running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood, and all crowding to that side of the boat which is already nearly gunwale under. ~Screwtape
Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law— justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Matthew 23:23-24
- Screwtape does not like “mere” Christianity; he prefers to water down faith with fashionable issues and concerns, ¶ 1. What sort of fashionable issues are presently being added to Christianity?
- How do Novelty and Fashion, devilish smoke and mirrors, affect us, ¶s 2–5?
- What impact do Novelty and Fashion have on where you live, the cars you buy, and the clothes you wear?
- The greatest triumph of the “demonic horror of the Same Old Thing” is in the realm of ideas. What’s wrong with asking if an idea is relevant rather than asking if it is prudent or true, ¶ 6?
- Now that you have read Screwtape’s strategy, what would you say to a person who dismissed Christianity as “old fashioned”?
Letter 26: Fleeting Enchantment & ‘Unselfishness’
… [T]each a man to surrender benefits not that others may be happy in having them but that he may be unselfish in forgoing them. ~Screwtape
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
- Screwtape wants Wormwood to sow seeds of confusion that will bear fruit, not immediately but in ten years’ time, ¶ 1. What do you think about his statement that the word love is “ambiguous” ¶ 1?
- Why does Screwtape celebrate the devilish substitution of “unselfishness” for charity (love), ¶ 2?
- How does mistaking sexual excitement for charity, and thinking that this excitement will last, affect us, ¶ 3?
- Describe how the devil’s twist of unselfishness can sour a relationship, ¶ 4.
- In what ways can you discern this devilish concept of unselfishness in your own thoughts and behavior?
Letter 27: Bounded & Befuddled Prayer
The use of his “love” to distract his mind from the Enemy is, of course, obvious, but you reveal what poor use you are making of it when you say that the whole question of distraction and the wandering mind has now become one of the chief subjects of his prayers. That means you have largely failed. When this, or any other distraction, crosses his mind you ought to encourage him to thrust it away by sheer will power and to try to continue the normal prayer as if nothing had happened; once he accepts the distraction as his present problem and lays that before the Enemy and makes it the main theme of his prayers and his endeavours, then, so far from doing good, you have done harm. ~Screwtape
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving. Colossians 4:2
Clip 1: Louie learns about prayer.
Clip 2: Louie prays.
- What good advice for handling distractions in prayer can you apply from Screwtape’s prayer, ¶ 1?
- What specific and practical ways to pray can we discern from Screwtape’s advice, ¶ 2?
- What confusion and doubts about prayer does Wormwood’s patient have that Wormwood will accentuate, ¶s 3 and 4?
- What doubts and concerns may hinder your prayers?
Letter 28: Wearing Out a Soul by Attrition
…the drabness we create in their lives and the inarticulate resentment with which we teach them to respond to it — all this provides admirable opportunities of wearing out a soul by attrition. ~Screwtape
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Matthew 5:8
Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Romans 4:7
Screwtape informs Wormwood: “A great human philosopher nearly let our secret out when he said that where Virtue is concerned, ‘Experience is the mother of illusion’; but thanks to a change in Fashion, and also, of course, to the Historical Point of View, we have largely rendered his book innocuous.”
The “great human philosopher” Screwtape refers to is Immanuel Kant, who insisted that virtue is performing acts of “good will,” as opposed to doing “good” for the sake of “duty”; we choose virtue according to reason rooted in the moral law within us. Watch this:
- What does Lewis teach us about this concept of a moral law, compared to Kant’s philosophy? Can morality be known via reason? And can this satisfy us, save us from despair?
- Why does Screwtape prefer to see that Wormwood’s patient lives through the War to middle age and beyond, ¶ 1?
- In light of Screwtape’s advice to Wormwood, consider: how has aging affected your spiritual passion and development?
- Why would devils want us to believe that this world can be turned into heaven, ¶ 2?
- From both the divine and diabolical perspectives, what is the value of a long life, ¶ 3?
Letter 29: Cowardice & Despair
Cowardice, alone of all the vices, is purely painful — horrible to anticipate, horrible to feel, horrible to remember…” ~Screwtape
But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Acts 27:22
“My memories of the last war haunted my dreams for years. Military service, to be plain, includes the threat of every temporal evil; pain and death which is what we fear from sickness; isolation from those we love which is what we fear from exile; toil under arbitrary masters, injustice, humiliation which is what we fear from slavery; hunger, thirst, and exposure which is what we fear from poverty. I’m not a pacificst. If it’s got to be it’s got to be. But the flesh is weak and selfish and I think death would be much better than to live through another war.”
~C.S. Lewis in a letter he wrote May 8, 1939
- How do you think that the devils twist virtue to their advantage, ¶ 2?
- What problems do the devils have in using cowardice to trip us up, ¶s 4, 5 and 7?
- From Screwtape’s reflection we learn that God has chosen to create a world of dangers in which moral choices truly matter, ¶ 6. Why would he do that?
- What is it that truly matters to devils about the human experience of sin, ¶ 8?
Letter 30: ‘Real’ Despair/’False’ Hope
It is after men have given in to the irremediable, after they have despaired of relief and ceased to think even a half-hour ahead, that the dangers of humbled and gentle weariness begin. To produce the best results from the patient’s fatigue, therefore, you must feed him with false hopes. ~Screwtape
Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” Luke 7:50
- The devils are interested in actions and results, not feelings, ¶ 1. How might this insight affect the way you think about your own growth in virtue?
- From a demonic perspective, what are the “benefits of fatigue,” and how do demons twist it against us, ¶s 2 and 3?
- Wormwood learns about ways to use “reality” to raise doubts about his patient’s faith. In what two contrasting ways have the devils twisted our thoughts of reality to their advantage, ¶ 4?
- How does the devilish twisting of our understanding of reality hinder our growth in faith and the development of virtue?
Letter 31: The Shadowlands
He is caught up into that world where pain and pleasure take on transfinite values and all our arithmetic is dismayed. Once more, the inexplicable meets us. ~Screwtape
Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 2 Corinthians 4:16-17
- Wormwood’s patient completely escaped demonic harassment by dying. What is the first thing the patient sees on the other side of death, ¶ 2?
- How does Screwtape help us to grasp what death really means and why death is even beneficial, ¶ 3?
- According to Screwtape, what sort of insights do people have as they experience the process of dying, ¶ 3?
- What do you think Screwtape means when he laments that the patient will see “Them” and “Him” ¶s 4 and 5?
- How does the sight of Christ on the other side of death affect Wormwood’s patient, ¶ 5?