But if you bite and devour one another, take heed that you are not consumed by one another (Galatians 5:15; New Testament). The word devour comes from the Greek word katesthi??, which means: to eat up, or to consume by eating. In nature, very few species eat their own kind. This kind of behavior is looked at as an abnormality. In human nature, people who do this are considered cannibals. This action is an evil act, but there is another division of humans who tend to devour their own kind: Christians. Morality is regarded as being something innate; and Christianity in particular is accused often of having lost this trait. The line between spirituality and irreligious, morally wrong and right, and the validity of these themes have become blurred over time. The Screwtape Letters takes advantage of this tug-of-war between human nature and their beliefs and toys with the idea of religion and what it really means.
The most notable aspect of modern society, which would have astonished and equally shocked our ancestors, is the moral inversion which has redefined bad as good, sin as salvation. Indeed the safest route to Hell is the gradual one” the gentle slope, the soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts (Lewis 61). The definition of good .vs. evil does not exist in two distinct places. Every person has their own idea of what is bad and what isn’t. Human nature and its morality have become entangled with temptation and impulse. The gradual ascent into Hell that Screwtape talks about is the real position of the Patient and his inner struggle with his own morality and the outcome of this battle within. The Patient’s and Screwtape’s idea of sin and savior clash. The humility that arises within the Patient, the good in him, is morally inverted by Screwtape. Screwtape argues that humility, leads to self-contradiction.
By persuading the Patient to think of himself as humble, he will become proud and self-absorbed. A trait commonly looked upon as bad. But to Screwtape and Wormwood, this is good. It is taking the patient away from his morality and towards Hell. These minor persuasions are what create the gentle slope into Hell. Everyday things can push you slightly towards or away from Hell based on how they are approached morally. Screwtape takes advantage of the immodesty and pride in human beings and their nature to self-obsess over doing the right thing which can easily result into people spending too much time and energy on questions that have no real effect on the well-being of others.
God created humans to be deeply flawed. This imperfection, Screwtape argues is a consequence of freedom. While free will is difficult concept to define, it can be thought of simply as the act of choices. Because humans have free will, they are constantly alternating between good and evil. Work on that. Bring fully into the consciousness of your patient that particular lift of his mother’s eyebrows which he learned to dislike in the nursery, and let him think about how much he dislikes it (Lewis 13). Screwtape and Wormwood cannot make the Patient do anything they want, because forcing the Patient to act a certain way would mean that he has not acted on his own will, and therefore did not sin. Both God and Satan can only encourage and persuade the Patient to behave a certain way whether the Patient embraces good or evil is in the end, up to him. While humans free will makes them vulnerable and weak to temptation, this will presents a problem for devils.
Because humans face this kind of deadly temptation, God respects humans who don’t give into temptations and rewards them for resisting throughout their lifetime. In this way, only humans can redeem themselves and go to Heaven because humans are free. They have the choice to lead good or bad lives and directly control the outcome of their arrival to Heaven or Hell based on their choices. But Screwtape also argues that there is a way around free will. Humans, being free, are constantly encouraged to do good and evil by God and Satan- respectively. They fluctuate between sin and savior. So how is it possible for humans to make any real progression toward Heaven? Technically speaking, won’t good behavior always be challenged by sinful behavior? By tempting a human to will evil behavior, evil actions are created. Screwtape ultimately concludes that free will is humanity’s greatest strength, but also its greatest weakness.
Being a Christian is not just wishful thinking or an idle thought. It is a day-to-day task. The real trouble about the set your patient is living in is that it is merely Christian.
They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains mere Christianity. What we want, if men become Christians at all, is to keep them in the state of mind I call “Christianity And”. You know” Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology (Lewis 135). Screwtape starts to complain about the Patient’s love interest, the Woman and how her family is merely Christian. Her family practices basic Christian principles and doesn’t turn their belief in God into something of a fashion statement. Screwtape then presents a solution to this problem, using the Woman’s family’s political interests to tempt the Patient into ?Christianity And’. This representation of Christianity, in which Christian teachings become a vessel for political agendas and other socially unacceptable acts is a way for Satan to underhand the positive effect of
Christian teachings on people’s lives, a way to make Christians less Christian. These small distinctions are a disturbance from the true message of Christianity” the message to live rightly.
Logical reasoning is considered to be real to both humans and demons. One of the goals Screwtape and Wormwood set out to accomplish is to steer the Patient away from engaging in any sort of critical thinking. 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 (Lewis 3). Screwtape states that a human applying critical thinking and logical analysis to Christianity will come not just to an understanding of it, but will unequivocally embrace it for the comfort and goodness it brings into their lives. While this idea sounds simple to understand, it really isn’t a common view in Christianity. Many Christian leaders throughout history have actually repressed critical thinking about religion. This allowed them to control the masses and remain in power. Essentially, mental slavery. If humans were to stop and think logically about the concept of ownership and slavery for even a fraction of a second, they would realize how irrational it is. The Screwtape Letters uses logic and reasoning, rather than just blind faith ” to support Christian teachings. In the end, evil actually aids the good.
Love is a human capacity and try as he might, Screwtape cannot understand it. He really does want to fill the universe with a lot of loathsome little replicas of Himself”creatures, whose life, on its miniature scale, will be qualitatively like His own, not because He has absorbed them but because their wills freely conform to His. We want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. We are empty and would be filled; He is full and flows over. Our war aim is a world in which Our Father Below has drawn all other beings into himself: the Enemy wants a world full of beings united to Him but still distinct (Lewis 38). Screwtape doesn’t understand why God created mankind, why he wants humans to be good, or why he wants to reward them in Heaven for their virtue. Screwtape’s reasoning is flawless, but his incomprehension of love means that he’ll never be a Christian. Screwtape’s misunderstanding of this basic human and divine idea, allows for a idea of human’s love for one another and for God to come to light. Love is vital and one of the most important virtues of Christianity. Screwtape’s inability to to not understand love makes it impossible for him or Wormwood to understand the relationship the Patient has with the Woman and with God. This eventually creates the downfall and loss of the Patient to the Enemy (God). Human will and the victory of God’s love are two extremely powerful forces in flipping the moral inversion and discarding the sin of spiritual cannibalism.
Change creates a focus on the future. All extremes, except extreme devotion to the Enemy, are to be encouraged (Lewis 32). At the time when Lewis was writing The Screwtape Letters, Europe’s intellectual history was in the hands of important 19th century thinkers as George Hegel, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Charles Darwin. One important thing all four have in common is their emphasis on vast, historical processes. By celebrating progress, people learn to think of the present as minor in importance to the things to come. This is dangerous for morality, because all sin is committed because people think about the future instead of focusing on the present.
For example, someone committing a murder on the preface that the murder is necessary to fulfill a goal later on. Change and progress can cause people to push aside the truthful ideas because they have been around for a long time. There is no reason to simply discard Christianity merely because it isn’t new. Christianity stands to reason and logic throughout it all because things like virtue are transcendent of time, the importance of God’s existence, His role in the lives of humanity and the Christian faith, should never go out of fashion.
Lewis uses The Screwtape Letters to argue Christianity’s validity and truthfulness by exploring evil. The devils’ attempt to dishonestly corrupt mankind usually backfires. In this sense, the form of The Screwtape Letters proves the true power of Christianity. Because it’s written from the devils’ perspective, it forms a perfect moral inversion of the Christian doctrine, and by showing that the worship and acceptance of evil is ultimately contradictory and defeating, Lewis’s examination of evil ultimately points the reader back to morality and God.
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