Volume > Issue > The Screwtape Letters, 1985

The Screwtape Letters, 1985


By John Mallon | December 1985
John Mallon is a student of theology at Boston College.

In the A.D. 1940s, as time is measured on earth, a most remarkable cache of letters came in­to the possession of a certain C.S. Lewis, an Ox­ford professor who enjoyed writing theology for the popular market. Lewis published those letters and they have had a remarkable impact on the the­ological and popular literature of his time and our time. Published under the name The Screwtape Letters, they contained the correspondence of an elderly devil, Screwtape, a prominent official in the Infernal Civil Service, to his nephew Wormwood, “who is engaged in his first assignment on earth to secure the damnation of a young man who has re­cently become a Christian.” That correspondence ended when Wormwood’s “patient” died and went to Heaven, and Wormwood, as punishment for this failure, was eaten by Uncle Screwtape.

Now, in the 1980s, a similar correspondence has fallen into my hands and, like Lewis, in the preface to his collection, I have no intention of ex­plaining how I received it.

The collection in my possession is again from Screwtape, but this time to Wormwood’s younger cousin, Lackluster. Lackluster is a very promising young devil, somewhat of a prodigy. He has recent­ly completed graduate studies at The Tempters Training College, and has received an unprecedent­ed appointment for so young a demon to “Our Father Below’s Commission for the Subversion of the Roman Catholic Church.” Even Screwtape is amazed at this appointment. Obviously, they have very “low” hopes for Lackluster in Hell.


Letter I

My dear Lackluster:

Never mind what happened to your cousin Wormwood. Simply follow my instructions and they won’t be asking the same questions about you. First, I am dumbfounded by your appoint­ment as a beginning fiend to Our Father Below’s Commission for the Subversion of the Roman Catholic Church. This is indeed a great honor for you, but I write as your affectionate uncle to sup­ply you with some information concerning our ac­tivities in the area.

Let me advise you as to some of the methods that have worked so well in the past. Tempt the clergy and theologians to sophistication, especially intellectual sophistication. Get them to forget that the proper stance The Enemy requires of them is to be as little children before Him, utterly depen­dent on Him. You will find, Lackluster, that those who do assume this childlike posture are almost impossible for us to reach. If you can get them to place their trust in their own abilities, human wis­dom, modern science, and the like, you will have easy sledding. Oh, yes, The Enemy wants them to use these things, but only under His guidance, and He wants their trust only in Him.

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