A good bit of Lewis’s success can, I think, be attributed to the fact that he actually writes relatively little “theology” in this technical sense. Clearly, he’s read a good bit of it and been instructed by it—he does not in any sense belittle it—but he tends to seek language that captures and communicates the quality, the feel, of living and thinking as a Christian. As Austin Farrer put it: “[Lewis’] real power was not proof; it was depiction. There lived in his writings a Christian universe that could be both thought and felt, in which he was at home and in which he made his reader feel at home.” That is the universe I want to explore. It illumines the everyday, so that we may find in it shafts of the divine glory that point to God, so that we may sense the eternal significance of ordinary life.
Archives For The Screwtape Letters
So while re-reading The Screwtape Letters in preparation for a fast-approaching book club, I came across this brilliant insight about a Christian during times of dryness, times of despair:
“Do not be deceived, Wormwood. Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending to do [God’s] will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”
Man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to having 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.
Schemes of thought such as Creative Evolution, Scientific Humanism, or Communism, fix men’s affections on the future ─ on the very core of temporality. Hence nearly all vices are rooted in the future. Gratitude looks to the past, and love to the present; fear, avarice, and ambition look ahead.
Whatever their bodies do affects their souls. 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…