Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Business of Temptation

I just finished reading C.S. Lewis' novel called, "The Screwtape Letters" for my class at Reformed Theological Seminary. The book is a wonderful study on the subject of temptation written from the perspective of a senior demon (named Screwtape) to his nephew named Wormwood.

The letters in the book are funny...with hilarious names for the demons (including Screwtape, Wormwood, Glubose, Slubgob, Triptweeze, Toadpipe and Slumtrimpet) as well as an account of Screwtape getting so angry that he turns into a centipede.

The letters are also written from the perspective of the demons, thus God is called "the Enemy" and Satan is referred to as "Our Father Below".

Among the interesting things in the novel is Lewis' use of the word "business" to explain the work of the demons. Screwtape tells his nephew:
  • "So do not allow temporary excitement to distract you from the real business of undermining faith and preventing the formation of virtues" (Letter 5)

  • "(God) wants men to be concerned with what they do; our business is to keep them thinking about what will happen to them." (Letter 6)

  • "Our business is to get them away from the Eternal and Present. With this in view, we sometimes tempt a human...to live in the Past...or (to) live in the Future." (Letter 16)

The "business" then of demons, according to Screwtape, is to undermine the faith of Christians, prevent the formation of virtues and to keep people thinking things that are not of God.

Lewis' "Screwtape Letters" serve as a helpful reminder that we, as Christians, will face temptation. The professor of the seminary course, in fact, recommends that all Christians read the novel annually, as he does, to acknowledge the reality of temptation. For me, Lewis' novel is a humbling reminder of our weakness as humans and our utter dependence upon God to deliver us from evil.

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