C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters was the first book by him that I read. I was a young Christian and wasn’t always sure where Lewis was going with his sarcasm. I finally got the gist of what Lewis was doing in this classic.
The last sentence of this review is instructive and raises a question: does the devil put things into our mind or does he keep God’s instruction from us? In reality, the bible tells us that from our own nature, and not external to us, comes sin and strife: What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? (Jas. 4.1 NIV). Humanity fell in Adam and are dead to God as reflected in Jesus words: Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life (Jn. 5.24 NIV). John says the same thing in 1 Jn. 3.14: We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death (NIV). Paul also affirms this truth: As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (Eph. 2.1-2 NIV).
This living death is characterized as an active following of the ruler of this world’s system. Therefore, unregenerated, humans are dead, not inactive. The Christian, as I understand it, is the only one with free will to follow God or the ways of this world since they have two natures (or, motivations).
1Cor. 9.24-27 Paul likens the Christian life to an athletic contest. This passage is sometimes misunderstood as a competition external to us, but in reality, the passage speaks about two rival internal heroes. Where the misunderstanding lies is in the image we imagine in our minds when Paul says: “Do not all the runners run.” I used to picture what Paul was saying with modern games of many runners. In ancient times however, it was more about regional heroes competing against each other after eliminating rounds found the two best contestants. This is what Paul is speaking about in 1 Cor. 9.24-27. Further proof of this concept is found in what Paul actually says about it: it’s like a ‘one on one internal boxing match’ in verse 27.
Anyway, back to whether the devil puts things into our mind or keeps things out, the important thing to recognize is that the battle is an internal struggle. As Christians we are equipped with both defensive and offensive weapons the Master has given us (see Eph. 6.10-18). A corollary to the metaphorical armor of Eph. 6, Paul tells the Philippians to arbitrate what they think or meditate about: Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Phil. 4.8 NIV). Here Paul covers both internal bases: don’t think bad things, but only godly ones.Review: ‘The Screwtape Letters’ by C. S. Lewis