Hi! Welcome to Volume 2 of my Screwtape series! I am commenting on the second letter of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

The first letter brought up the idea of whether or not satan and the demons can read human thoughts; C.S. Lewis seems to have believed it so. That’s a troubling state of affairs in my estimation, and you can read my thoughts and weigh in here. In this second letter, Lewis touches on yet another point of doctrine — this one much more terrifying and much more widely discussed and fretted over than the first. In the Baptist world, the doctrine goes like this: Once saved, always saved. This means that a true conversion is an eternal one; you cannot “lose” your salvation. Does C.S. Lewis support this view? Screwtape writes to Wormwood:

I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian… There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the *Enemy’s camp and are now with us. (p.5)

Keep everything hazy in his mind now, and you will have all eternity wherein to amuse yourself by producing in him the particular kind of clarity which Hell affords. (p.7)

*The “Enemy” here is Creator God. This is a demon talking.

It seems clear that C.S. Lewis is stating that people, after conversion to Christianity, can (and often do) wind up in Hell. I cannot tell whether he’s referring to real or false conversions, but he does not indicate the possibility of this one being false. I believe if you do assume this patient’s conversion is false, the rest of the letter can easily fit right in. You can assume it was an emotional conversion — seeds falling on rocky soil, if you will. He was excited, and accepted the Gospel idea quickly, but there was no root and no true conversion. He did not actually accept Christ.

But that would be an assumption. The wording does not suggest any variation; the patient became a Christian. Is it possible the demons don’t know for sure whether it was a true conversion? That they’re not privy to that knowledge? Perhaps that’s the issue. Remember that this is a letter from one demon to another, so no insight is offered beyond what Screwtape himself lets on. Or, perhaps, C.S. Lewis is warning the reader that people can honestly become Christians, and then honestly lose their salvation later. I don’t know.

I must leave that idea, because I have no resolution, and move to the main point of the letter. I would argue that Lewis presents the thesis of this letter in the second paragraph:

One of our greatest allies at present is the Church itself. (p.5)

Ouch! It hurts, but I don’t think there’s much of a debate about that one. Hypocrisy in the church is old news; the church is afflicted with sinners, and satan uses them to their fullest potential whenever possible. Sometimes, however, satan is much more subtle. In this letter, Screwtape recommends occupying the patient’s mind with things like squeaky shoes and off-key pew-mates. Things like that can easily be overemphasized and render the congregant’s time wholly useless. I found this particular point very convicting, as I am very, very easily distracted in church during the praise and worship time. The fact of the matter is, the musical selections of my church are unfortunate. (Sure, in my opinion. My opinion is correct.) It irritates me every Sunday, and I simply haven’t been able to get past it.

That, dear friends, is sin. That is satan winning. (Do you think it’s okay to tell my music minister that he’s being used as a tool of satan? No? Bummer.) In all seriousness, satan is using my personal taste to keep me prideful about my superior taste and, more alarmingly, to keep me from worshiping God. Es no bueno.

This letter was crucial to the entire book. Here, the patient becomes a Christian. The book is no longer about “some guy” the devil’s messing with; it’s now about me. It’s about how the devil messes with ME and MY head. From here on out, I’m kinda pissed off — at him and at me.

Three questions for you:

  1. What do you believe about the doctrine of “once saved, always saved”? What Scriptures can you offer to support your view?
  2. How is the devil using church to work against you?
  3. Have you ever stopped to evaluate specific ways the devil messes with your head? What did you learn?
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