The following post is the second and last prefatory remark I will make about C. S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. God willing, Monday morning I will post a link to Lewis' preface and Chapter One of TSL at the top of my response entitled, Dear Screwtape.
One might argue, and probably correctly, that Lewis did not intend The Screwtape Letters as a monograph upon demonology; however, I suspect that the typical reader of TSL mistakenly presumes that Lewis’ observations about demons are somewhat accurate: “The great Lewis wrote this; it must be right.” That false assumption may seem innocuous, but in actuality TSL misleads readers about demons. Although Lewis’ characterization of demons is hideously magnificent as literary caricature, Screwtape’s and Wormwood’s nature and actions are hardly demonic, certainly not in biblical terms. Lewis’ devilish fiends think and act much more like fallen Adam and Eve than fallen Lucifer and Legion. In truth, Adam and Eve, that is -- we -- no longer need Satanic help for moral misguidance. Moral crookedness arises from our own souls and wills, as Jesus says, “Out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” Of course, Satan and demons are not wholly disconnected from the moral sphere. Jesus Christ characterizes Satan in moral terms as the “father of lies” and original “murderer.” St. John describes the “great red dragon” poised to “devour” the Christ Child upon His birth, thus definitely associating Herod’s bloody infanticide with Satanic influence. And who could doubt that demons influenced Hitler, Stalin, and the bloodiest murderers in world history – American abortionists? But Satan did not murder six million Jews in the Holocaust, ten million dissidents in Russia, or tens of millions of babies in the United States. Fallen human beings committed, and still commit, those murders. And I hesitate to remind our reader, but every millisecond of our lives we teeter on the brink of universal self-murder -- Armageddon by nuclear means. Even if all Satanic power were removed from earth, human beings would still lie and murder because of their inherently evil nature. James, Paul, and Jesus Christ all teach us that humanity is infinitely capable of, and ultimately culpable for, every single sin. Comedians may mock at sin and make us laugh when they say, "the devil made me do it," but God is not mocked. He blames us. "Because I called and you refused, I stretched out my hand and no one paid attention; and you neglected all my counsel and did not want my reproof; I will also laugh at your calamity; I will mock when your dread comes."
Satan does not send us to Hell; morally speaking, we send ourselves. But Satan’s ultimate interest in lying and murder is not to make us liars and murderers; no, Satan’s greatest desire is to make us worshipers, worshipers of himself. If we would find the Devil and discover who he truly is and what he really does, we would find him neither in Hollywood horror nor The Screwtape Letters, but in temples, mosques, synagogues, and even churches.
Behind all his elaborate designs and demonic devices, above all things – Satan most passionately desires to be worshiped. Isaiah’s account of the inaugural moment of Lucifer’s fall teaches us that Satan’s ultimate desire and aim is not moral and terrestrial but rather spiritual and celestial: “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” Satan’s desire to be worshiped consummates in his very personification, the Anti-Christ. John’s apocalyptic vision of ultimate Satanic lust depicts humanity’s worship of “the beast and his image,” and Paul describes Anti-Christ as he who “exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God.” Satan even desires that God would worship him, as he said to Jesus Christ, “fall down and worship me.”
Although we may profit somewhat from The Screwtape Letters, higher wisdom demands that we must relegate Lewis’ depiction of Satan to the genre in which it truly belongs -- fiction -- not just its fictional characters but also its fictional premises and fictional implications regarding the demonic. The only reliable source of truth about Satan is God’s Word, which clearly teaches that Satan’s principal interest and activity is not moral perversion but spiritual prevarication. Like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, Satan’s primary tact is to question the Word of God – “Hath God said?” – and, ultimately, to deny the Word of God – “God hath not said!” Unlike the Holy Spirit who leads God’s people “into all Truth,” Satan is the Unholy Spirit who, “as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness,” still seeks to “beguile” Eve’s descendants by “corrupting their minds” with mistaken ideas about who God is, what He says, and what He does. Satan perpetually “transforms himself into an angel of light,” Paul says, that he might preach “another gospel” about “another Jesus” through “another spirit.” If we are to understand Satan biblically, we need a much “higher” view of Satan than Lewis represents in Wormwood and Screwtape.