C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters Introductory Notes

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Transcript of C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters Introductory Notes

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  • C.S. Lewis The Screwtape Letters Introductory Notes
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  • 1. The Irish-English writer C.S. Lewis was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in 1898. He was educated in England, enlisted in the army in 1917, saw front line combat and was wounded in the war. He returned to his studies at Oxford after the war, and graduated in 1922. He taught at Oxford and Cambridge as a professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature.
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  • atheist 2. In his boyhood he was an atheist, but converted to Christianity in 1931. His spiritual pilgrimage followed two tracks, both intellectual (i.e. mind) And emotional- intuitive (i.e feeling).
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  • 3. Lewis was part of the Oxford literary circle known as the Inklings, whose membership included J.R.R. Tolkien (author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit).
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  • 4. In 1957 he married Joy Davidman Gresham, an American with whom he had corresponded for a number of years. Joy had been a Jewish atheist and a communist. She converted to Christianity partly as a result of reading Lewis books.
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  • 5. Joy was already suffering from bone cancer at the time of their marriage and died in 1960. Lewis died three years later on Nov. 22, 1963, the same day JFK was assassinated in Dallas.
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  • Their lives and love story are portrayed in the play and movie Shadowlands. The title of the movie alludes to Lewis belief that our world is only a reflection of Gods wonderful kingdom (Now we see through a glass darkly, but in the end, face to face....).
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  • 6. The screenplay gives some people the idea that Lewis lost his faith after Joy died. This is not true. In his autobiography, A Grief Observed, he makes it clear that he did go through a period of questioning Gods goodness for a short time. At one point he speculates whether God might be wicked. This statement is followed by the line I wrote that last night. It was a yell rather than a thought. It is interesting to note that one of Lewis finest Christian books is Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, which was written just before his death and some time after Joy had died.
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  • 7. Lewis was a talented writer and debater. He wrote in many genres: novels,poetry, childrens literature, fantasy, science fiction, literary criticism, and Christian apologetics.
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  • 8. While Lewis was an Anglican, what he cared most about was what he called Mere Christianity that is, that faith which has been at the center of the gospel and the creeds of the church since the apostles announced it. It was the gospel freed from the denominational idiosyncrasies, the debris of history, and focuses on the essential truth of the identity and mission of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
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  • 9. When writing the book Mere Christianity, he had the text reviewed by Anglican, Roman Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian clergymen to avoid any hint of denominational bias creeping in.
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  • 10. In a telling passage in Allegory of Love, he recognizes the potential flaws in both Catholic and Protestant paths: When Catholicism goes bad it becomes a world-old, world-wide *religio* of amulets and holy places and priest craft; Protestantism, in its corresponding decay, becomes a [watered-down] vague mist of ethical platitudes. The authority of Christ and His teachings is what counts for Lewis; not an occasionally revised doctrine the church produces (that we are expected to accept in advance of changes), or a watered-down/ feel good doctrine.
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  • The Screwtape Letters 1. Written in 1942, it is a series of letters from one devil to another. Screwtape is the author of the letters. He is an experienced devil and is writing to his nephew Wormwood, a junior tempter on his first assignment. The letters deal with the psychology of temptation, and will make most readers laugh--and wince.
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  • 2. Some editions contain the short essay Screwtape Proposes a Toast. This is not really a sequel to the original, but is a separate essay in which Screwtape gives a speech praising recent developments in the English and American education system.
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  • 3. While reading the letters, our goal should be to gain insight into the potential pitfalls that we face in trying to lead a Christian life.
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  • Literary Term: epistolary essay; epistolary novel An epistolary essay or novel is one in which the entire work is presented in the form of letters written by one or more characters to communicate the theme or plot/story line.