The Screwtape Letters
by C. S. Lewis (1942)
This work of imaginative fiction is a series of letters from Screwtape, a senior demon, to Wormwood his fledgling nephew with advice on how to win the soul of the human (the “patient”) that has been assigned to him.
Here is a brief excerpt from letter number 14 to give you the flavor:
My dear Wormwood,
The most alarming thing in your last account of the patient is that he is making none of those confident resolutions which marked his original conversion. No more lavish promises of perpetual virtue, I gather; not even the expectation of an endowment of ‘grace’ for life, but only a hope for the daily and hourly pittance to meet the daily and hourly temptation! This is very bad.
I see only one thing to do at the moment. Your patient has become humble; have you drawn his attention to the fact? All virtues are less formidable to us once the man is aware that he has them, but this is specially true of humility. Catch him at the moment when he is really poor in spirit and smuggle into his mind the gratifying reflection, ‘By jove! I’m being humble’, and almost immediately pride–pride at his own humility–will appear. If he awakes to the danger and tries to smother this new form of pride, make him proud of his attempt–and so on, through as many stages as you please. But don’t try this too long, for fear you awake his sense of humour and proportion, in which case he will merely laugh at you and go to bed. …
Your affectionate uncle
– pp. 69-70, 73
Back to Virtue: Traditional Moral Wisdom for Modern Moral Confusion
by Peter Kreeft (1992; originally as For Heaven’s Sake , 1986)
Dr. Kreeft (pronounced “crayft”) is a Boston College philosophy professor and C. S. Lewis enthusiast/scholar. And he is one heck of a writer. He has a talent for clearing up a confusion the reader was not aware they even had, until he cleared it up for them. That is quite an achievement. It takes somebody of both talent and advanced education to accomplish that, without making the reader feel inferior or without introducing yet another confusion in the process.
The strongest part of the book is the latter half where he pits the Seven Deadly Sins against the Beatitudes in a match-up whose outcome is clearly never in doubt, but also never lacking in interest to the reader.
Here are a couple excerpts from Chapter Seven, “Poor in Spirit vs. Proud in Heart”:
Pride is not the same as vanity. In fact vanity, though it is a sin, shows some humility. For if I think I need your admiration, then I do not feel wholly independent of you, above you. The truly proud person couldn’t care less of what others think of him.
– pp. 99-100
In The Weight of Glory, C. S. Lewis says that God appears to us like an uncle to a slum child playing with mudpies in the street, offering us a vacation at the seaside, but we stick to our mudpies. We are too easily content. Poverty of spirit is not mediocrity and cheap contentment; it is exactly the opposite; it is detachment from the mudpies for love of the sea. The Buddhist and the Stoic and the “peace of mind addict” teach detachment for the sake of tranquility or nirvana, but the Christian wants to be unclothed with the world and the goods of the body and the body itself only to be reclothed with Heaven and the resurrection body. Christ opposes selfish desire only to replace it with unselfish desire, not with emptiness. We are to be spiritually poor only for the sake of becoming spiritually rich, detached from what we can own so that we can be attached in a different way to what we cannot own, detached from consuming so that we can be consumed by God.
– pg. 106