Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Screwtape's Letters

It is interesting how “the safest road to Hell is the gradual one-the gentle slope soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” Perhaps we not worry about our major sins so much, but rather those small temptations that we often find ourselves indulging in. And, perhaps these small indulgences are not quite temptations and sin as we formerly know it, but rather divergences from our intended purpose. A good book itself is enough to serve as a distraction from our religious duties. Even conversations and sleep can lead us astray from spiritual growth. They seem so innocent and by nature even beneficial, but could be filling our lives with nothing.

Wormwood encourages his junior devil to draw his patient into nothing, to fill his life with very small sins, doubtless sins, minimal compared to spectacular wickedness. Wormwood desires that his junior apprentice leave his patient in a state of being half awake, the state of nothing. This life where in the end a man will say, “I now see that I spent most of my life in doing neither what I ought nor what I liked.” The small indulgences, the books, the ads, the slight conversations, the innocent educational TV shows serve to lead a man away from his religious duties. He keeps making weak resolutions that this will be the last time of procrastination, only to be broken again. He attempts to slowly forget his Christianity, to let sleeping worms lie.

What I found extremely interesting in this letter was the concept of temptation as a game. If the junior devil tempts his patient too much, he will wake to his current status and danger. However, if the junior devil does not tempt his patient enough, his patient will lose interest and fall back to his religious duties. It is a game of cat and mouse. A type of perfectly concocted soup in which too much salt, wrecks the flavor, but not enough bores the pot. In addition, it is not the magnitude of the sin that matters, but rather the end all effect, to “edge a man away from the light and out into the Nothing.” “Murder is no better than cards if can do the trick.” In fact, perhaps the sin is more effective when it is minimal, when it is allowed to pile upon itself little by little. And thus, we may eventually become creatures too weak and fuddled to recognize the pile rising behind us, threatening to fall behind our backs onto our heads.


  1. Dear Mark,

    You state it well, the soft underfoot is less likely to be noticed, and that is what will make us fall. We do not start with big sins. We have a natural, gradual, increase of actions, where we do not even notice that we are being befuddled.
    We need to ask for eyes wide open...

    A & P

  2. Thanks for the post. Do you recall what screwtape letter that one was?