Discussion of Chapters 1-6

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WELCOME TO OUR FIRST WEEK OF THE SCREWTAPE LETTERS ONLINE BOOK STUDY...

This week we're discussing chapters 1-6.

At the start of The Screwtape Letters, we meet 3 characters: 1) Uncle Screwtape (senior demon), 2) his nephew Wormwood (a demon-in-training, of sorts), and 3) a nameless young man whom Wormwood has been assigned to tempt (referred to as the Patient).

Over the course of these six chapters, we see the Patient become a Christian and his sanctification process begin. As Screwtape exposes the Patient’s fears, faults, and weaknesses, we get crystal clear insight into the human heart. 

This whole book is really about one man’s sanctification and a demon’s attempt to stop it.

Every Chapter In A Sentence

Here’s the central point of each chapter in a sentence:

Chapter 1: Our culture has shifted away from reasoned faith and spirituality to confused materialism.

Chapter 2: The church is made up of sinners so it’s messy – and awkward when new Christians expect a lot more.

Chapter 3: Our sin can manifest itself most strongly in relationships with our families – especially in the little things.

Chapter 4: Prayer is a powerful weapon, yet it’s an easy area for us to neglect or misuse.

Chapter 5: Even war can be used by God for his glory.

Chapter 6: How we think about the future can lead to fear that corrodes our trust in God and makes us self-focused.

Discussion Questions

And here are some discussion questions to help you dig deeper into this week's reading:

  1. 1. What are the tactics that Screwtape suggests Wormwood use on his patient? Are there times in your life that you fall prey to the same temptations?
  2. Discuss why the answer to this question is so important to a new Christian: “If I, being what I am, can consider that I am in some sense a Christian, why should the different vices of those people in the next pew prove that their religion is mere hypocrisy and convention?” (p. 15)
  3. How do you see your sin come out in your relationships with people closest to you (e.g., your parents, your siblings, your spouse, your kids, etc.)?
  4. In chapter 4 we read, “The simplest is to turn their gaze away from Him towards themselves. Keep them watching their own minds and trying to produce feelings there by the action of their own wills” (p. 21). What’s the danger of relying on feelings during our prayers?
  5. What are some ways that God can be glorified through war?
  6. What do we learn about anxiety and fear and how we should respond to them from Chapter 6?

MY REFLECTIONS ON THESE CHAPTERS

These chapters cover a tremendous amount of ground (that’s pretty indicative of the rest of the book). But that’s what the Christian life is like. When you’re saved, your entire life is transformed (2 Cor. 5:17). 

Now you think differently about everything. And now there’s a whole spiritual dimension to your life that strengthens your relationship with God – the local church, prayer, investing in God’s Word, etc. 

But sadly, Christians still sin. Some people think that once they get saved, life will be so much easier, that being a Christian means life is never-ending rainbows and sunshine. 

Instead, we find a “disappointment or anticlimax” (in Lewis’ words) when we learn that’s not true. This can be a time of significant spiritual attack. 

And that’s why it’s so desperately important for Christians to not rely on their feelings. Our feelings fade, lie, manipulate, deceive, and change on a whim. Instead, we are called to be thinking individuals who are fixed firmly on truth. 

We are told to be sober-minded, not swayed by the unreliability of our own appetites or emotions (1 Pet. 1:13). When confused or afraid or worried, we’re to go back to what we know to be true, not what merely feels true right now.

As we read TSL, we’ll regularly see Screwtape advise undercutting faith by focusing on feelings and self. These are true enemies of faith. These are the Deceiver’s tactics. And that is not how Christians are supposed to operate. 

That’s because our faith is rooted in the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is the author and finisher of our faith, and He is the one who will protect and preserve us and, ultimately, help us persevere. 

Because of that, we truly have no reason to fear.

Your Next Steps

- Read chapters 7-12 before March 19.