Discussion of Chapters 7-12

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Welcome to our second week of the screwtape letters online book study...

This week we're discussing chapters 7-12.

Last week we saw the Patient become a Christian and his sanctification process begin. 

(If you missed or want to review last week's notes, click here to see our discussion of chapters 1-6.)

This week we get several months into the Patient’s Christian journey and see him start to encounter issues like spiritual dryness, the influence of friends, partisan politics in the church, and spiritual drift.

In all of it, we get a profound insight into the contemporary Christian’s life.

Every Chapter In A Sentence

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

  • Chapter 7A significant way to tempt Christians is to twist their perception of spiritual forces and make partisan politics a part of their faith. 
  • Chapter 8Every Christian experiences “undulation” – periods of spiritual highs and lows.
  • Chapter 9The way to discourage Christians is to make them focus on feelings and believe that their spiritual dryness is not a normal part of faith but that spirituality itself was just a phase. 
  • Chapter 10Another threat to a Christian is surrounding yourself with cool and “superficially intelligent” non-Christian friends who mock, tear down, or seek to disprove your faith.
  • Chapter 11Joy and fun are holy gifts from God, but cruel jokes or flippancy are laughter from the enemy.
  • Chapter 12“The safest road to Hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” – C.S. Lewis, p. 51

Discussion Questions

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

  1. In chapter 7, we read, “Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours – and the more “religious” (on those terms) the more securely ours.” What are some modern movements or causes that can take the place of the gospel? How do we find the balance?
  2. How does the description of God working through the patient’s “troughs” (his spiritual lows or dry seasons) encourage you?
  3. How can we spend time and build relationships with non-believers without letting them lead us astray from the gospel?
  4. In chapter 11, we read “Fun is closely related to Joy – a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct… in itself it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils” (p. 45). How does fun promote these things? Why is fun a weapon against sin and Satan?
  5. What can we do to make sure we’re not taking small steps away from God?

Reflections On These Chapters

Like the first six chapters, these ones cover tons of topics – partisan politics, perception of demons, seasons of spiritual highs and lows, the influence of friends, laughter and fun, and spiritual drift. 

To me, that seems so robust, it’s almost overwhelming! And I think a part of the reason for that is that not many people write like this anymore. 

Apparently they didn’t in Lewis’ day either! In chapter 10, we read:

“In modern Christian writers, though I see much (indeed more than I like) about Mammon, I see few of the old warnings about Worldly Vanities, the Choice of Friends, and the Value of Time. All that, your patient would probably classify as “Puritanism” – and may I remark in passing that the value we have given to that word is one of the really solid triumphs of the last hundred years? By it we rescue annually thousands of humans from temperance, chastity, and sobriety of life” (pp. 42-43).

He’s exactly right! If you go back and read the church fathers and the Puritans and even people from the 19th century like C.H. Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle, you see fountains of deep truth calling Christians to discipline and reminding them the Christian life is a battle. 

You feel like the books are firehoses of truth trained on you, blasting you with so much gospel richness to feast on, you can’t take it all in. 

That’s how I feel with The Screwtape Letters

Sadly, the books like that today are not the bestsellers. That’s not what contemporary Christians want to read. We view the Puritans as joyless prudes who lived for self-condemning rules. 

Today we’d rather focus on feelings, emotions, and living our best life now.

But we need to be challenged! We need to be called to a higher standard. We need to be convicted and also encouraged to fight the good fight and persevere through temptation. 

That’s why old Christian writers are more important now than ever. 

TSL is so relevant, it could have been written today. That’s because Lewis is leaning on timeless biblical truth – which is exactly what we need to immerse ourselves in.

Your Next Steps

  • Read chapters 13-18 before March 26.

Next week we’re going to get into topics like humility, gluttony, love, and church-shopping.