The Screwtape Letters Chapter 23: Summary & Quotes

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In chapter twenty-three of the C.S. Lewis novel, 'The Screwtape Letters', Screwtape suggests that it might be time to work on the religious convictions of the patient through a political angle.

Politics and Religion

Wormwood's patient's new girlfriend and her family are not only strong Christians, but they have a circle of friends that share their faith. Now that the patient is surrounded by this new group of intelligent people, '...it will be quite impossible to remove spirituality from his life. Very well then; we must corrupt it,' Screwtape concludes.

In chapter twenty-three of the C.S. Lewis novel, The Screwtape Letters, Wormwood learns how to blur the lines between politics and religion as a powerful tool in the fight for the patient's soul. After all, a Pharisee, or self-righteous or hypocritical person, in Hell can be a lot of fun.

Historical Jesus

How does this work?

  • By encouraging people to have a concept of a 'historical Jesus', they can be directed into believing in something that does not really exist. The Underworld intentionally changes the political view of the 'historical Jesus' about every thirty years or so. From Marxist to liberal, the documents can be suppressed or exaggerated to turn 'historical Jesus' unhistorical.
  • Secondly, He can be reduced to a teacher or a philosopher rather than the embodiment of the Enemy. Screwtape says, 'For humans must not be allowed to notice that all great moralists are sent by the Enemy not to inform men but to remind them, to restate the primeval moral platitudes against our continual concealment of them.'
  • Thirdly, the patient's prayer life will be destroyed since rather than listening for the Enemy's presence, he will be focused on a person from the distant past. 'Instead of the Creator adored by its creature,' Screwtape explains, 'you soon have merely a leader acclaimed by a partisan, and finally a distinguished character approved by a judicious historian.
  • Finally, biographical studies of Jesus do not gain souls.

A true biographical study of Jesus' life has never been written. The earliest Christians focused on redemption and resurrection based on the perspective of sin they had been taught in childhood. The Gospels of the New Testament were written to instruct and uplift the converted. No ancient document was created for the purpose of recording a factual account of the life of 'historical Jesus'.

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