10 Books Every Christian Needs to Read Series
By Larry Stout
In 2010, Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin shocked the mainstream media when she stated that her favorite author was C. S. Lewis. In classic cynicism, Joy Behar of “The View” asked, “Doesn’t he write children’s books?”
Yes, Joy, he did write children’s books, and a lot, lot more. It could be argued that the most influential Christian writer of the 20th century has been C. S. Lewis. Best known for his Chronicles of Narnia tales (the first three of which have been made into Hollywood films, probably why Joy Behar even heard of him at all), his writings cover an amazing spectrum.
A professor at Oxford from 1925 to 1954, he published a number of scholarly academic works, including one on English literature in the Sixteenth Century that won him election to the British Academy (a very high literary honor). Yet after his conversion to Christianity in the 1930s, he began writing a wide diversity of works about his faith. Works on popular theology works such as The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, and Mere Christianity. are still widely read today. His book of essays,The Abolition of Man, appears on serious lists of great works as one of the most important books of the twentieth century.
However, C. S. Lewis is probably best known for his imaginative literature such as his Space Trilogy and the better knownChronicles of Narnia. Yet as popular as these have been, the one work that stands out as the most profound and oft quoted of them all is the oddly titled, The Screwtape Letters. Others have written fantasy and science fiction from a Christian perspective, but no one has so brilliantly described the mind of the devil like C. S. Lewis.
The Screwtape Letters was conceived in Lewis’ mind while sitting in church in July of 1940. Probably noting the hypocrisy surrounding him at the time, he imagined a senior demon, Screwtape, writing advice on practical deception and temptation to his nephew and protege, Wormwood. Consisting of thirty-one short missives, Lewis captures the heart of Satan’s work in discouraging and deceiving the believer in masterful form.
It does take some getting used to hearing references to God as “The Enemy,” and Satan as “Our Father Below.” Lewis himself admitted it was the most difficult book he ever wrote because he had to twist his mind backwards in a sort of theology in reverse in able to write it.
Anyone could have used the device of a series of demonic letters to an apprentice, but only Lewis could have written them with such wit, wisdom, and literary flair. Every one of the letters has at least one quotable quote:
“It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.” (Letter 4)
“The search for a ‘suitable’ church makes the man a critic where the Enemy wants him to be a pupil.” (Letter 16)
“Prosperity knits a man to the World. He feels that he is ‘finding his place in it,’ while really it is finding its place in him.” (Letter28)
And, of course, the most famous quote of all is the one that appears in the very beginning as he describes his work, “There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to believe in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”
The Screwtape Letters remains as popular now as it was when it came out in 1942. Continuously in print since Lewis published it, the novel has been adapted into plays that have appeared on Broadway, made into a comic book, and recorded as an audio drama by John Cleese. Fox owns the film rights and is said to preparing to produce it.
It is one of those rare Christian books that has entered the public consciousness. In October of 2013, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was being interviewed by The New Yorker and while discussing Heaven and Hell, Scalia remarked that he believed in the devil. When he tried to defend his position, he could tell the interviewer was concerned about his mental stability. He finally said to her, “Have you read The Screwtape Letters?”