Saturday, November 14, 2015

The Screwtape Letters - some questions for reflection / discussion

Which of the errors described in the Preface (p.ix) do you think we are most likely to fall into? i.e. disbelieving in devils (the materialist) or taking an unhealthy interest in them (the magician)?
Do you agree with Lewis’ suggestion that the devil is currently following in the West a policy of denying his own existence? (p31)
Do you fall into the comical view of the devil which Lewis suggests plays into the devil’s hands? (p32)
But should we find the devil laughable / absurd? (The quotations from Luther and More at the beginning, p118)

What tactics which Screwtape suggests most stuck in your mind?
Which do you think would be most effective and why?

Were there moments when you thought Lewis had understood something about you and your temptations?

Do you think what Screwtape would call the efforts of ‘the Philological Arm’ matter?
What examples does Lewis give? (puritanical; unselfishness rather than charity (p141)) Can you think of other instances where how we describe things influences how we think about them?

Do you agree with Lewis’ implication that we have largely lost the art of argument and are not primarily influenced by what we reason to be true or false? (p1-4)
If it’s not good arguments, can you think of some things that keep people from believing in Christianity or doing what they should?

Screwtape suggests a focus on the imperfections of other Christians and of church (p5, 8-9). How would you counter this temptation?

Do you agree that we sometimes have a (supposedly) super-spiritual neglect of the obvious and real? (pp11-13)

Is Lewis right to criticize ‘prayer’ which aims at something entirely spontaneous, inward, informal, falsely spiritual and unrealized, trying to produce a vaguely devotional mood? (p15f, p148)
What advice would you give to a recent convert on prayer?
How does Lewis suggest dealing with distractions in prayer? (p147)

Do you think that bodily posture makes a difference in prayer, that because we are animals the body affects the souls? (p16)

Do you agree with Lewis that we can be distracted from God by focusing too much on our feelings or trying to stir up certain feelings in ourselves? (p16f)

Do you think we sometimes pray to our idea of God rather than to God himself? (p18)

Do you agree that hopes and fears about the future can pre-occupy us such that we neglect getting on with our duty? (p25f)
Why and how might the devil distract us from eternity and from the present? (p75-79)

How does Lewis suggest that the devil can use both self-consciousness and unself-consciousness? (p26f)
Why would the devil like us to catch ourselves being humble? (p69)
How would Lewis define humility? What notion of humility does Screwtape suggest Wormwood should encourage? (p70-3)

Do you find the idea of ‘the law of undulation’ (pp37, 45) persuasive and helpful?

In what ways would you say that the ‘troughs of dryness / dullness’ which we might experience afford opportunities to God or to the devil? (pp38-46)

How might the devil make use of the pejorative term ‘Puritanical’? (p51-2, 56)

Do you agree that flippancy is a dangerous habit? (p56) How does it differ from joy, fun and jokes? (pp53-56)
How might a sense of the ridiculous aid godliness? (p145)

Does a (vague?) consciousness of sin of which you have not repented keep you from wanting to think of God? (p58)

What innocent, humble, self-forgetful, disinterested enjoyment of something for its own sake could you cultivate? (p66) Why does Lewis think this is valuable?
What difference does it make to realize that all created things are good and can only be used by the devil if twisted? (p118, see also p159)

Why does Lewis prefer fidelity to the parish church over always seeking a ‘suitable’ church? (pp81-82)

Do you recognize ‘the gluttony of delicacy’ as an issue? (p87-90)

Do you agree with Lewis that we tend to stress ‘being (feeling) in love’ as the only possible basis for a good marriage, with negative consequences? (p93)

Are we ill-tempered because of injury and a sense of entitlement? (p111) e.g. the idea that our time is our own (p112-3, p166)

Do you agree that God is ‘a hedonist at heart’? (p118)

Is the desire for novelty and ‘the horror of the Same Old Thing’ a spiritual danger? (pp135-139)

Have you ever been involved in ‘the Generous Conflict Illusion’ or an elaborate / false self-conscious ‘selflessness’ which wants to be noticed? (p143-5)

What does Lewis think of as particular temptations of middle age? (p155)

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