October 8, 2018
The Screwtape Letters
Letters 3, 13, and 19 from Screwtape talks about love. Try as he might, Screwtape cannot understand love. Screwtape cannot understand why God created mankind or why he wants humans to be good. Screwtape’s reasoning is impeccable. By exploring Screwtape’s misunderstandings of this basic human idea, Lewis constructs his own theory of what humans’ love, both for God and for other humans, should be.
Screwtape tries to define love by contrasting it with the devil’s belief in “realism.” The only purpose of life, he insists, is to overcome other forms of life, taking things for oneself so that other beings can’t have them. Screwtape believes that love is the opposite of “realism,” that love is the belief that two beings can share the same needs, and that they can work together to satisfy these needs. This technical explanation of love may well define love for Screwtape, but it cannot take love, in the same sense that looking at sheet music can’t convey the sense of music. (It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Screwtape admits that he cannot understand music, either.) If at any time Wormwood reports Screwtape to the authorities because Screwtape dares to suggest that God loves humanity, it puts an end to Screwtape’s thinking about love for some time.
In the second half of the letters, Screwtape continues his discussion of love with Wormwood, without ever admitting the “heretical” idea that God loves humanity. At the same time that Screwtape criticizes humans love for one another, Lewis implicitly asks questions about...