by Bruce L. Edwards
The September 8, 1947 cover of Time Magazine improbably depicts the demure C. S. Lewis accompanied by a fiercely impish devil poised on his left shoulder, a caricature of his infamous fictional protagonist, Screwtape, AKA, Senior Tempter of Hell.
You can search Time’s cover stories 35 weeks forward and backwards and never see another religious figure or spiritual topic featured. Such was the notoriety and impact of Lewis, even 61 years ago.
Few people in 1947 were writing about demons and their ilk, and still fewer believed in them enough to bother speculating on this question: What if we could see what the temptation of our souls looks like through the eyes of the other side? In other words, what if we could interview a demon?
That was Lewis’s premise for one of his most durably popular works, perhaps his single most popular work among non-Christian readers; in an ingenious preface, Lewis purports to be beneficiary of the intercepted correspondence of diabolical counsel from a senior devil to an apprentice devil.
Screwtape had actually been published five years earlier, as part of a quartet of scintillating war-time works (including The Problem of Pain; Mere Christianity; The Great Divorce) that challenged battle-weary Britons and others around the globe not to give up hope or yield to unbelief in this world, specifically by turning their lively focus on the world to come. In so doing, Lewis established that those only those so heavenly-minded have a chance to be any earthly good.
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