by William O'Flaherty (from C.S. Lewis Minute)
This year is the 71st anniversary of the devilish correspondence first appearing in The Guardian prior to being released in book form the following year. It just so happens that today the 27th letter was published in 1941.
While there is no material directly related to Halloween in this letter to Wormwood, Screwtape deals first with the “scary” subject of prayer that was also addressed in the 3rd, 4th and 8th letters. Here Wormwood is advised how to deal with the fact that his patient has made his present issues “the chief subjects of his prayers.”
In the third paragraph Screwtape begins to discuss how “intellectual difficulties” can be raised about petitionary prayers. He notes that if what the patient prayed for doesn’t happen then Wormwood can lead him to think it “proves” prayer doesn’t work and if it does happen then how can he know if wouldn’t have occurred anyway if he didn’t pray?
In the final paragraph the topic of “The Historical Point of View” is addressed. This is different from what was mentioned in the 23rd letter about varying views on the “historical Jesus.” Screwtape describes here a brief definition of “The Historical Point of View” as meaning:
when a learned man is presented with any statement in an ancient author, the one question he never asks is whether it is true.He goes on to comment:
To regard the ancient writer as a possible source of knowledge—to anticipate that what he said could possibly modify your thoughts or your behaviour—this would be rejected as unutterably simple-minded.----------------
Read more great insights on Lewis at C.S. Lewis Minute.