Is God a Killjoy? Part 1

March 3, 2009

C.S. Lewis makes some profound observations on pleasure through his character, Screwtape, in The Screwtape Letters. This piece of fiction imagines a correspondence from a senior tempter, Screwtape, to his nephew and junior devil, Wormwood. Don’t misunderstand. Lewis isn’t saying that the spiritual realm is exactly like this. The book’s value is in observations about human nature and temptation.

Screwtape was upset with Wormwood in a previous letter for allowing his “patient” to enjoy some simple pleasures like a walk by an old mill. The problem with those kinds of pleasures is they may actually turn our thoughts toward God. Later, Screwtape gives more instruction to Wormwood on pleasure. Lewis has Screwtape write:

I know we have won many a soul through pleasure. All the same, it is His invention, not ours. He made the pleasures: all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one. All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden. Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula. It is more certain; and it’s better style. *

Is Lewis correct? Next we will look at what the Bible says about pleasure.

 *C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, pp. 41-42