Argumentation – The Screwtape Letters

Argumentation – The Screwtape Letters By  via Lew Rockwell

by C. S. Lewis

the story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility in securing the damnation of a British man known only as “the Patient”.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when beginning this book, yet here in the first letter from Screwtape there is food for thought.  From the book:

It sounds as if you supposed that argument was the way to keep him out of the Enemy’s clutches.

The nephew is attempting to use argumentation to convince the Patient against “the Enemy.” Screwtape finds this a bad idea.  It might have been OK a few centuries earlier, when people understood when something was proved and when it was not, when they recognized concepts such as true and false – when proper argumentation was necessary in order to convince someone of something.  People don’t live in such a world anymore – better for the likes of Screwtape that things stay this way:

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The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle on to the Enemy’s own ground.  He can argue too, whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly inferior of Our Father Below. By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result.

Stick to propaganda – those from “Below” are much better at this than the “Enemy” with which they struggle.  Once you bring argumentation into the picture, you risk awakening that which Screwtape and his type have worked so long to purge from man – man’s reason.

Once awakened, the Patient will begin to consider universal issues and withdraw his attention from immediate sense experiences.

Above all, do not attempt to use science (I mean real science) as a defence against Christianity.  They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can’t touch and see.  …the best of all is to let him read no science but to give him a grand general idea that he knows it all and that everything he happens to have picked up is ‘the results of modern investigation’.

This is quite an interesting statement.  We are told that science has disproven much of what Christianity has to offer – that science has replaced faith.  Yet Screwtape fears science – what he calls “real science.”

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