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There are thirty-one letters that comprise C. S. Lewis‘s The Screwtape Letters. Of these, each letter contains approximately one to three themes. Some of these themes—such as: pride, rationalization of evil, and temptations of the flesh—occur with frequency throughout the letters. It is due to the frequency of these themes that I will devote the next three sessions to these topics as Lewis presents them in the Letters.

The first of these topics is Pride.

Pride, is man trying to play God of his own life. Every definition of sin in the Bible has this as the dominate concept embedded in what it means to sin. Romans 3:23 says: "All have sinned and fallen short of the Glory of God."

Hamartia, the Greek word for sin, comes from the vocabulary for archery. A hamartia was to miss the mark or target. Sin was to miss the mark and fall short of what it means to be God. Sin means that we‘ve assumed a position we were unqualified for. Sins are a resulting consequent of our mismanagement of our own lives once we have abandoned God‘s right to rule and reign over them. In I John 3:4 it says that: "Sin is lawlessness."

Sin is not antinomian: against the law. Sin is anomos: without the law. It is anarchistic deriving its own standards from itself. It plays God and spins its own morality out from itself like a spider spinning its web. In Genesis, as Satan tempts Eve, he appeals to her by telling her, eating the fruit will allow her to be like God (Genesis 3:5). Similarly pride as Lewis defined it in Mere Christianity, is "Self-Conceit and is the opposite of Humility. It is ―the essential vice leading to every other vice; ―it is the complete anti-God state of mind." (Mere Christianity, London: Geoffrey Bless, 1953. p. 96).

Lewis concludes his chapter on Pride with these words, "If anyone would like to acquire humility, I can, I think, tell him the first step. The first step is to realize that one is proud. And a biggish step too. At least, nothing whatever can be done before it. If you think you are not conceited, it means you are very conceited indeed."  (Ibid. P. 101.) This hints at Screwtape‘s strategy to keep a person proud and not to allow the slightest hint of real humility to begin to emerge. Let us look through the letters listed above and see the various nuances and subtleties of Pride that Lewis discusses.

This resource is part of a series on The Screwtape Letters. Click here to listen to the full series

Jerry Root

Jerry Root is the Christopher W. Mitchell Senior Fellow for C.S. Lewis Studies at the C.S. Lewis Institute; Emeritus Professor of Wheaton College in Wheaton, Illinois and a visiting Professor at Biola University. He received his Ph.D. from the Open University through the Oxford Centre for Missions Studies. Jerry has nine published books, as well as numerous articles and publications about C. S. Lewis and evangelism in other books, journals, and periodicals, as well as read numerous academic papers at various academic venues. Recently, he published, Splendour in the Dark, a book about C. S. Lewis’s narrative poem Dymer (the book also includes Lewis’s 100-page poem). Jerry has lectured on Lewis topics at 79 Universities in 19 different countries.

COPYRIGHT: This publication is published by C.S. Lewis Institute; 8001 Braddock Road, Suite 301; Springfield, VA 22151. Portions of the publication may be reproduced for noncommercial, local church or ministry use without prior permission. Electronic copies of the PDF files may be duplicated and transmitted via e-mail for personal and church use. Articles may not be modified without prior written permission of the Institute. For questions, contact the Institute: 703.914.5602 or email us.

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