Fools Rush In

Where angels fear to tread. C. S. Lewis always acknowledged that his Screwtape Letters presented a lopsided picture of human life that ought to have been balanced by letters from an archangel to a guardian angel. Yet, he felt himself unable to write such a balancing book. As Lewis put it,

 But who could supply the deficiency? Even if a man-and he would have to be a far better man than I- could scale the spiritual heights required, what “answerable style” could he use? For the style would really be part of the content. Mere advice would be no good; every sentence would have to smell of Heaven.

Jim Peschke might perhaps be thought a fool for trying what a master like Lewis feared to attempt. He suffers from at least two disadvantages that should make a book like The Michael Letters a failure. First, Peschke, by his own admission, does not have the satirical wit of Lewis and is only a novice writer. Second, human nature being what it is, is more attracted to the darkness than to the light, and so the diabolical is inherently more interesting than the angelic.  Despite these disadvantages, The Michael Letters succeeds beyond all expectations. The correspondence between the guardian angel and the archangel holds the attention of the reader and the story moves along briskly. If this book does not quite come up to the level of The Screwtape Letters, it more than satisfies.

There are, of course, fundamental differences in the two works. The angels, unlike the demons are genuinely interested in the welfare of the human in their charge. Peschke shows this by giving the human a name and including details of his everyday life. Screwtape and Wormwood did not care about any such details. Their “patient” was simply food to them. The whole flavor of the correspondence is entirely the opposite. Unlike the demons who hate and mistrust each other, the angels willingly help and encourage their fellows. These and other differences make The Michael Letters a fitting counterbalance to The Screwtape Letters.

The Screwtape Letters

There is really not much I can add to all of the commentary on this spiritual classic by C. S. Lewis. I imagine that nearly everyone knows at least the premise, a series of letters by the experienced demon Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, the inexperienced tempter.  The Screwtape Letters is my personal favorite of Lewis’s books, even more so than the Chronicles of Narnia.

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I must confess though, that I find reading The Screwtape Letters a slightly frightening experience. I keep imagining my own tempter sitting on my shoulder, writing glowing letters about his success in guiding his “patient” to Hell.