Screwtape Vs. Lord Foulgrin
Amanda Evans of Oregon City, 10/17/2008
C. S. Lewis's Screwtape Letters is a classic tale of one man's sanctification, told from the point of view of the demons who are trying to keep him from becoming more Christ-like. Randy Alcorn's Lord Foulgrin's Letters is a modern imitation of it.
Screwtape is a senior demon who writes letters advising his nephew, Wormwood, how to best tempt his "patient," a man who becomes a Christian in the first couple chapters of the book. In this way, C. S. Lewis cleverly uses reverse logic to talk about such issues as prayer, selfishness, humility, church-going, and courage. As Screwtape tells Wormwood what to whisper in his patient's ear, we, who are reading along, know what not to do.
Written during World War II and referencing war bonds, bombings, and rations, some complain that this book is outdated. While it is slow at some points, the topics that are discussed are timeless. Original and creative, C. S. Lewis gives us a new way of looking at ourselves and our Christian walk, bringing to mind things that we take for granted and never would have thought of.
Screwtape Letters is a clever story, but it is primarily a subtle and profound commentary about living a Christian life. Most of the letters contain Screwtape's philosophical expositions on Christian virtues and how to make humans avoid them. Lord Foulgrin's Letters, in contrast, reads more like a novel. Randy Alcorn spends more time telling a story than he does addressing Christian living.
In Lewis's book, we have to guess what Wormwood is writing about and what is happening to his "patient" from Screwtape's letters. Alcorn adds the other half of the story, narration about Jordan Fletcher, a man with a corporate job, a nice car, and a suburban home. More characters and more of a plot line change the emphasis of the book.
Also, Lord Foulgrin doesn't feel as sophisticated: instead of being an intellectual superior, like Screwtape, he rambles on and on about the characteristics of the human "slugdgebags" that bother him.
Finally, the "patient" in Screwtape Letters gets converted in the beginning of the book while Jordan Fletcher struggles with this issue for a good 100 pages. I, personally, can identify with C. S. Lewis's character's daily struggles to mature in Christ much more than I can identify with Jordan Fletcher's temptations involving lying on a business deal and flirting with his secretary.
In conclusion, Screwtape Letters is a remarkably original way of discussing Christian living. Randy Alcorn liked the idea and ran with it, but Lord Foulgrin's Letters became just another Christian novel. It was a bold attempt to imitate a master like Lewis, but his story doesn't quite make the cut.