top of page


You have read about Screwtape, that devious and pompous devil. He was the fake writer of The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis is the author), who was described as an under-secretary of a department in hell, with his own secretary named “Toadpipe.” The letters were written to a nephew of Screwtape, a junior devil called “Wormwood.“ It is his assignment to raise hell with the “patient,” an unnamed young man and his family, who will be tempted in all kinds of ways.

Think of any vice or temptation that has plagued you, and it will be on the list that Screwtape and Wormwood have at their disposal: Pride is big, but so is humility; anxiety and complacency form a perfect pair; gluttony is always available; various kinds of doubting prayer work well; distraction and disappointment will keep the patient from reason; fear and hatred are proven victors; and, of course, love, and lust are candidates for twisting and bending.

The theme of the story should be familiar to every Christian, but is it? Or, do we think of Satan in terms of caricatures, such as the clever little beast with a pitchfork, horns, tail, and red tights? To help us, imagine the following, which I concocted when thinking of our work overseas.:

Screwtape: Now Blisternose, brother of Wormwood, I want you to have a look at that translator who is working with the West Kewa people in Papua New Guinea. You know what to do—mess up his work, his family, his friends—make life hell for him. Report back to me in one month, and I want bad results.

Blisternose: Uncle Screwtape, here is my report, in triplicate, in case one gets lost in the fire. I have concentrated on his view of time and money, the weather, and his family.

Screwtape: I see that you have worked on their radio, tape recorder, camera, small kitchen refrigerator, and motorcycle. That may seem important to you, but only if he becomes so exasperated that he works on the machines himself and ruins them. Don’t let him get help from someone who knows what they are doing and always keep his emotions at a high pitch so that he does not enjoy his work. I repeat: he is not to enjoy the translation work that he is doing.

Blisternose: I thought I could distract him long enough that he would fall behind on his work schedule for at least one month. That will exasperate him. I’ll check back later.

Screwtape: My affectionate idiot—your concentration on technology has had the opposite effect than what we want! He is now spending far too much time with the people, tending to their medical needs, talking to them, listening to their stories, and they are beginning to like him. This we cannot tolerate. He must be seen as the ridiculous Western materialist that he and his colleagues are. Get busy on something else or you will become a machine yourself.

Blisternose: Uncle Screwtape, most devious uncle, I have good news to report: the translator has hepatitis and his wife is pregnant; his children are sick, it rains every day, and he is almost out of money. I can hardly wait to see what happens.

Screwtape: My most loving moron of a nephew, how dare you claim that you did your worst? During his time with hepatitis, our curse of a patient began memorizing stuff from our Enemy’s guidebook, which they call the Bible—we know it as the Babble. Now he repeats that junk endlessly when pain overcomes him, instead of wallowing in self-pity. And his children are praying—the worst kind of action for us because children believe that their prayers will be answered. And as far as his wife being pregnant, why is that an accomplishment? It breeds love and affection, two appalling attributes. I have had about enough of you and am sending Nosepick, not to just lend you a hand, but to really blister your nose. You both have one more chance and then it is to the Lake of Fire, where you will guard the simmering atheists.

Nosepick: I regret to inform you, most gracious and deceitful Uncle Screwtape, that Blisternose has taken to more disease and more sickness, thinking this will at last wear down the fortitude and so-called faith of the patient. It has not been my fault—I tried to get him to concentrate on the little things like no mail, rotten meat, moldy bread, flat tires, and mud, but to no avail. He is convinced that the big trials win in the end.

Screwtape: Blisternose, I am happy to inform you and Nosepick that this is the end—back to Tempter’s College for more devious training. I have had enough of your fiascos.

And thus ends Round One of the temptations for our translator friends, or so they thought. Unfortunately, Screwtape had some other ideas to pursue, and they were all deliciously evil.

[There were further reports from the devils to their crafty, old uncle Screwtape. However, the former chief tempter was now confined to bureaucratic desk work in Hell’s Kitchen. In addition, the reports were considered without substance, and most were thrown into the fire.]

Thinking back to days in PNG Karl Franklin

bottom of page