May 30, 2007

The Real Body of Christ

Category: Theology - Ecclesiology :: Permalink

I don’t recall when I first read C. S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters.  Perhaps my father read it to the family at some point, but that would have been years ago and I’ve forgotten almost all of it, all except the occasional snippet I’ve read elsewhere.  Now, for the past week or so, I’ve been slowly reading through it for the first time as an adult, savoring a couple letters a day, and it strikes me as arguably Lewis’s wisest book.  There’s wisdom packed into virtually every page of these letters from a senior devil to a junior tempter.

Take this, from an early letter, about the “patient” having entered the church:

One of our great allies at present is the Church itself.  Do not misunderstand me.  I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out through all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners.  That, I confess, is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy.

But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans.  All your patient sees is the half-finished, sham Gothic erection on the new building estate.  When he goes inside, he sees the local grocer with rather an oily expression on his face bustling up to offer him a one shiny little book containing a liturgy which neither of them understands, and one shappy little book containing corrupt texts of a number of religious lyrics, mostly bad, and in very small print.

When he gets to his pew and looks round him he sees just that selection of his neighbours whom he has hitherto avoided.  You want to lean pretty heavily on those neighbours.  Make his mind flit to and fro between an expression like “the body of Christ” and the actual faces in the next pew.

It matters very little, of course, what kind of people that next pew really contains.  You may know one of them to be a great warrior on the Enemy’s side.  No matter.  Your patient, thanks to Our Father below, is a fool.  Provided that any of those neighbours sing out of tune, or have boots that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somewhat ridiculous (pp. 14-15, paragraph spacing added).

Posted by John Barach @ 12:32 pm | Discuss (3)

3 Responses to “The Real Body of Christ”

  1. Garrett Says:


    I’ve been taking our college group through the Screwtape Letters and I love the militant shape of the first paragraph you quote. I cite it often and, in fact, I even cited it at a party this evening.

  2. Andy Packer Says:

    Great quotes. They made me realize that I would benefit from a reread as well.

  3. Claire Martens Says:

    I just received a copy of The Screwtape Letters as a graduation gift. This is making me more eager than ever to read it!!

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