Do Devils Argue or Delude?

This post is a continuation of a series on The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. This is the second post. The first post is available by clicking here.

In Screwtape’s first letter to Wormwood, the elder demon instructs his young counterpart in the art of delusion. Wormwood is rebuked for his naivety in thinking that the use of argument could be effective to keep his patient (read “victim”) out of the clutches of the Enemy (read “God”). Screwtape then warns Wormwood of the dangers of seeking to persuade human reason through argument:

The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle onto the Enemy’s own ground. He can argue too; whereas in really practical propaganda of the kind I am suggesting He has been shown for centuries to be greatly the inferior of Our Father Below.

This excerpt shows Lewis’ conviction that all sound (reasonable) arguments are on the side of God (“The Enemy”), whereas all lies are on the side of “Our Father Below,” as Wormwood affectionately refers to the Devil.

Instead of argument, Screwtape suggests that the real key to success is delusion by refusing to allow their “patient” to actually thoughtfully consider key evidences. One way this is accomplished is by using to their advantage “the part of the man . . . best under my control”, namely the human’s appetites. This device is illustrated by Wormwood from an instance in his own experience. The “patient” was kept from thinking and, says Wormwood “He is now safe in Our Father’s house” (What an incredibly chilling statement!).

Finally, Screwtape urges Wormwood to “remember . . . you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!” Here we see that the main objective of the devils is not to argue in the realm of truth, but to delude the minds of their “patients”!


  1. Steve,

    I believe it is in that section of the book where Screwtape tells Wormwood not to allow his “patient” to think in terms of “true or false.” Rather, people should think of ideas as “contemporary” or “noble” or “outdated” etc. Is this not how the debate on origins goes, for one example among many?

    Even Christians fall into this. This **whatever** is not “contemporary” enough. Or since it is “ancient” it must be better.

    How often do we associate a “time” element to an idea in order to find its worth?

    Lewis was very insightful on this. May we look back to “argument” and seek to divide “true” from “false.”


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