The Art of War is considered by many to be the seminal work on war tactics and strategies. Attributed to Sun Tzu, a sixth century BC military commander, this ancient Chinese military treatise divides the various aspects of warfare into thirteen chapters: Laying Plans, Waging War, Tactical Dispositions, The Nine Battlegrounds, and the Use of Spies among others.
Beyond the obvious military applications of Sun Tzu’s wisdom, his principles have implications for other disciplines. I don’t think it’s a stretch, for example, to apply his lectures on how to win at war to the Christian who desires to overcome his battles in the spiritual realm with the devil. Case in point. In chapter three, “Attack by Stratagem,” Sun Tzu writes:
- If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.
- If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.
- If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.
I cannot say for sure that Sun Tzu’s advice to “know the enemy” and to “know yourself” is what inspired C.S. Lewis to write The Screwtape Letters, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the case. As an atheist-turned-Christian-apologist and prolific author of more than thirty books, Lewis is perhaps best known for penning The Chronicles of Narnia collection and his best seller Mere Christianity. But The Screwtape Letters is where Lewis takes the reader into understanding the mind of the enemy—a core principle advocated by Sun Tzu.
Using an unsettling, yet instructive literary device of what has been called “reverse theology,” Lewis presents a series of “letters” each written by a veteran demon, Uncle Screwtape, a seasoned follower of “Our Father Below.” These communiqués are intended to mentor Screwtape’s young nephew, Wormwood, in the devilish art of deceiving, disheartening, and distracting Christians from their allegiance to God.
With The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis has given us a remarkable gift—a masterpiece of insight into temptation and the spiritual dimension of the world. Now, thanks to the Focus on the Family Radio Theatre® team, spearheaded by Paul McCusker and Dave Arnold, this classic has been adapted into a riveting radio drama.
I think you’ll agree that Andy Serkis (known for his role as “Gollum” in the film adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings) does an incredible job playing the part of Screwtape. It’s available on October 15. To watch the making of the drama and to pre-order your copy, click here.
Production values aside, the Bible describes the devil as a “roaring lion” seeking someone to devour. This is serious business with eternal consequences. C.S. Lewis delivers a sober and instructive story sure to change the way we do battle. While it’s true that the devil puts all of us in his crosshairs, I should point out that this dramatization is designed for listeners ages 12 and older.