Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Dangers of an Apathetic Life

The seventh letter in the Screwtape Letters reveals the dangers of apathy. Screwtape admonishes his nephew Wormwood to make the patient apathetic to his new-found Christianity. If the patient becomes apathetic he will be on the way towards hell. According to Screwtape “the safest road to Hell is the gradual one.”

The key to such a road is for the patient to feel a “dim uneasiness” that is not too strong but is still present in his thoughts. Screwtape warns that if the feeling is too strong the patient will become aware of the dangers that it presents: mainly his separation from God. On the other hand the uneasiness must be present in order for Wormwood to gradually separate the patient from God.

Screwtape explains that as time passes this uneasiness will lead the patient to neglect his “religious duties.” Gradually the patient will be distracted from his faith and become numb to the touch of God. Over time less interesting things will be required to fill the time that the patient would otherwise spend with God: “anything or nothing is sufficient to attract his wandering attention.”

If such a process is followed the patient will realize all too late that he never did what he should have or wanted to do. He will realize that his life was inconsequential. He was lukewarm in his relationship with God. As Revelation 3:16 says “so because you were lukewarm- neither hot nor cold- I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” God will not accept the patient because he is lukewarm. Thus, Wormwood will have been successful in separating the patient from God.

I love this letter from Lewis’ book because I am constantly in need of the reminder not to become apathetic in my relationship with Christ. I think that Lewis’ choice to write from the perspective of a demon drives home the consequences of living an apathetic life and also stirs anger and resistance in readers not to live apathetically.


  1. Dear Kim,

    I agree, we will all need to read this over and over, to call our attention to the 'course keeping' of our lives.

    The only thing we can do is be faithful ourselves (in Screwtape Lewis suggests us some of our probable cultural pitfalls) and encourage others to do the same.

    God Bless
    Adriana & Paulo

  2. OMG!! I love strong convictions, in myself and others...
    I sometimes notice apathy in others and the needle was in my own eye.
    I love the reminder to live on purpose and let God take over the rest.
    Thank you!
    Kelly Granite

  3. Hey, I ran across your post from a search and I appreciate the referral. It's a really good letter (though it's the twelfth chapter, at least in the edition of the book that I have), and a good reminder against apathy. Thanks.