Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher, Tyndale. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
As One Devil to Another is a series of correspondences from Slashreap, a senior-tempter in His Infernal Majesty’s bureaucratic regime, to his nephew Scardagger. Platt strengthens the ties between his work and Lewis’ Screwtape Letters by establishing familial ties between Slashreap and Screwtape; Slashreap and Screwtape are brothers. This tie allows Slashreap the ability to draw upon the past failures and blunders of his nephew Wormwood as motivation for Slashreap’s success.
For those who could not get enough of Lewis’ work, As One Devil to Another is a must read. Walter Hooper, biographer and editor of C.S. Lewis writes, “It reads as if C.S. Lewis himself had written it.” Though the advertisements on book covers can, at times, be a bit hyperbolic, this one is not. If you didn’t like Screwtape Letters you will not like Platt’s work. Platt has attempted a great feat, to adopt the writer’s voice of one of Christianity’s most distinguished writers, and he has done it admirably.
This is not to say that all is well with the book. At points I felt as if Platt recognized the insurmountable nature of his task and either 1) referenced the spiritual impact and genius Lewis has had on the world in a manner in a manner that jars the reader, or 2) paraphrased large sections of Lewis’ work. For instance, when referring to the library of the “client’s” aunt, Slashreap writes, “A perusal of her shelves will give you a working knowledge of the formidable creature that has bested you. Among her special favourites you will find a pestilential writer named Lewis. Whatever you do, don’t try to remove these volumes. . I doubt very much you will be able to come near them, as they will sear your flesh beyond recognition, and make you even less useful than you have already been to me and to the cause of Hell” (37).
This is not the only example of where the “third-wall” of the narrative is broken. When addressing the problem of pain, evil, and suffering in the world (27-34), I was transported from the fictional world Platt established to a lecture I heard in a seminary epistemology class concerning the “free-will defense” against the problem of evil. Platt’s representation of the position is well articulated, but it seemed out of place in a book composed of informal correspondences between uncle and nephew.
Though the previous two critiques rested upon stylistic matters, here I offer three instances of poor theological statements.
- Platt writes, “After all, she reminded her, obedience is not the result of understanding the Adversary, but is a prerequisite to understanding him” (84-5). In response, I offer 2 Corinthians 3:18, ” And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” This is not to say that obedience is irrelevant to understanding. Obedience places us in a posture to listen to further instruction. Yet, we are constantly reminded that beholding Christ leads to becoming like him.
- In one of Slashreap’s letters, he writes, “[God] even has put about the ridiculous fiction that He willingly died for us as well, and would welcome us through the gates of Heaven if only we would choose to lay down our arms and return. As one would expect, this is a trap. We are not such fools” (87). This invitation is certianly available for fallen humans, but is nowhere attested to in scripture for fallen angels (at least to my knowledge).
- Finally, and this is a bit of a plot spoiler, when the aunt is diagnosed with cancer, Slashreap writes, “The doctor…simply assumed the aunt would accept every treatment he had to offer, however time-consuming, invasive, or unpleasant. We have taught them that life is the primary good, death the greatest evil. The aunt does not believe this….She conceded to both the client and the astonished doctor that there will be pain, but, as she pointed out, there will be pain in any event. The cancer always wins. She regards the sentence of death as a severe mercy. There will be no long years of dependency, no nursing home, no operating theatre, no recovery time, yet she has been granted sufficient time to place her affairs in order and say what little is unsaid to those she loves” (120-1). While Platt is correct that death is not the final adieu for the Christian, it is in fact one of the greatest evils. Death is the consequence for sin. The world was not meant to be this way. Furthermore, and more to the point, does not Paul say in Philippians, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. Though Paul recognizes Christ is the ultimate end and good, he does not take the life we have been granted on earth lightly.
All in all, the book was enjoyable. Platt aptly handled the current issues of the day: political correctness, homosexuality, television, internet, reality tv, the state of scholarship, etc. The plot twist at the end was unexpected and delightful. Platt has done Lewis a great honor with this contribution.
BOOK GIVEAWAY WINNER: Justin Boulmay!