Operation Screwtape contains words written by a demon. To be fair, it is a translation. And, well, to be completely transparent, it was all written by “expert linguist” Dr. Andrew Farley, author of The Naked Gospel (2009), God Without Religion (2011), and Heaven Is Now (2012). Operation Screwtape is the most recent of his books.
- Title: Operation Screwtape: The Art of Spiritual War
- Author: Andrew Farley
- Publisher: Baker Books
- Date: January 15, 2013
- Length: 192 pages / 3.25 hours
- Narration: David Cochran Heath
Note on the audio version: David Cochran Heath is an excellent narrator. I think he was especially good in Screwtape, because of his sinister demonic laughing. Seriously, he punctuated the narration with bouts of devilish snickering. Juvenile? Meh, maybe. Engaging and effective? Pretty much.
Farley, who specializes in the shock factor, writes the book as if it were a training manual for demons. Like Screwtape Letters, in which a senior demon instructs a younger demon on how best to tempt his subject, this book follows the same model. Since the techniques of the original Screwtape Letters are outdated, according to the introductory matter of Operation Screwtape, this is a demon’s training book for a new age. The training provides demonic neophytes a way to mess up the spiritual lives of those who are already Christians.
There is a chilling warmth about the book. On the one hand, it is chilling because you’re reading the calculated, aggressive, and conspiratorial advances of the enemy. On the other hand, it is warm and encouraging, because you are reminded of the power of the gospel as it combats the advances of the devil. The book contains plenty of theology, albeit coming from a demon. These sections serve to remind us that the gospel is sufficient, that we are safe in Christ, that we are dead to sin, and that we will ultimately triumph.
Reading a book from the enemy’s perspective is fascinating. It takes some getting used to. Most Christians are accustomed to reading praiseworthy things about God, and not-so-praiseworthy things about the Devil. This book contains precisely the opposite, and appropriately so. When reading the book, you begin to experience “aha” moments when you finally “figure out” how demons are tricking you, and the sinister techniques they’re using to trip you up. But for all its fascination, we’ve got to remember that we’re not really reading a Demon’s Training Manual. This stuff wasn’t actually written by a demon.
What you’re reading is speculation, constructed from bits of Scripture, a bit of deduction, and a lot of personal experience. It’s helpful to get a look at us — the good guys — from the perspective of the bad guys. But the book isn’t some cosmic wikileaks. Everything is a product of some speculation, and therefore discernment is advised, just as with any book.
Writing an entire book from the perspective of a demon has another shortcoming. When we start blaming everything on demons and devils, we fail to see the depths of depravity that has pervaded our own hearts. “The devil made me do it,” is a supicious exoneration of guilt. The Bible, however, describes the condition of our hearts as “desperately wicked” (Jeremiah 17:9), and paints a deplorable picture of what we’re capable of without the help of demons (Romans 1:18–32).
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of Farley’s book is that it reminds us of the presence and cunning of the evil one. Ephesians 6 provides an appropriate impetus for reading the book: “We…wrestle against…the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evi in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The “schemes of the devil” are something to take seriously, and to stand against faithfully.
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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this review copy for free as part of the Christianaudio Reviewers Program of christianaudio.com. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”