Occasionally I will be sucked into watching one of those talent or singing competition shows on television. It never fails that at least one singer will be chided for “not feeling the song”. Though annoying because of its prevalence such advice is actually true.
There is a way of imitating an art form that looks and sounds exactly like the original but something is missing. That something is the passion that spawned the song in the first place or that struck the soul upon first hearing it. Without that you can sing a song almost perfectly but not captivate the audience.
One of my favorite works of C.S. Lewis is his Screwtape Letters. If you are unfamiliar with this classic, Lewis addresses penetrating moral questions and pertinent topics like grace, evil, and repentance through a dialogue between two devils. As only Lewis could do he take on difficult topics using a very interesting literary technique. It’s a masterpiece for a reason.
Richard Platt is an obvious fan of the works of Lewis. In his new book As One Devil to Another it is quickly apparent that he has gotten the ways of devilish correspondence down to an art form. Walter Hooper is correct on the front cover when he says, “It reads as if C.S. Lewis himself had written it”.
Yet something is missing.
Just as the singers that hit every note and perform a song masterfully still get chided I cannot help but only give mediocre praise to Platt’s work here. To me it just doesn’t seem like Platt has the same fire that Lewis had that motivated his Screwtape Letters. His execution of Lewis’ literary technique is masterful but he doesn’t seem to do it with the same depth of insight as Lewis. (But who could?)
There are a few things in the book that had me scratching my theological head. One is not so much what Platt says but what he doesn’t say. Lewis took on much bigger topics. Platt seems to leave most of his fiendish plans to using higher education to destroy faith. It’s almost as if the devil’s biggest tool is “out there” and not what goes on in our own hearts.
He hits on a few other contemporary topics but it never seems that he really gets behind the exterior issues. With Lewis one imagines that he had dined with devils. With Platt it feels more like he’s overheard a couple of guys talk about their experience dining with devils.
Should You Buy It?
This is not a book that I would encourage someone to not purchase. If you really like C.S. Lewis and have read The Screwtape Letters and think this may be a fun read then go for it. There are sections in here that may be helpful and my theological qualms are not enough to make me say don’t buy the book. Yet, I also won’t be purchasing extra copies and giving them away. Nor will I be recommending the book to a host of people.
I normally wouldn’t review a book that I consider neither damaging nor exceedingly good. However, I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for a review and so for the sake of integrity reviewed the book.