That’s the compelling call of Andrew Farley’s new book Operation Screwtape: The Art of Spiritual War, out this month from Baker Publishing Group. We caught up with the best-selling author and energetic young pastor from Lubbock, TX to ask some questions about his book, now being featured at the Patheos Book Club.
Operation Screwtape is a very creative and clever sequel to C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, in which a senior demon advises a younger one in the ways of tempting humans away from God. What inspired you to offer an update of this classic? And how is your story different?
This year marks the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death. I wanted to honor what Lewis brought to the fiction world in terms of style and voice. At the same time, I introduce all new themes in Operation Screwtape.
My book centers on topics like grace, forgiveness, and identity in Christ. The book also demonstrates how the health-wealth gospel can manipulate and deceive, and, for example, how the enemy can use a required ten-percent tithe to heap on the guilt.
While it is packaged as a sequel to Lewis’ work, it is very different in content. Even those unfamiliar with the writings of C.S. Lewis can jump right into my book and become acquainted with “some astounding realities that, apparently, the forces of darkness do anything to hide,” as one reviewer put it.
The book’s main character is an expert linguist who has discovered thousands of files to translate. You are also a professor of linguistics in your real life. How does your passion for language relate to this book?
Having a background in linguistics definitely served me as I framed the premise behind the book. And when it came to composing the book itself, I think it helped me keep the language fresh on every page.
But in terms of the content itself, I think it is my background – my life story – that equipped me the most to help people through the book. Those who have read my other books know that I was quite a performer, trying to earn God’s acceptance. Now, I see things very differently.
Essentially, the book is about getting over our selves and our sins and fixing our eyes on Jesus instead. Many of the enemy’s tactics involve tantalizing distractions that seem so “spiritual” but really get us off track. Operation Screwtape shows how not to be a sucker for his sales pitch.
I believe this is your first fictional book? Did you enjoy it? What was it like writing in this genre?
I loved writing this book. Sometimes it would take me days just to get one page to read the way I wanted it to. That was the hard part– taking on the voice of someone else who is so foreign, so diabolical. But the most rewarding part for me was, after it was all completed, hearing it spoken back to me so dramatically on the audiobook. The narrator, David Cochran Heath, did such an incredible job. I felt like I was hearing the devilish schemes for the first time. Heath is convincing as the voice of the enemy, and hearing the audiobook is ten times more entertaining than I could have possibly imagined!
You’re the senior pastor of a non-denominational evangelical church called Ecclesia: Church Without Religion. What’s behind the name, “Church Without Religion?”
Yeah, we certainly get a lot of questions about that one. “Church Without Religion” means we promote a message of “Jesus plus nothing with no additives.” We are very clear about what saves us (the finished work of Jesus Christ), and we are also very clear about the deceptions and manipulative teachings that exist out there.
We are church without legalism and church without politics. We aren’t into any of those tantalizing distractions that can take us away from the focus of the gospel. Sometimes, people who have been burned in the past by a church experience discover our messages and are surprised to find something genuinely different.
What is your greatest hope for this book? What do you most hope people take away from Operation Screwtape?
First, we need to remember that there is an enemy. Ephesians tells us that this enemy launches fiery darts at us, and Revelation says he accuses us day and night.
But many of us may not be aware of just how the enemy has gained territory in our belief systems. The very gospel that is intended to save us, if not crystal clear in our minds, can end up actually being used at a tool of the enemy to beat us up!
My hope is that Operation Screwtape will enable readers to see just how loved, just how forgiven, just how clean, and just how close to God they really are.
Fully understanding the gift of righteousness that we possess, and how that gift plays out in everyday life, is the key to rejecting guilt and condemnation. It is the only way we can move forward in total confidence with our God. And that is what the gospel should do for us.
Did this book spur anything new for you in terms of future projects? What comes after Operation Screwtape for Andrew Farley?
Right now, I’m working on a book with a popular Christian music band. We will be launching the book late this year, and I’m excited that it’ll circulate to concert-goers around the USA and beyond. It’s a book centered on Jesus and how He can bring real comfort to us when we are aching inside. Stay tuned for that one!
Andrew Farley is pastor of Ecclesia: Church Without Religion and a bestselling author of five Christian books. Andrew’s writings have been featured in national news and media outlets including PBS, CBS, and FOX. You can hear “Andrew Farley LIVE”, a nationwide call-in program, every Sunday afternoon at 2pm (EST) on Sirius XM channel 131. Read more at www.andrewfarley.org and www.operationscrewtape.com. Connect with Andrew Farley’s church, Ecclesia: www.churchwithoutreligion.com.
For more conversation from bloggers about Operation Screwtape – and to read a book excerpt – visit the Patheos Book Club here, and join the conversation!