Archive for the ‘Screwtape Saturday’ Category

(What? It’s been over a month? Whatever. I hadn’t noticed. I was busy crying out to Jesus.)

In Screwtape’s 3rd letter to Wormwood, he offers the following disturbing advice about the former’s human patient:

Keep his mind on the inner life. (p.11)

This immediately made me think of what many mystics, saints, and disciples have referred to as “the contemplative life.” I’ve always wanted to be a thinker, a pray-er, a deep and spiritual person. Though I’ve never been very good at it, it would be fair to call it a sort of goal in my life to be “deeper.” I want to be one of those people who can just sit up and pray all night, or meditate over Scriptures for hours. My brain is tired, and my flesh is weak, so this has never been me.

Screwtape’s suggestion to use this very pursuit against a human was curious to me, but only momentarily. It reminds me of being “so heavenly minded, you’re of no earthly good.” Screwtape elaborates:

Keep his mind off the most elementary duties by directing it to the most advanced and spiritual ones. Aggravate that most useful human characteristic, the horror and neglect of the obvious. You must bring him to a condition in which he can practise self-examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts about himself which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him or worked in the same office. (pp. 11-12)

How crafty! To pervert something so well-intentioned and God focused at the beginning into something that, instead, swells one’s pride and eclipses the work of the Holy Spirit.

Have you ever experienced anything like this? How do you guard against it?

I don’t know whether you read blogs on Saturdays, but you’re missing out if you don’t! I’ve started a series on C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters, and I’d love to hear your thoughts! You can join the discussion whether you’ve read the book or not.

Here’s my last post: Screwtape Saturday Vol. 2

If you’re interested, you can follow the embedded links back to previous entries. Otherwise, just jump right in! The book is getting good! Hope to read your thoughts this Saturday. 😀

Hi! Welcome to Volume 2 of my Screwtape series! I am commenting on the second letter of The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

The first letter brought up the idea of whether or not satan and the demons can read human thoughts; C.S. Lewis seems to have believed it so. That’s a troubling state of affairs in my estimation, and you can read my thoughts and weigh in here. In this second letter, Lewis touches on yet another point of doctrine — this one much more terrifying and much more widely discussed and fretted over than the first. In the Baptist world, the doctrine goes like this: Once saved, always saved. This means that a true conversion is an eternal one; you cannot “lose” your salvation. Does C.S. Lewis support this view? Screwtape writes to Wormwood:

I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian… There is no need to despair; hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the *Enemy’s camp and are now with us. (p.5)

Keep everything hazy in his mind now, and you will have all eternity wherein to amuse yourself by producing in him the particular kind of clarity which Hell affords. (p.7)

*The “Enemy” here is Creator God. This is a demon talking.

It seems clear that C.S. Lewis is stating that people, after conversion to Christianity, can (and often do) wind up in Hell. I cannot tell whether he’s referring to real or false conversions, but he does not indicate the possibility of this one being false. I believe if you do assume this patient’s conversion is false, the rest of the letter can easily fit right in. You can assume it was an emotional conversion — seeds falling on rocky soil, if you will. He was excited, and accepted the Gospel idea quickly, but there was no root and no true conversion. He did not actually accept Christ.

But that would be an assumption. The wording does not suggest any variation; the patient became a Christian. Is it possible the demons don’t know for sure whether it was a true conversion? That they’re not privy to that knowledge? Perhaps that’s the issue. Remember that this is a letter from one demon to another, so no insight is offered beyond what Screwtape himself lets on. Or, perhaps, C.S. Lewis is warning the reader that people can honestly become Christians, and then honestly lose their salvation later. I don’t know.

I must leave that idea, because I have no resolution, and move to the main point of the letter. I would argue that Lewis presents the thesis of this letter in the second paragraph:

One of our greatest allies at present is the Church itself. (p.5)

Ouch! It hurts, but I don’t think there’s much of a debate about that one. Hypocrisy in the church is old news; the church is afflicted with sinners, and satan uses them to their fullest potential whenever possible. Sometimes, however, satan is much more subtle. In this letter, Screwtape recommends occupying the patient’s mind with things like squeaky shoes and off-key pew-mates. Things like that can easily be overemphasized and render the congregant’s time wholly useless. I found this particular point very convicting, as I am very, very easily distracted in church during the praise and worship time. The fact of the matter is, the musical selections of my church are unfortunate. (Sure, in my opinion. My opinion is correct.) It irritates me every Sunday, and I simply haven’t been able to get past it.

That, dear friends, is sin. That is satan winning. (Do you think it’s okay to tell my music minister that he’s being used as a tool of satan? No? Bummer.) In all seriousness, satan is using my personal taste to keep me prideful about my superior taste and, more alarmingly, to keep me from worshiping God. Es no bueno.

This letter was crucial to the entire book. Here, the patient becomes a Christian. The book is no longer about “some guy” the devil’s messing with; it’s now about me. It’s about how the devil messes with ME and MY head. From here on out, I’m kinda pissed off — at him and at me.

Three questions for you:

  1. What do you believe about the doctrine of “once saved, always saved”? What Scriptures can you offer to support your view?
  2. How is the devil using church to work against you?
  3. Have you ever stopped to evaluate specific ways the devil messes with your head? What did you learn?

You came back! I’m all smiles inside. 🙂 If you don’t know what I’m talking about, this post is about The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.

I read letter one about three or four times. I have much to say, but I must prioritize and minimize. (You’re welcome!) The biggest thing was the idea that satan can read our minds:

…I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. ~p. 2

This does not please me at all. A few years back, a sudden, pressing question popped into my head: Can satan read my thoughts? I searched the internet, asked a few friends, searched through the Bible, and found absolutely no conclusive answer. The best answer I received — whether because it was the most logical or the most pleasing, I can’t say — was that only God is omniscient. Satan is a created being without the powers of God to know all things.  He only knows what God has revealed to him. Thus, while satan is cunning and crafty and may seem to read our thoughts, he’s actually just working off of excellent perceptive skills honed by (at least) thousands of years of experience. Bueno. Now I can confess secret struggles to Jesus in my head without satan knowing.

Enter C.S. Lewis, about sixty years before I came to this conclusion. He seemed to think that demons can read our thoughts. He’s not around to ask, but I generally respect his thoughts and opinions. Taking the idea that satan only knows what God has revealed, who are we to say we know what God has revealed to him? We don’t! We also don’t know the extent of the powers God has allowed. So now I’m all topsy-turvy on this. I feel kinda invaded, but I don’t really know if I should, since I don’t know if it’s true. Gah. I can’t even tell secrets to Jesus. You know, maybe.

Second, I found C.S. Lewis’ observations on human philosophical tendencies to be surprisingly post-modern.  Or, perhaps we just think we’ve figured out something new…

Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head.  He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily “true” or “false”, but as “academic” or “practical”, “outworn” or “contemporary”, “conventional” or “ruthless”.  ~p.1

Compare:

…young adults resist simplistic answers. [They] relish mystery, uncertainty, and ambiguity.  They are not bothered by contradictions or incongruities. ~unChristian, by David Kinnaman, p. 125

Since I was not alive in 1941, nor even was my mother, I have no way of really offering an opinion on the psyche of your average ’40s bloke. Still, I thought it interesting that what seemed to be the latest research on the youngest generations might not be that ground-breaking at all. Maybe it’s just part of the human condition.

The point of Lewis’ observation, however, is that the devil doesn’t plan to teach us false doctrines, but to “muddle” us with all sorts of indistinct jargon.  Thusly, he aims to keep us from being wholly devoted to the God of the Bible. This makes me think of the modern corruption of the concept of “tolerance.”

I’ve said too much! So, I leave you with three questions:

  1. What do you think about the possibility of the devil reading your thoughts?
  2. Do you think post-modern young adults/youth are vastly different from their counterparts from years past?
  3. Are you reading/have you read The Screwtape Letters?

Welcome to Volume “Preface” of my Screwtape Series!  Hopefully, I will actually follow through and continue with other volumes, but that remains to be seen. Let’s just enjoy the moment; I actually posted today!

A friend of mine recently told me about this amazing book on CD she had been listening to in the car, and it turns out that it was The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.  I had always wanted to read it this book, and finding myself in between books, I went to the bookstore and snatched it up!  Of course, I got it in print instead of on CD.  My car does not have a CD player, nor have I figured out how to highlight favorite passages on CDs anyway…

In any event, this book is comprised of a series of letters written by a senior devil, Screwtape, to his nephew, Wormwood.  Through these letters, Screwtape is offering advice and admonition as Wormwood learns how to effectively tempt a human.  In the preface, C.S. Lewis offers words of caution to those who would read correspondence between two demons: First, don’t be too quick to write demons off as nonexistent or inconsequential; neither be too eager to learn all about them.  Second, remember that the devil is a liar — don’t assume what he says is true.

I must confess here that I have always been one to believe sincerely in the reality of angels, demons, and spiritual warfare.  I believe it’s all around us, and it freaks me out. The devil is powerful and cunning; I just keep asking God to keep him away from me, because I am no match. Even still, he assails me. Perhaps it’s a good idea to gain a little perspective about him, even if it’s from a set of fictional letters.  Would you like to join me on the journey?  I’ll be posting about the first letter next Saturday!

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 6:12

~LG