Letter 29–Screwtape’s Dilemma

In letter 29 Screwtape is lecturing Wormwood on the various options that are available in the process of destroying the patient who is a young Brit caught in the anxiety of a world at war. Screwtape says– “Should we aim at cowardice, courage, pride or even hatred.”

Of course COURAGE is off the table because the devil cannot produce virtue and Screwtape confesses that it is a serious handicap. Courage is recognized universally as a virtue but no culture has any appreciation for a coward. Although the devil cannot produce courage, he can use it in the life of the wicked, “To be greatly effective, even wicked men need courage” like say Attila the Hun, Stalin, or Hitler just to mention a few.

Hatred, we can use says Screwtape, especially when it is linked with fear. Insecure people are haters. Their hate mminates from their fear. The demonic objective is to convince the hater that his/her hate is justified. The people who are being hated, deserve to be hated. Satan will even pervert the scripture in the cause of hate. “Jesus said to love YOUR enemies…he didn’t say love those who hurt your children.”

Now on the subject of pride, Satan does have a great advantage. First of all, men can be proud of their virtue and secondly, pride has a blinding effect. Other people recognize our pride long before we do. As a matter of fact, I usually figure things out after the fall.

As for cowardice, it has both strengths and weaknesses. Cowardice can produce such self-loathing that he can lead to repentance. He may even lead a person to seek God’s grace and help, Satan forbid. No culture on earth appreciates a coward and courage is a universal virtue. The shame of cowardice could drive a man to despair which is of course pleasing to the devil. Screwtape suspects that God created a dangerous world so the humans would turn to Him for help and refuge. Screwtape tells Wormwood that even if a man displays some courage, it does not mean that he is a hopeless case. Pontius Pilate was courageous to a point but then he gave in to his fear. He was afraid that the Jews would riot and that it would get reported to Rome. Pilate had the opportunity to do something noble and virtuous but he failed to do so from lack of courage.

Screwtape discloses the dilemma: should we deceive the humans by covering their cowardice or should we heap shame on them until they break and give in to utter despair. Cowards do all sorts of things to try to convince themselves that they are not cowards. Pilate dismissed his cowardice by washing his hands and saying, “His blood in on you.” The fact is, His blood is on all of us. Cowards hide behind many things: excuses, alibis, duty, imagination and even superstition but they are still cowards. I suppose the last thing that Satan wants is to see a coward converted. There is no greater courage than to confess Christ in a world that is in rebellion against Him. I have to confess that by nature I am a coward but I trust the grace of Christ to make me otherwise.

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Letter 26–Sex In Marriage

If C.S. Lewis had titles for each letter, I doubt that mine [Sex In Marriage] would correspond but likely some will disagree but I think the title is appropriate. My courting days are in the distant past but I can remember a few things. Very few young people understand that courtship is the foundation of the marriage and I do confess that I did not understand this principle at all. The illusion for me was that I thought that I could fix anything that was broken. I even fantasied that my love could bring about any healing that was necessary. I grossly over estimated my abilities and had not inkling as to how deep some emotional scars run. We men like to think of ourselves as ancient Knights in shining armor, riding a white horse and coming to the rescue of the poor damsel in distress. We grossly over estimate our abilities and have a very dim view of reality.

In courtship, we put our best foot forward and do what we can to hid any weakness; that is the nature of beast. Falling in love [eros] is a kind of enchantment. Daddy use to refer to it as being “Moonstruck”. In the old days people believed that the moon could cast a spell on people. Eros is similiar to a spell. It is very difficult to reason with a person in eros [love]. They do not think straight. Eros is blazing and blinding. It is so intense that you are consumed by its energy but the law of thermodynamics is going to kick it eventually, the fire will not be as hot, and the blemishes and flaws began appear. We realize that the person we married is not exactly who we though he/she was and they realize the same about us. Actually, this cooling off period is normal because God wants to move us from eros to agape. Before we are willing to take that step, we have to suffer some disappointments with eros. Understand that eros is erotic or romantic love and agape is divine love or unconditional love. We were probably attracted to our spouse by eros but God’s design is to move us higher.

Over a period of time, we learn to enjoy sex but we still do not equate it with agape–only with eros. The male becomes the taker and the female the giver. The female is trying to be unselfish toward her husband but has lingering doubt about his motives. Is he being selfish or unselfish. Over time a deep resentment can build and unfortunately in most marriages, this is never discussed. The end results is that both are disappointed and disillusioned. Women are tempted to use sex to get what they want and men are tempted to have sex to lower their testastorane level. Women thus are motivated by control and men by lust. Neither has the others needs in mine and both are acting selfishly. God’s design cannot be achieved when we act in selfishness.

By now you should see where Satan gets involved and how he destroys our chance at intimacy. The more selfish and distrusting we become, the more intimacy becomes impossible. When married people are motivated by their own selfish interest, sex becomes hollow and empty. That doesn’t mean that it stops, but it is less fulfilling. No one’s real needs are being met. What really disturbs is the unmet needs lead to a divorce in many cases.

Letter 31–Hell Hath No Fury Like A Demons Scorn

IT IS FINISHED

The kingdom of darkness is a kingdom of hate, malice, contempt, scorn, envy, regret and countless other horrors. Screwtape’s final letter is a flurry of angry words unleashed upon the underling nephew Wormwood. Screwtape addresses him as “My Little Sissy” and it is not a term of endearment. Screwtape is not capable of affection. He does love the nephew in a lustful way, he would devour him like a Krispy Creme donut. Screwtape is the wolf and Wormwood is the prey.

Screwtape is furious with Wormwood for letting his patient or mark escape undamned. With a scowl and a howl, Screwtape said, “‘You let him slip through your fingers“. Screwtape is as angry as hell; he hates to see the human vermin take a hot bath and cleanse themselves of the dust of the day, let alone be totally cleansed by the blood of Christ. He assures and reassures Wormwood that they will be hell to pay.

Screwtape cannot get past Wormwood’s failure. He keeps second guessing the little demon, telling him where he missed the mark. The more he rants the more angry he becomes. Screwtape really believed  they were so close to damning a soul and yet he escaped. The lost is tormenting and he cannot get the painful defeat off of his devilish mind. Oh, the utter humiliation of a human standing up to the demonic world as if he were a creature of infinite worth. How could this piece of slime, this dirt ball outwit the demonic world by turning to the Savior. Oh, the shame of it all and it is all Wormwoods fault. How could this happen. It is inexplicable. No quarter is to be given to the inept demon Wormwood.

I know that we are not supposed to feel pity for demons but it is almost impossible not to feel some sympathy for Wormwood, bless his heart, he catches hell. Screwtape accuses him of being worthless, a total failure. The debacle has Screwtape in a fit of despair. He even has some doubts about himself and his future but his faith in his father Satan drives him on. In the end, the demons must win. After all their cause looks very promising. One view of the nightly news and you would think that Screwtape was on the right track, but at last, things are seldom as they seem. In the meantime, Wormwood had better lay low and stay out of the reach of his uncle. If they meet, it will be ravenous.

Of course Screwtape is wrong: evil does not win in the end, it cannot. We have God’s word on that and every fiber of my being echos loud and clear…Evil can not win anymore than darkness can overcome light. In the Present Crisis writes James Russell Lowell–Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne, – Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own. Obviously the demonic world cannot accept the truth that in the end, righteousness prevails and Jesus wins. It will not be that much of a battle in the final analysis. I think it will be similiar to our redeption when Christ simply spoke three words, “It is finished”. That is about the size of it in my estimation, Christ returns and says, “It is finished” and so be it.

Letter 30–Play On The Emotions

Letter 30 is difficult if I am to translate every detail but I do think I have the general idea. The letter begins with a unmerciful upbraid from Screwtape to Wormwood. Screwtape not only scolds the lowly demon, he threatens his very existence. There is no mercy in the demonic world. After the horrible upbraiding, Screwtape precedes to lecture Wormwood on the art of temptation.

Wormwood has been a total failure at undermining the humans faith by attacking him intellectually. The devil can not win an intellectual battle. There is too much truth available. Screwtape suggest that Wormwood change his approach and that he attack the human’s mind on an emotional level, not the intellectual. This will give the little demon a distinct advantage.  Intellectual facts are very objective but feelings are almost totally subjective. Screwtape reminds Wormwood that the state of the mind is related to the state of the body. “Fatigue” is something that we can use to our advantage quotes Screwtape.

Screwtape encourages Wormwood to exaggerate the human’s fatigue, make him think that it is worse than it is in reality. Make him think that he is justified in enduring this fatigue with patience no longer. We humans do get irritable when we get tired and we do tend to fly off the handle when we get into such an emotional state. Screwtape confesses that the demonic world get some sadistic delight out of seeing we human blow our top. The devil will stir our anger but he gives no aid or comfort when it comes to a patient enduring or a total commitment. We certainly cannot attain any degree of endurance a part from patience. When the devil incites us to pitch a fit, we undermine the spiritual principle that is working to produce the patience we so desperately need.

Screwtape also suggest that “fatigue” can be used in the battle of the sexes. He says that men get quiet when they are tired but women become talkative. Put the two together and you have an unhappy situation that sometimes results in conflict.

Screwtape is not at all impressed with Wormwoods work and he basically tells him that if he expects any success, he has to convince the human that his emotions are to be his master.  Screwtape chides–Through his feelings, you can persuade him to deny reality. Rather than trust God’s word as an objective fact, rely on your emotions. Do you feel loved? Wormwood is urged at all cost to get the human to rely on his feelings. Encourage him to see ‘hate’ as real by showing him a hateful person. Convince him that love is a fantasy and that loving people love for purely selfish reasons. Get the human confused, mixed up, befuddled so that he does not know the difference between reality and illusion. It is OK for the human to think that wars and poverty are bad and that peace and prosperity are good so long as the human is led by his sentiment. The devil is more apt to use prosperity than he is poverty. Screwtape’s final deexhortation is for Wormwood to remember that the human “want the cake and eat it to” whereas the demonic goal is to make them pay for the cake and then not get the first bit. Wow! The devil is a mean one.

Satan wants you to trust your emotions instead of the word of God. Don’t let him beguile you as he did Eve. Remember, he is a liar.

Letter 28–Satan’s View of Physical Death

Propaganda is a lie that is repeated over and over until it is accepted as being true. It is the view that perception is reality. Although Satan’s ultimate aim is our destruction, he prefers to keep that a secret. The average Joe on the street does not understand that the devil is out to destroy him and he is a much easier mark if he is kept in the dark. Jesus let the cat out of the bad in John 10:10–“The thief comes only to kill and steal and destroy.”

In Letter 28 Screwtape is very upset with Wormwood for showing too much enthusiasm over the death toll of men and the destruction of cities caused by the war [WWII]. Although the demonic world celebrates the misery of man, Screwtape would like for this to remain a secret. Plus, Wormwood’s response was a little over the top–the death of man may or may not suit Satan’s purpose. Satan has no pleasure in the death of a saint. When a saint dies physically, they are immediately out of Satan’s range. Physical death creates a barrier that Satan can do nothing about. Since Wormwood’s patient is a Christian, Screwtape is pulling for him to survive and he encourages Wormwood to seek the same thing.

As he has confessed before, Screwtape is not all that excited about the war. Yes it does produce a lot of death and destruction but it also brings men closer to their Creator and many into a personal walk with Christ. Wars tend not only to bring us closer to God but also closer to each other. Wars produce more heros than any other phenomen on earth. Satan’s goal is to make us cowards not heros. Wormwood is celebrating the war a little too much for Screwtape’s satisfaction. He wants him to tone it down a bit. A life time is all the time Satan has to tempt a believer. Screwtape does not want Wormwood’s patient to be killed in the war, he wants him to survive and come home just has the patient’s mother is praying.

Once he returns safely from the war, Screwtape and company have time to do some serious stealing and killing. Screwtape gives Wormwood a plan for bringing the patient into a state of impotence and misery, maybe, if they play their cards right, even to a point of despair. First says Screwtape, we will use the monotonous and dull middle years to lull the patient into what the humans call a mid-life crisis. That is when the human creature fears that life is passing him by and he begins to cling to his youth and his youthful passions. It is during these trying years that we tempt many a man into divorcing the mother of his children and taking on a newer younger model. By so doing, we can usually bring endless misery to at least two families. If we don’t trip him up during the middle years, we still have the later years when his kids are grown and he begins to accumulate a little wealth. Our next move is to get him to fall in love with his possessions and the world in which he acquired them. Once we get him loving the world and the things in the world, he will be of little use to the kingdom of Christ.

Screwtape’s final deexhortation is for Wormwood to do anything in his power to keep the patient safe and get him home alive. As he has previous warned, he does not want Wormwood to believe his own propaganda. The patients physical death at this time would be of no benefit to Satan.

Of course Lewis was not a Baptist and did not believe in eternal security as I do. His view was that Satan could so trip a believer the he or she would fall from grace but that is not possible. So, why would Screwtape want the young believer to survive the war? I think the answer is actually simple: he cannot damn the believer but given time he can kill or steal the believer’s testimony and thus through his bad influence damn others. The bottom line for those of us who believe is that physical Death is not our greatest threat, it is the loss our testimony. As one old preacher said years ago, “I just want to cross the finish line with my testimony in tact.” Satan doesn’t want the same thing and he will work relentlessly to see that it doesn’t happen. By the grace of Christ, I pray that he fails with both you and I.

Letter 27–Prayer and Affections

This letter, as most, deals with more than one subject. Satan is a master at using the distraction whether it be in our praying or our living. Satan can use erotic love, prosperity, pleasure and a number of other things to distract a man so that he thinks much more about earth than heaven. Although Satan uses distractions, he does not want us to understand that we are being distracted. If we understand that he is behind the distraction, he loses his advantage.

There are a couple of things that really drive Satan mad. First there is the matter of obedience. Satan hates obedience to Christ. If you want drive the devil up a wall, just be an obedient believer. He loathes those who are obedient to Christ.

Secondly, he loathes and fears believers who pray. Any sincere pray offered by believers bothers Satan. He does not want us praying. Bad prayers, good prayers, short prayers, long prayers, any prayer is bad as far as the devil is concerned. He does not mind us talking about prayer, reading books on prayer so long as we don’t pray. His approach is to discourage us from prayer by raising an endless number of questions that we cannot answer.

How does prayer work? Why would an infinite God who dwells in eternity listen the prayer of a finite human in time? If God is sovereign, how can our prayer affect His will? How can He listend to thousands of us praying at the same time? How in the world can the human prayer of today affect the weather of tomorrow? I have answers to none of the above questions. Prayer is a mystery. It is something that we are to do in spite of the fact that we do not understand how it works. One does not have to understand the dynamics of electricity to cut on a light. Do I really know how to pray? Do I understand prayer? No, but I will pray anyway and every day. Don’t let Satan keep your from prayer. He will do everything he can to keep you out or your prayer closet.

Jesus was much better at prayer than you or I because He could see both worlds, the visible and the invisible. The spiritual world and the physical world have the same creator and it is the Creator who established the laws that govern creation. He made prayer one of the primary spiritual laws. God has the ability to see us in the future but He also sees us in the present, the now. Every prayer we pray has eternal significance. I don’t understand what I just said but it is the law of prayer, “Ask and you shall receive”. I did not create the law. The Creator has written prayer into his plan. Whether we understand the law or not is insignificant: to put the law into practice is the key.

Letter 25–Satan Uses Change

The question is, what does Satan not use? I think the answer is “Not much”…There is not much that he does not pervert or use in some way. He did try to use Jesus but it didn’t work, praise God. Of all things, Mr. Lewis was convinced that Satan uses change and our desire to change to his advantage. The question then is “How?”

We all have a horror of old things or things becoming old. You see this in 40-year-old men. One day they look in the mirror and they see less hair, more fat and  so they go on a diet, start jogging and using Grecian Formula. Some get a motor cycle or a sports car. They make all these radical changes because they do not like the inevitable change that is taking place.

The same is true of a church. Sure, we want to be relevant and we want to be on the cutting edge but we are not to give ourselves over to every novelty that comes along. If we do, too much change will be worse than no change at all. We do live in time and time itself forces us to change but change itself is not a cure all. I use to jog and now I ride a bike. Time dictated that change.  We are all forced to make some changes whether we like them or not.

First of all, change may bring some temporary satisfaction but what do we do when the new wears off? This is the problem with novelty, changing from one thing to another, always looking for that new high. Unless the Holy Spirit inspires the change, there will be no lasting satisfaction.

Secondly; change usually cost money. If you change cars, carpet, locations, or cell phones, the upgrade is going to be costly. Does the change justify the cost? We all know people who have to have the latest version of their electronic toys, whether it be a smart phone or a video game. This is a good example of change that is unnecessary and expensive.

Finally we have to admit that “Change” in and of itself is not the answer. Let me give you an example. Worship has a way of becoming self-serving and thus displeasing to the LORD and really unedifying to us. A lot people think that the solution is change. We change worship times, we change worship styles but has there been any real change? If change in and of itself is the answer then any change should be effective but this is not the case. Changing styles and times my help to a degree but it will not solve the problem. Actually, it does not address the problem. The real problem, and herein lies the truth that the devil uses, is our focus. What needs to change is our hearts but we prefer to change things that are really of no consequence. We have churches all over America torn to pieces over worship style. Some people have labeled this “Worship Wars”. Satan has successfully distracted us from the real issue: we are treating change as if it is the Messiah and it is not.

In truth, what needs to change? Don’t you think that the answer is our hearts. We need repentance. We need change but we need a change of heart. Would that lead to other changes? Sure, you know that it would but the change of heart is the initial change. The devil has distracted us from the truth by getting us to focus on novelty. What are other churches doing, etc? We don’t need to mimic other churches for sure. I am convinced that we need to change but first we need a CHANGE OF HEART, one that will lead us to be obedient to the Holy Spirit. Folks, if we had the courage and the faith to follow the Holy Spirit we would get all the change we could handle.

Satan would take you to any extreme other than loving Jesus with all your heart. He would have you be either tyrant or slave, to be in control or to be under control–it really makes him no difference as long as your are not totally committed to Jesus. He will do anything in his power to keep your focus and affection from being directed toward Jesus. For me, the constant temptation is social issues, liberal politics and theology. I have to constantly remind myself that no cause is greater than Christ.

Letter 24–Satan’s Trump Card

Suppose you were raised in a good Christian home and had been under the influence of the word of God your entire life. You have been soundly indoctrinated and you have learned the spiritual disciplines of daily bible study and prayer. Lets also assume that you have very good, wholesome, healthy habits and you associate with those who are morally sound. What chink do you think Satan would find in your armor? He would find “pride” and he would exploit it in a heartbeat.

Pride is a dangerous sin because it blinds us. It is like a disease that everyone else recognizes except the person who has it. Pride is so subtle that he takes control long before we are ware of its presence. What really confuses the issue is that we can be proud of good things but in a way, this is the most vile pride of all. We become so clever that we are amused at the way people live beneath us. Without even realizing it, we become like the ancient Pharisees. Our pride alienates us from both God and man. You cannot minister to people when you are looking down. When Jesus washed the disciples feet, He looked up to them. When the woman was caught in adultery, Jesus stooped and when He looked at her, He looked up at her not down on her.

I hate to confess it but this pride that condescends is the sin that God convicts me of more than any other sin. I don’t understand why I cannot get it right. I run into someone strange; lets say they have holes in their ears the size of a dime. They have their nose and tongue pierced. I immediately condescend by thinking something like, “You idiot, what on earth possessed you to mutilate your body.” Every time I see a person putting a cigarette in their mouth, I am thinking, “That is a filthy habit you have old buddy and it’s killing you”. What right do I have to look down on another human? I have no right! It is a case of pride, pure and simple.

We have to keep a constant vigil for pride. It is an ever-present danger. Just as humility is the most elusive virtue, pride is the most subtle vice. If we are not careful, we will not see the pride until after the fall.

Letter 23–Perverting The True Christ

Needless to say, the devil does not quit with one failure or even one thousand. He has many plans and all are designed to steal, kill and destroy. He works with what he has and at whatever stage or level we are presently occupying. If a Christian is on fire, he tries to put out the fire– to transform the burning ember into a lukewarm moderate mode. No matter what the temperature of your zeal or passion for Jesus, he will try to bring it to a lower level. If you are real hot, he will try to get you to hot; if you are hot, he will try to move you to warm–from there to lukewarm and from lukewarm to cold. Satan works patiently and incrementally. To do this he has to get your attention and affection off of Jesus. Jesus constitutes a major problem for Satan.

First, he will try to get you hooked on a false Christ. A Jesus, possibly the historical Jesus but not the true Jesus who is the Son of God. Secondly, he is going to pervert the historical Jesus into nothing more than history, a man who lived rather than the giver of life. He will promote Jesus as a great humanitarian, a revolutionary teacher, a martyr of morality but again, not the Son of God nor the Savior of the world. When I was in South America, they had replica’s of Jesus everywhere. They were images of Jesus carved out of wood. They had a wooden Jesus. I left convinced that they had no clue concerning the real Jesus. But lets suppose that Satan fails to get you at either point one or two. Let’s say you read the bible and you know the real Jesus of scripture. Satan does not quit, he just alters his approach. The third thing Satan will do is to destroy any passion or devotion that you have for the real Jesus. Satan does not want believer’s having a quiet time. He opposes daily bible reading. He opposes anything that makes the truth and the true Jesus obvious. Fourth, he will pervert our intentions, our motives for serving Christ or for being a member of His body. I did not join the church to fight social injustice. I joined the church because of Jesus. Jesus is never the means to the end unless that end is heaven.

I don’t want to be redondant but Satan is the author of the distraction. He does not have to use evil to distract well meaning people; he knows that they will not bit on evil so he tempts with good things, social causes, community activities, etc. Here is the rule of thumb: when ever any cause becomes more important than Christ, you are becoming a fanatic. Satan would love to make you a fanatic. He doesn’t really care what you become as long as it is not a devoted follower of Jesus Christ.

Letter 22–Various Vexing Truths

The devil is ruthless. He shows no mercy, not even to incompetent tempters [demons in lowerarchy]. There is no trust, no honor, no integrity or nobility in the demonic world.  Satan is pleased with our failure and terrified of our faith. He is a hater and the father of all who hate with the exception of those who hate evil. Here are some of the things that Screwtape confesses about his father the devil.

  1. Obviously he hates Jesus but he also hates pleasure. Heaven will be a place of infinite pleasure. Hell is will be a place of unimaginable pain and horror, the very opposite of heaven. Satan’s goal is to make us miserable not happy. He does have a very seductive way of making sin appear to be the way to happiness but it is a lie and he knows it. Sin leads to misery.
  2. Since Satan has no power to uncreate Pleasure, he seeks to pervert it and that he does. Music, art, sex, food, you name it: if God created it for our pleasure, Satan has put his ugly twist upon it.
  3. Satan hates virgins. He despises a good Christian girl and the last thing is wants is for a Christian boy to marry a Christian girl. Someone who will encourage him to love Jesus more. That is horrifying to Satan. A union like this could produce a Christian family and out of that family could come an evangelist or missionary. Satan forbid that such a thing happen.
  4. Satan hates truth and light. He refuses to accept God’s word as fact, especially in connection with his own eternal destiny. He pretends that his rebellion will succeed.
  5. Satan hates the mystery that enshrouded God. He longed to know all that God knows but has no desire to submit to God’s will. Satan exalts knowledge above faith and obedience. Of course, he has no concept of love and no idea why anyone would love unconditionally. If it is not twisted and perverted, then Satan is mystified. Why would anyone do anything without a selfish motive? It is the way he thinks.
  6. Satan hates peace and quiet. Noise is a great distraction and it hinders man from thinking. The greater the noise, the better, as far as Satan is concerned. It’s no mystery that rock music and occult have been known associates.