Thursday, December 20, 2012

"Churches of God" by A. W. Pink



"For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews" (I Thess. 2:14).

The ignorance which prevails in Christendom today concerning the truth about the Churches of God is deeper and more general than error on any other Scriptural subject. Many who are quite sound evangelically and are well taught on what we call the great fundamentals of the faith, are most unsound ecclesiastically. Mark the fearful confusion that abounds respecting the term itself. There are few words in the English language with a greater variety of meanings than "church." The man in the street understands by "church" the building in which people congregate for public worship. Those who know better, apply the term to the members in spiritual fellowship who meet in that building. Others use it in a denominational way and speak of "the Methodist Church" or "Presbyterian Church." Again, it is employed nationally of the state-religious institution as "the Church of England" or "the Church of Scotland." With Papists the word "church" is practically synonymous with "salvation," for they are taught that all outside the vale of "Holy Mother Church" are eternally lost.

Many of the Lord's own people seem to be strangely indifferent concerning God's mind on this important subject. One from whose teachings on the church we differ widely has well said, "Sad it is to hear men devoted in the Gospel, clear expounders of the Word of God, telling us that they do not trouble themselves about church doctrine; that salvation is the all-important theme; and the establishing of Christians in the fundamentals is all that is necessary. We see men giving chapter and verse for every statement, and dwelling upon the infallible authority of the Word of God, quietly closing their eyes to its teachings upon the church, probably connected with that for which they can give no Scriptural authority, and apparently contented to bring others into the same relationship."

What constitutes a New Testament church? That multitudes of professing Christians treat this question as one of trifling importance is plain. Their actions show it. They take little or no trouble to find out. Some are content to remain outside of any earthly church. Others join some church out of sentimental considerations, because their parents or partner in marriage belonged to it. Others join a church from lower motives still, such as business or political considerations. But this ought not to be. If the reader is an Anglican, he should be so, because he is fully persuaded that his is the most Scriptural church. If he is a Presbyterian, he should be so, from conviction that his "church" is most in accord with God's Word. So, if he is a Baptist or Methodist, etc.

There are many others who have little hope of arriving at a satisfactory answer to the question, What constitutes a New Testament church? The fearful confusion which now obtains in Christendom, the numerous sects and denominations differing so widely both as to doctrine and church-order and government, has discouraged them. They have not the time to carefully examine the rival claims of the various denominations. Most Christians are busy people who have to work for a living, and hence they do not have the leisure necessary to properly investigate the Scriptural merits of the different ecclesiastical systems. Consequently, they dismiss the matter from their minds as being one too difficult and complex for them to hope of arriving at a satisfactory and conclusive solution. But this ought not to be. Instead of these differences of opinion disheartening us, they should stimulate to greater exertion for arriving at the mind of God. We are told to "buy the truth," which implies that effort and personal sacrifice are required. We are bidden to "prove all things."

Now, it should be obvious to all that there must be a more excellent way than examining the creeds and articles of faith of all the Denominations. The only wise and satisfactory method of discovering the Divine answer to our question, What constitutes a New Testament church? is to turn to the New Testament itself and carefully study its teachings about the "church." Not some godly man's views; not accepting the creed of the church to which my parents belonged; but "proving all things" for myself! God's people have no right to organize a church on different lines from those which governed the churches in New Testament times. An institution whose teachings or government are contrary to the New Testament is certainly not a New Testament "church."

Now if God has deemed it of sufficient importance to place on record upon the pages of Inspiration what a New Testament church is, then surely it should be of sufficient importance for very redeemed man or woman to study that record, and not only so but to bow to its authority and conform their conduct thereto. We shall thus appeal to the New Testament only and seek God's answer to our question.
1. A New Testament church is a local body of believers. Much confusion has been caused by the employment of adjectives which are not to be met with in the N.T. Were you to ask some Christians, To what church do you belong? they would answer, The great insivible church of Christ-a church which is as intangible as it is invisible. How many recite the so-called Apostles' Creed, "I believe in the holy catholic Church," which most certainly was not an article in the Apostles' "creed." Others speak of "the Church militant" and "the Church triumphant," but neither are these terms found in Scripture, and to employ them is only to create difficulty and confusion. The moment we cease to "hold fast the form of sound words" (II Tim. 1:13) and employ unscriptural terms, we only befog ourselves and others. We cannot improve upon the language of Holy Writ. There is no need to invent extra terms; to do so is to cast reflexion on the vocabulary of the Holy Spirit. When people talk of "the universal Church of Christ" they employ another unscriptural and antiscriptural expression. What they really mean is "the Family of God." This latter appellation includes the whole company of God's elect; but "Church" does not.

Now the kind of church which is emphasized in the N.T. is neither invisible nor universal; but instead, visible and local. The Greek word for "church" is ecclesia, and those who know anything of that language are agreed that the word signifies "An Assembly." Now an "assembly" is a company of people who actually assemble. If they never "assemble," then it is a misuse of language to call them "an Assembly." Therefore, as all of God's people never have yet assembled together, there is today no "universal Church" or "Assembly." That "Church" is yet future; as yet it has no concrete or corporate existence.

In proof of what has been said above, let us examine those passages where the term was used by our Lord Himself during the days of His flesh. Only twice in the four Gospels do we find Christ speaking of the "church." The first is in Matthew 16:18 where He said unto Peter, "Upon this Rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." What kind of a "church" was the Saviour here referring to? The vast majority of Christians have understood it as the great invisible, mystical, and universal Church, which comprises all His redeemed. But they are certainly wrong. Had this been His meaning He had necessarily said, "Upon this Rock I am building My church." Instead, He used the future tense, "I will build," which shows clearly that at the time He spoke, His "church" had no existence, save in the purpose of God. the "church" to which Christ referred in Matthew 16:18 could not be a universal one, that is, a church which included all the saints of God, for the tense of the verb used by Him on this occasion manifestly excluded the O. T. saints! Thus, the first time that the word "church" occurs in the N. T. it has no reference to a general or universal one. Further, our Lord could not be referring to the Church in glory, for it will be in no danger of "the gates of hell"! His declaration that, "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it," makes it clear beyond all doubt that Christ was referring to His church upon earth, and thus, to a visible and local church.

The only other record we have of our Lord speaking about the "church" while He was on earth, is found in Matthew 18:17, "If he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." Now the only kind of a "church" to which a brother could relate his "fault" is a visible and local one. So obvious is this, there is no need to further enlarge upon it.

In the final book of the N. T. we find our Saviour again using this term. First in Revelation 1:11 He says to John, "What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia." Here again it is plain that the Lord was speaking of local churches. Following this, we find the word "church" is upon His lips nineteen more times in the Revelation, and in every passage the reference was to local churches. Seven times over He says, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches," not "what the Spirit saith unto the Church"-which is what would have been said had the popular view been correct. The last reference is in Revelation 22:16, "I Jesus have sent Mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches:" The reason for this being, that as yet, the Church of Christ has no tangible and corporate existence, either in glory or upon earth; all that He now has here is His local "churches."

In further proof that the kind of "church" which is emphasised in the N. T. is a local and visible one we appeal to other facts of Scripture. We read of "The church which was at Jerusalem" (Acts 8:1). "The church that was at Antioch" (Acts 13:1), "The church of God which is at Corinth" (I Cor. 1:2)-note carefully that though this church is linked with, yet is it definitely distinguished from "all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord,"! Again; we read of "churches" in the plural number: "Then had the churches rest throughout all Judea, and Galilee, and Samaria" (Acts 9:31), "The churches of Christ salute you" (Rom. 16:16), "Unto the churches of Galatia" (Gal. 1:2). Thus it is seen that, that which was prominent and dominant in N. T. times was local and visible churches.

2. A New Testament church is a local body of baptized believers. By "baptized believers" we mean Christians who have been immersed in water. Throughout the N. T. there is not a single case recorded of any one becoming a member of a church of Jesus Christ without his first being baptized; but there are many cases in point, many indications and proofs that those who belonged to the churches in the days of the apostles were baptized Christians.

Let us turn first to the last clause of Acts 2:47: "And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be (the V. R. correctly gives it "were") saved." Note carefully it does not say that "God," or "the Holy Spirit," or "Christ," but "The Lord added." The reason for this is as follows: "The Lord" brings in the thought of authority, and those whom He "added to the church" had submitted to His lordship. The way in which they had "submitted" is told us in vv. 41-42: "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls," etc. thus, in the earliest days of this dispensation, "the Lord added" to His church saved people who were baptized.

Take the first of the Epistles. Romans 12:4-5 shows that the saints at Rome were a local church. Turn back now to Romans 6:4-5 where we find the apostle saying to and of these church members at Rome, "Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of His death, we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection." Thus, the saints in the local church at Rome were baptized believers.

Take the church at Corinth. In Acts 18:8 we read, "Many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized." Further proof that the Corinthian saints were baptized believers is found in I Cor. 1:13-14; 10:2,6; I Cor. 12:13 rightly translated and punctuated (we hope to deal with this passage separately in a future article) expressly affirms that entrance into the local assembly is by water baptism.

Ere passing to the next point let it be said that a church made up of baptized believers is obviously and necessarily a "Baptist church"-what else could it be termed? This is the name which God gave to the first man whom He called and commissioned to do any baptizing. He named him "John the Baptist." Hence real "Baptists" have no reason to be ashamed of or to apologise for the scriptural name they bear. If someone askes, Why did not the Holy Spirit speak of the "Baptist church at Corinth" or "The Baptist churches of Galatia"? We answer, for this reason: there was, at that time, no need for this distinguishing adjective; there were no other kind of churches in the days of the apostles but Baptist churches. They were all "Baptist churches" then; that is to say, they were all composed of scripturally-baptized believers. It is men who have invented all other "churches" (?) and church-names now in existence.

3. A New Testament church is a local body of baptized believers in organized relationship. This is necessarily implied in the term itself. An "Assembly is a company of people met together in organized relationship, otherwise there would be nothing to distinguish it from a crowd or mob. Clear proof of this is found in Acts 19:39, "But if ye enquire anything concerning other matters, it shall be determined in a lawful assembly." These words were spoken by the "town clerk" to the Ephesian multitude which was disturbing the peace. Having "appeased the people," and having affirmed that the apostles were neither robbers of churches nor blasphemers of their goddess, he reminded Demetrius and his fellows that "the law is open, and there are deputies," and bade them "implead one another." The Greek word for "assembly" in this passage is ecclesia, and the reference was to the Roman court, i.e., an organization governed by law.

Again, the figures used by the Holy Spirit in connection with the "church" are pertinent only to a local organization. In Romans 12 and in I Corinthians 12 He employs the human "body" as an anology or illustration. Nothing could be more unsuitable to portray some "invisible" and "universal" church whose members are scattered far and wide. The reader scarcely needs to be reminded that there is not a more perfect organization on this earth than the human body-each member in its appointed place, each to fulfil its own office and perform its distinctive function. Again, in I Timothy 3:15 the church is called the "house of God." The "house" speaks of ordered relationships: each resident having his own room, the furniture being suitably placed, etc.

Further proof that a New Testament "church" is a local company of baptized believers in organized relationship is found in Acts 7:38, where the Holy Spirit applies the term ecclesia to the children of Israel--"the church in the wilderness." Now the children of Israel in the wilderness were a redeemed, separated baptized, organized "Assembly." Some may be surprised at the assertion that they were baptized. But the Word of God is very explicit on this point. "Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; and were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea" (I Cor. 10:1-2). So, too, they were organized; they had their "princes" (Num. 7:2) and "priests," their "elders" (Ex. 24:1) and "officers" (Deut. 1:15). Therefore, we may see the propriety of applying the term ecclesia to Israel in the wilderness, and discover how its application to them enables us to define its exact meaning. It thus shows us that a New Testament "church" has its officers, its "elders" (which is the same as "bishops"), "deacons" (I Tim. 3:1,12), "treasurer" (John 12:6; II Cor. 8:19), and "clerk"--"number of names" (Acts 1:15) clearly implies a register.

4. A New Testament church is a local body of baptized believers in organized relationship, publicly and corporately worshipping God in the ways of His appointment. To fully amplify this heading would necessitate us quoting a goodly portion of the N.T. Let the reader go carefully through the book of Acts and the Epistles, with an unprejudiced mind, and he will find abundant confirmation. Attempting the briefest possible summary of it, we would say: First, by maintaining "the apostles' doctrine and fellowship" (Acts 2:42). Second, by preserving and perpetuating Scriptural baptism and the Lord's Supper: "keep the ordinances" as they were delivered to the church (I Cor. 11:2). Third, by maintaining a holy discipline: Heb. 13:17; I Tim. 5:20-21, etc. Fourth, by going into all the world and preaching the Gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).

5. A New Testament church is independent of all but God. Each local church is entirely independent of any others. A church in one city has no authority over a church in another. Nor can a number of local churches scripturally elect a "board," "presbytery," or "pope" to lord it over the members of those churches. Each church is self-governed, compare I Corinthians 16:3; II Cor. 8:19. By church-government we mean that its work is administrative and not legislative.

A N.T. church is to do all things "decently and in order" (I Cor. 14:40), and its only authorative guide for "order" is the Holy Scriptures. Its one unerring standard, its final court of appeal, by which all issues of faith, doctrine, and Christian living are to be measured and settled, is the Bible, and nothing but the Bible. Its only Head is Christ: He is its Legislator, Resource, and Lord.

The local church is to be governed by what "the Spirit saith unto the churches." Hence it necessarily follows that it is altogether separate from the State, and must refuse any support from it. While its members are enjoined by Scripture to be "subject unto the higher powers that be" (Rom. 13:1), they must not permit any dictation from the State in matters of faith or practice.

The administration of the government of a N. T. church resides in its own membership, and not in any special body or order of men, either within or without it. A majority of its members decide the actions of the church. This is clear from the Greek of II Corinthians 2:6, "Sufficient to such a man (a disorderly brother who had been disciplined) is this punishment, which was inflicted of many." The Greek for the last two words is hupo ton pleionon." Pleionon is an adjective, in the comparative degree, and literally rendered the clause signifies "by the majority," and is so rendered by Dr. Charles Hodge, than whom there have been few more spiritual and competent Greek scholars. Bagster's Interlinear renders it "by the greater portion," and the margin of the R.V. gives "Greek the more." The definite article obliges us to render it "by the more" or "by the majority."

To sum up. Unless you have a company of regenerated and believing people, scripturally baptized, organized on N. T. lines, worshipping God in the ways of his appointing-particularly in having fellowship with the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, maintaining the ordinances, preserving strict discipline, active in evangelistic endeavour-it is not a "New Testament church," whatever it may or may not call itself. But a church possessing these characteristics is the only institution on this earth ordained, built, and approved of by the Lord Jesus Christ. Hence, next to being saved, the writer deems it his greatest privilege of all to belong to one of His "churches." May Divine grace increasingly enable him to walk as becometh a member of it.

(Studies in the Scriptures, Dec. 1927, pp. 277-281).

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dear Screwtape, Chapter XIX: Screwtape, the Deist


My apologies to our readers for being two days late on this post; internet problems, of course.

Dear Reader, you may read The Screwtape Letters, Chapter 19, here.

Numbers in parentheses represent footnotes (below).

Chapter XIX

My Dear Screwtape,

I perceive that in all things you are too superstitious, and, in one particular thing, too prone to Philophobia (1). You shudder and shout “impossibility!” because of your “utter failure to find out that real motive” of the Enemy’s Love for humans. And nowhere is your ignorance of Love’s Cause more obvious than in your vain jangling about the Enemy’s foresight. First, you erroneously suggest that, when the Enemy “mooted” the creation of man, He “confessed that he foresaw a certain episode about a cross.” I take objection to your choice of terms, for you underestimate our Enemy and overestimate your own understanding of Him. I assure you, he does not “moot” [in any sense of that term]; that is, He does not argue, debate, wonder out loud, or speculate about the creation of man or any other matter. So, please, spare me from any more vacuous anthropomorphisms (2). 

Secondly, you are a bad theologian (and you know we must be good theologians), for you know nothing of the Enemy’s foresight. You speak as if the Enemy foresaw the Future, or perhaps several futures at once, and then proceeded to choose the best possible world (3) into which He might channel all His energies in an attempt to create and govern it (4). But my Dear Uncle, the Enemy neither schemes nor labors after this fashion. If our Oppressor devised and developed His plans as you describe, then His intentions and actions would be contingent upon, first, what he foresaw and, second, what he wished to avert or accomplish in what He foresaw. By this scheme He would be no foe (or force) at all, but a mere Pawn of the Foreseeable who subjected His will as Creator to the will of the creature (a popular myth! Would it were so!). To the contrary, the certitude of the Enemy’s foresight derives from the magnitude of His will; His omnipotence achieves what His omniscience conceives (5). He does not work His counsel and will after He perfectly foresees all things; He foresees all things perfectly because He “works all things after the counsel of his own will” in strict adherence to His own pleasure (6). 

But I must say that I do rejoice at your attempt to make “the episode of the cross,” as you call it, an unavoidable necessity to the Enemy’s Man-plan. This truly warps His so called Good News. However, I’m afraid that the “episode of the cross” is not secondary to the Enemy’s plans as you suggest, but primary, the very first cause of all His purposes and to which all His other purposes are subjected. The cross was not designed to accommodate the creation; the creation was designed to accommodate the cross. It is not merely a foreseen “episode.” 

Peace, be still, dear Uncle; be not distraught over your failure to discover the Cause of the Enemy’s Love. We have changed our strategy. No longer do we try to find out Love's Cause. Now we invoke a more subtle technique; we distort the public’s understanding of the Nature of the Enemy’s Love, an approach which has proven most effective and rivals even the Pharisees’ legalism in its effectiveness yet without its harshness. This makes our merchandise more accessible to the general public. In fact, Phariseeism would be an improvement over our current concoction. To “distort the public’s understanding of the Nature of the Enemy’s Love” means to pervert human understanding of Love's moral and discretionary quality. We must never allow humans to associate the Enemy’s Love with His Holiness. This will delude our patients with the idea that they may lay claim to the Enemy’s Love while embracing their sins, what we call the one-foot-in-Heaven-one-foot-in-Hell Syndrome. We accomplish this by infiltrating ecclesiastical hierarchy from whom we then spew forth what Sweetblood calls Hell’s Honey, a theology of Love most palatable to the human tongue and pleasant to the human ear.   

No, we must not permit the public to recognize that the Enemy’s Love constrains His people to reflect His Holy nature in their behavior. Not only would this startle most of our patients into an excited and dangerous confusion, it should also move some of them to earnest repentance of sin, something Hell cannot withstand. No, let us corrupt humans’ thinking about the moral nature of the Enemy’s Love by continuing to persuade them that His Love is separate from His despicable Holiness and warrants no radical, demonstrable, and persevering change in their behavior. 

Your affectionate nephew,

WORMWOOD

(1) Perhaps a coinage, “Fear of Love.”
(2) An anthropomorphism is a figure of speech which attributes human qualities to deity, such as “the arm of the LORD” (Isaiah 53:1); in this particular instance, the anthropomorphism is psychological, attributing a process of reasoning to God.
(3) The idea of “the best possible world” reflects the philosophy of eighteenth-century deists such as Leibniz, whom Voltaire mocks in his famous novella Candide. Unwittingly, Screwtape’s (and Lewis') misunderstanding of foresight makes his view deist, not Christian.
(4) The idea that God makes plans and then tries to execute them is also deistic. Deism distinguished between the antecedent--the which God intends to do, as opposed to the subsequent will of God, that which God actually is able to do. Tragically, much contemporary “Christian” thinking about the will of God is deistic.
(5) Wormwood here plays on the famous quote by the humanist Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich), who said, “What the human mind can conceive, it can achieve if it only believes,” a saying popularized by a number of modern “positive thinkers,” even among Christianity, such as Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, and Norman Vincent Peale. To their and Lewis' discredit, that saying is relevant to the Mind and Will of God but not the mind and will of man or angel.
(6) Wormwood here plays on the famous quote by the humanist Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich), who said, “What the human mind can conceive, it can achieve if it only believes,” a saying popularized by a number of modern “positive thinkers,” even among Christianity.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dear Screwtape, Chapter XVIII: Sexual Temptation



Dear Reader, you may read Chapter 18 of The Screwtape Letters here.


XVIII

My Dear Screwtape,
Your tirade upon Love and Marriage confirms, ironically, your own disqualifications to discuss human sexuality. You admit that our “routine technique” of sexual temptation poses “considerable tedium” for us demons, so you propose, therefore, to “pass it over,” yet you contradict yourself and proceed to discuss sexual temptation anyway, albeit within the broader framework of Love and Marriage. I admit that your sometimes keen observations about Love and Marriage reflect your firm grasp of the Enemy’s philosophy that Love exists where “the good of one self” finds its fulfillment in “the good of another.” You also correctly perceive that Love’s pattern - one individual fulfilled in another - replicates the Enemy’s own nature among humans. But I take issue with your chiding old professor Slubgob as an inadequate teacher who failed to teach me what I should know about sexual temptation. I protest, dear Uncle, that it is you, not I, who has forgotten what he learned in Temptation 101.

Certainly, human sexuality presents a “considerable tedium” for us demons, but not for the reasons you might suppose. Contrary to what your letter implies, sexual temptation is not remotely our business except as we might pollute the media and therefore the mind. Have you forgotten? Lust is an Adamic, not a Satanic, phenomenon. Your attempt to exploit sexual temptation among humans plummets you to a sphere lower than that to which Lord Lucifer ordained for you. Although we are princes of the powers of the air, we have convinced ignorant humans that we swirl among their genitalia, a successful guilt-avoidance technique that causes humans to deny their own responsibility for sexual perversion by attributing their error to our influences; but let us not fall prey to our own propaganda; our real business is spiritual, not sexual, perversion. Let me illustrate.

Unquestionably, sexual impurity is a perversion of Love, for it is the misapplication  of one’s affections upon a forbidden and illicit object. Diverted love is perverted love that destroys itself, the illicit lover, and the forbidden beloved. Our real business is to replicate this physical perversion of love within the spiritual sphere. By misdirecting human love religiously expressed, we then redirect it toward a false or illicit object, especially an idol or a counterfeit conception of the Enemy. You see, as we imitate sexual perversion in the spiritual sphere, we accomplish a corruption higher than merely biological. Quite simply, by propagating false doctrine in the church, we manufacture “another Gospel” which points to “another Jesus,” and thus the patient is thoroughly deceived to believe in, pray to, to worship, and yes to love something he believes to be the Enemy but in fact is not. Do you see how scrumptious this is? The Enemy tries to counter our temptation to spiritual adultery by applying the same language to us as he does to sexual perverts. For instance, He calls us “seducing spirits”; describes our deceiving prophets as having “eyes full of adultery”; calls our Mother Church “Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots”; and likens heresy to the honeycombed lips of a whore; He even explicitly traces the cause of the sweetest physical perversions to an antecedent and precipitative spiritual perversion that He calls “changing the truth of God into a lie.” Think a moment dear Uncle, is there a single instance in the Enemy’s handbook where He attributes sexual perversion to our activity? To the contrary, He everywhere attributes sexual perversion to Adam, not Abaddon.

And as for your contention that humans mistakenly believe that "a curious, and usually short-lived, experience which they call 'being in love' is the only respectable ground for marriage; that marriage can, and ought to, render this excitement permanent; and that a marriage which does not do so is no longer binding," I’m afraid that this approach is quite out of date. Post-modern humans cohabit on the hunch that they may be in love, and sexual experimentation is a pretended litmus test for marital compatibility. Again, the Enemy’s handbook seems to contradict both you and this wicked and adulterous generation, for its great love story represents Love as that which “leaps upon the mountains and skips upon the hills” in a highly romantic yet pure quest for marriage. Dear Uncle, do I detect here a little jealousy? Since your failed affair with Medusa do you now impose your own autobiographical experience on human romance and marriage and conclude that, because you never knew Love so described that it therefore cannot be? But this is too brutal of me. 
Remain in your realm, Screwtape. Concentrate on spiritual perversion and leave sexual perversion to the humans themselves. They’re doing a wonderfully nasty job on their own.

Your affectionate nephew,

WORMWOOD

Monday, December 3, 2012

Dear Screwtape, XVII: Gluttony



You may The Screwtape Letters, Chapter XVII, here.

My Dear Screwtape,

I complement your discriminating taste in victims. Your gourmet’s tooth distinguishes a slight but savory difference between Gluttony and Delicacy, and gives us appetizing opportunities to devour humans in the name of “good taste.” Not only does Gluttony remain a word quite foreign to Christian tongues, its more subtle synonym, Delicacy, feeds upon a new Hedonism in the church’s body, particularly among its more affluent members. Yes, Vanity in the name of Good Taste still excites more decadent religious palates. But while I rejoice to confirm this increased success in the area of Delicacy, I am even more excited to report another victory of monumental proportions. The minor skirmish you detected in the field of Exercise and Health has now become one of our most successful battlegrounds.

The “grand lie” to which you refer - “physical exercise in excess and consequent fatigue are specially favourable” to Chastity - is almost universally accepted among our patients today. All Hell knows that bodily exercise, in and of itself, is of only secondary significance to the Enemy’s eternal strategy because it profits patients so very little temporally and almost nothing eternally, but we have effectively brainwashed many patients into thinking that bodily exercise is of  paramount importance to the Enemy. This has produced a number of most gratifying results in our patients. For instance, care for the body now vastly exceeds concern for the spirit. Naturally, this is the result of other battles we have already fought and won, such as the sexual revolution, the Narcissist takeover in the fashion industry, and the psychological sabotaging of fortyish baby-boomers with an inordinate and subconscious fear of impotency, ageing, and death. But, more importantly, this exaggerated emphasis upon the physical body has reoriented many patients’ thinking about their time so that, whereas the older, more formidable, Christian rose at dawn to the rigorous discipline of agonizing prayer and deep meditation upon the Enemy’s War Manual, the younger, more fashionable, Christian begins his day with fiber and fruit, calisthenics and jogging. If the post-modern Christian exercises himself to Godliness at all, it takes up very little of his time compared to the many hours swallowed up weekly in physical activity.

One of our standing jokes is some patients’ naive idea that, to make their bodies healthy, they should consult professional physicians, therapists and athleticists for advice about physical activity and that they must do the physical exercise themselves if they are to derive any real and lasting benefit from the energy expended; but when it comes to spiritual exercises, patients do not merely consult their professionals; their professionals do their spiritual exercises for them, and thereby patients grow spiritually weak and co-dependent (we like this new word) upon their professionals. Today’s patients tend only to observe the action in the Christian arena rather than actually to participate in it but, Lord Lucifer be thanked, they faithfully follow the diets prescribed by most of their spiritual trainers. These diets healthily enhance our strategy, since they consist mostly of spiritual milk and toast and therefore benefit only the younger and weaker patients while retarding and even decimating the health, growth, and strength of the older and, presumably, more mature who by now should be meat-eating teachers. But besides this victory in diet and participatory athletics, we have also triumphed in a new realm of gluttony, “observatory athletics.”

By observatory athletics I mean that form of athletics in which the patient participates only vicariously. Male patients are particularly vulnerable here. The effectiveness of this strategy produces a fascinating and, frankly, quite stupid psychological delusion in the male patient by making him think that the success or failure of a given athletic participant or team has real and special value for himself as an observer. The patient’s emotions rise and fall with the triumph or tragedy of his favorite team or player; emotional investment in this moronic behavior reaches crescendo proportions around “big games,” and can even contribute to minor psycho-somatic disorders such as high blood pressure, indigestion, and headaches, not to mention more serious effects, such as dangerous outbursts of temper and bouts of depression. This strategy has tremendous value for us, not only because it effectively deceives the patient into thinking that he has a personal relationship with an athlete or a vested interest in a particular game, but also because this strategy seduces the patient to evade reality, become submerged in a herd mentality which swallows his individuality among others similarly deluded, and, finally, waste an irretrievable amount of precious time in a vacuous event to which the patient falsely attributes a sense of worth.

So you see, Dear Uncle, the ground you gained in Gluttony is not lost, and new territory has been reconnoitered, attacked, and taken with only the slightest resistance and no casualties on our side.

Your affectionate nephew,

WORMWOOD

Monday, November 26, 2012

Dear Screwtape, Chapter XVI

You may read The Screwtape Letters, Chapter XVI, here.

Dear Screwtape, Chapter XVI

My Dear Screwtape,

I recall your displeasure that my patient “has continued to attend one church” for an extended period of time. You therefore requested a “report on the causes of his fidelity to the local church.” You also remarked that “unless [this church attendance] is due to indifference it is a very bad thing” because, you say, “if churchgoing can’t be cured, the next best thing is to send him all over the city looking for the church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a taster or connoisseur of churches.” Your concerns echo my own distress about this intolerable matter of churchgoing, and your suggestions, as always, are well intended. But certain obstacles exist of which you may be unaware, and which may thwart our shrewdest strategies in this case.

From this warning about the dangers of churchgoing, you proceed to analyze the two churches geographically nearest my patient, and the pastors who occupy their pulpits. First, you examine the parochial church, which you suggest “should always be attacked.” Your desire that we assail the parochial church stems from your anxiety that it poses a special danger to our devices because, “being a unity of place and not of likings, it brings people of different classes and psychology together in the kind of unity the Enemy desires.” But, I remind you, the parochial church has been under our dominion for quite awhile on both continents, and I think your apprehension about its potential danger to us represents a much overstated fear. Besides, I ask you, what do different class distinctions and psychologies have to do with the Enemy’s happiness? His joy derives not from the geographical proximity of a church’s membership or from its economic and intellectual diversity, but from the common faith of its members, which tends to erase the significance of such diversities among patients. You also suggest a weakness in “the congregational principle” which, you say, “makes each church into a kind of club, and, finally, if all goes well, into a coterie or faction.” No doubt your own assignment to infiltrate Anglicanism has warped your understanding of this matter. You have things backwards again, Dear Uncle; you fail to comprehend that common faith (not mere belief which you insist upon equating with faith) is the very thing that holds together the congregational church. Oh, I do not mean to suggest that all congregational churches are true to “the faith once delivered to the saints”; this certainly is not the case. But I do affirm that churches whose members assemble upon grounds of faith as opposed to geographical or denominational loyalty pose a greater threat to our subversive activities. Now as for the two pastors you mentioned.

The first Pastor you describe "has so long engaged in watering down the faith . . . for a supposedly incredulous and hard-headed congregation that it is now he who shocks his people with his unbelief, not vice versa. He has undermined many a soul’s Christianity." Screwtape, “the faith” as you call it cannot be “watered down” except where it exists in shallow hearts. Nor can Christianity be “undermined” except when it is only an empty facade erected upon cracked foundations. The process involves making patients “think” they have “the faith,” and then working quietly within their delusions to sustain the fantasy.

The second pastor you depicted is a more interesting case, a theological chameleon whose high-flown and colorful opinions are carried about with every wind of doctrine. Of this prating fool you say, “I must warn you that he has one fatal defect: he really believes.” Screwtape, two flagrant errors corrupt your thinking. First, you falsely assume that salvific belief is separable from dogma, and secondly, you insinuate that belief alone constitutes salvation. Indeed, there is a kind of belief separate and distinct from Truth, often mistakenly substituted for the real thing among humans; you and I believe in this way. But belief like ours scorns the Enemy’s mandate that He must be worshiped in spirit and in Truth. He requires a belief intermixed with a repentance that produces transformation of one’s nature from evil to righteousness and from ignorance to a knowledge of who He really is, a metamorphosis we detest in ourselves and resist in our patients. But to return to your request that I give an explanation of my patient’s fidelity to one church.

I’m afraid you must give up hope that my former patient will attend such a “church” as either of the ones you mention. He is truly sick, and one symptom of his illness is a sheepishness which has effected both his hearing and appetite. This sheepishness has deafened him to the voices of such hirelings as the pastors you mention, and it has spoiled his appetite for the kind of slop they sling. His fidelity to his church springs from that horrible metamorphosis I mentioned, and, just as despicable, from the Enemy’s relentless purpose to teach him through a Pastor whose mind and heart are bolted like iron doors welded with lightning (There still are a few of these, you know).

I know this discourages you, but I am pleased to report other significant victories through newfangled conspiracies. We have gained significant ground among false professors through increased budgetary emphasis upon our Association for the Advancement of Vacuous, Flamboyant Fools and Religious Racketeers. Our Media Department has also been especially helpful here. Where we have not been able to steal seed outright, we have succeeded in popularizing theological superficiality and moral mediocrity among stony and thorny hearers to the damnation of not a few. So all is not lost. Remember, even if we cannot divorce real Faith from Truth, we can at least marry faithfulness to falseness. Hell still has its Pharisees, Thank Appolyon!

Your affectionate nephew,

WORMWOOD

Monday, November 19, 2012

Dear Screwtape,Chapter XV: Really Ticked Off



Dear Reader,

Wormwood's criticism of Screwtape's view of time summons references to Lewis' other statements about time in the work Mere Christianity, thus the footnotes. Your reading of those footnotes is important to understand Wormwood's criticism of Screwtape's ideas.

Your may read chapter XV of The Screwtape Letters here.



Dear Screwtape, Chapter XV:
"Really Ticked Off"

My Dear Screwtape,

Your Time Tactics have worked well with the truly sick, especially by fostering fear and false hopes through anxiety and naivete about their Future. I find difficulty, however, in discombobulating healthy Defectors about Time because of their persistence to do something called “redeem” it, coupled with their flat-out refusal to live in the past or take sufficient thought for the Future. On the other hand I have achieved a slight measure of success among Defectors by speeding up the world around them and thus accelerating their vorticist lifestyles, a tactic we must continue to explore and a weakness we should continue to exploit. But dear Uncle, I recoil at your own chronological disorientation. You remind me of a broken watch gone wild, springs sprung and hands waving wildly here and there, with no ability to point at Time. It’s one thing to deceive others about Time, but quite another to be deceived oneself. Here is the gist of your problem.

First, you misinterpret the relationship between Time and Eternity. If I understand you correctly, you believe that the Enemy simultaneously comprehends all Time--Past, Present and Future--and that this Time is an entity separate and distinct from His Person. You also suggest that humans and other material entities exist in Time, but you assert that the Enemy does not (1). Not only does this seem a contradiction of that long, dark shadow Omnipresence, which includes the immediacy of Deity in space and time, but it also seems to establish a false synthesis between Omniscience and Time. Just because the Enemy has perfect knowledge of all Time--Past , Present and Future--this does not mean that His Omniscient knowledge requires the simultaneous and ongoing existence of the Past, Present, and Future; if we admit this, then the same principle must be applied to a butterfly’s wing now deteriorated, a rose petal now faded, or a human torso returned unto the dust from whence it came. I ask you, “Do these forms of matter, now dissipated, continue to exist somewhere else intact in Time just because the Enemy has perfect knowledge of the Past?” (2)

Your theory erroneously asserts that Omniscience necessitates Being of the Known (the existence of that which It knows), and thus you imply that knowledge equals existence and thereby deny the finite nature of creation, including matter, time (if, indeed, time is finite), and space. This attributes to the Enemy’s Omniscience a property which He Himself does not claim. Even you admit that your understanding of Time derives, not from the Enemy’s handbook(3), but from the noble pagans. Are you so unwise as to fall into the same pit we dug for Plato  (4) and Thomas?(5) You should know by now, Dear Uncle, that no definitive understanding of Time can be derived from those sources, because a proper understanding of Time is necessarily bound up with a proper understanding of Eternity, which the noble pagans did not possess.  But this is by no means all your problem. Your “time-warp” also corrupts our understanding of the irrevocable and binding nature of human actions, especially sin and repentance. (6)

If your view is correct, then no Eternal Finality attends any human action or state of being; even death, and judgement after death, could be reversible through your view of Time. Here, no doubt, you echo one of our Enemy’s despicable patriots who also erred on this point.(7) Now, I admit that such a distorted view might work to our advantage because it could deceive patients into believing that their actions in Time were always recoverable and that, no matter what the moment--Past, Present, or Future--these actions could be recaptured and transfigured somewhere in Time or Eternity. In other words, if the Enemy is the Everlasting Now, then both damnation and salvation would be “eternally potential” for every individual in the human race, even fallen angels, even Our Lord Lucifer (Hajuelellah!). Besides this, no finality would attend the judgement of our Enemy against sin (Would that it were so!). Volitional creatures would stand always on the brink of Heaven and Hell, and might at any moment plunge into the one or fly into the other, or at another moment return from whence they came. Indeed, this absurdity is worth publishing.

No, Screwtape, Chronos eats his children, and Time consumes all except the Timeless. I cannot countenance your error when its conclusions reach such depths of absurdity as to embarrass even some of our younger assistants in our Department of Philosophy and Vain Deceit.

Really ticked off,

Wormwood

(1) In Mere Christianity Lewis writes, “God is not in Time. . . . and every other moment from the beginning of the world --is always the Present for Him” (146); he continues, “God, I believe, does not lie in a Time-series at all. His life is not dribbled out moment by moment like ours: with Him it is, so to speak, still 1920 and already 1960. For His life is Himself” (Mere Christianity 147).

(2) Lewis’ understanding of Time necessarily involves this conclusion, as Lewis himself perhaps unconsciously admitted when he wrote this passage from Mere Christianity (note the present active participles): “What we call ‘tomorrow’ is visible to Him in just the same way as what we call ‘today.’ All the days are ‘Now’ for Him. He does not remember you doing things yesterday; He simply sees you doing them, because, you have lost yesterday, He has not. He does not ‘foresee’ you doing things tomorrow; He simply sees you doing them: because, though tomorrow is not yet there for you, it is for Him” (Mere Christianity, 148-9)[Lewis is terribly confused and confusing throughout the remainder of this passage.]

(3) Lewis admits that his view of Time “is not in the Bible or any of the creeds” (Mere Christianity 149).

(4) Richard B. Cunningham remarks, “The idea of timeless eternity is of crucial importance for Lewis’s approach to numerous apologetic problems, and his arguments to some extend either stand or fall with its validity. But the idea of timeless eternity is at best difficult to defend, is most certainly derived from Platonic and not biblical thought, and suffers from what Lewis himself charges against many non-Christian ideas; it is too simple. It is a boy’s approach to difficult problems. . . . Lewis’ view of time and eternity is one of the weakest links in his apologetic chain, and, unfortunately, it is one of the most important” (C. S. Lewis: Defender of the Faith. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1967).

(5) Thomas Aquinas, the greatest of Catholic theologians, sought to synthesize Greek philosophy and Christian Theology in his monumental work Summa Theologica. Wormwood here suggests that such synthesis deceived Thomas Aquinas theologically, and he warns Screwtape not to fall into the same “pit.”

(6) No doubt some will argue that, in other places in Lewis’ writings, he recognizes Divine judgement, finality of human actions, and Eternal accountability. The author does not deny that this fact. But the point is that Lewis’ view of time herein expressed is inconsistent with those views.

(7) Charles Williams, Lewis’ fellow Inkling whose writing and ideas Lewis greatly admired, also accepted this theory of time. But, apparently unlike Lewis, Williams did recognize the implications of this theory of God and Time. Williams logically (but erroneously) asserted that any soul at any time throughout human history--Past, Present or Future--could be saved by God because of His “eternal simultaneity with Time.” Williams fictionalizes this doctrine in his novel Descent into Hell when the principal heroine, Pauline Anstruther, experiences an anachronistic substitution and exchange with an ancestor martyred 350 years earlier. Williams also asserts the anachronistic salvation of the pagan poet Virgil in his poem "Taliessin on the Death of Virgil.”




Monday, November 12, 2012

Dear Screwtape, Chapter XIV: The Gospel of Self-as-Steam


Dear Reader,

You may read Chapter XIV of The Screwtape Letters here.




Dear Screwtape, Chapter XIV


My Dear Screwtape,

Let us congratulate ourselves on a stunning success. Except for our triumph in convincing humans that God and grace are neither holy nor free, no weapon formed, nor strategy conceived and executed, has prospered so fructiferously in this withering garden Earth than our attack upon humility. Genuine humility, which you properly define as that “self-forgetfulness” in which man turns his “attention away from self to Him, and to the man’s neighbours,” is truly a fading savoir faire. We have all but destroyed this hazardous technique of selflessness whereby defectors once moved among their fellows with an unconsciously elegant and graceful ease. In fact, I am pleased to announce that now we have inaugurated a new policy which the humans practice almost universally, and which even some true defectors have embraced as the Gospel itself: SELF-Esteem (in Hell we call it “SELF-as-Steam”).

We have propagated this new Gospel of SELF-as-Steam via the following means: theological perversion and psychological conversion. From a theological perspective, the Gospel of SELF-as-Steam was a natural step in the de-evolutionary regression from seminaries to cemeteries, pulpits to puppets, penitents to performers. The natural inclination of the human heart to want a religion which worships and serves the Creature more than the creator has been our most helpful ally in this degenerative process. Not only have we succeeded in sabotaging the foundations of those already weak religious edifices whose theology was historically anthropocentric, we have also inflicted significant damage upon those more granite-based theocentric religions which once so furiously and maliciously contended for SELF-denial, the antithesis of SELF-as-Steam and the essence of the Enemy’s recruitment policy. 

Millimeter by millimeter, we have slowly eroded the church’s foundation by a subtle and gradual shift in their thinking, hardly noticeable, so that now their minds have refocused almost completely. Oh, yes, the rhetoric of theocentricism still reverberates softly among the old cedar rafters of most cathedrals, but this is only a courteous echo of the past, now secondary to the more soft and persuasive tones of “practical theology,” which really means a theology primarily man-directed and man-concerned, the “how to” and “I can” approach. And nowhere has this shift been more noticeable than in the church’s transition from a theologian-centered to a therapist-centered religion. 

We have accomplished this theologian-to-therapist mutation by the theological shift I mentioned above. And there is here, my dear Uncle, an important concept about which the humans are much confused. Contrary to what those who think themselves competent to counsel might say, it is the church, not the home, which should be the humans’ first priority, for the church is the pillar and ground of truth, and is built upon the foundation of the apostles’ and prophets’ theology, which, in turn, becomes the foundation upon which rest both the home and heart. Don’t you remember the Enemy’s domestic plan for His commonwealth? Humans, He said, can build solid homes with the brick and mortar of hearing and doing His words; that is, a theological foundation undergirds the sociological superstructure of the home and the psychological superstructure of the heart. Remember this lesson, Screwtape, because it teaches us to be termites, not wasps and spiders, and to work from the bottom up and the inside out. After all, if the foundation be destroyed, what can the righteous do? But this is not to say that we should not wield our stingers or weave our webs.

To the contrary, our strategy to undermine the theology of the church has been enhanced by successful and repeated pillaging of the home and heart. We have buffeted these strongholds of the Enemy with perpetual blows such as divorce, drugs, and the affluence followed hard by greed and financial straits. This constant pummeling has introduced a kind of inferiority complex among many patients which, in turn, has brought them to a state of SELF-pity accompanied by mental and emotional stress and even despair. Therefore, deliverance from this psychological dilemma has become a central human concern, especially for those with a religious bent, and thus our signal to procure a myriad of false conversions.

This is a subtle move on our part, as it distorts the motive for which a patient searches for a religious solution to his problems; rather than deliverance from sin, the motivation for much modern religion is the deliverance of SELF from adversity, especially if it involves deliverance to some kind of prosperity. This, in turn, has created in the church a need for professionals who know how to focus upon the SELF, its modern burdens, and the latest medical prescription or psycho-therapeutic placebo for deliverance from these “evils”. Thus now we have a SELF-centered church, where the answers are found no longer with pastor-theologians but with psycho-therapists, and where “repentance” now means “recovery” and the Gospel of Self-as-Steam supplants the Gospel of self-denial. 

Congratulations!

Your affectionate nephew,

WORMWOOD

P.S. Oh, by the way, let us continue to influence pastors to spend their valuable time reading the latest books on counseling and psychology, and consuming hours and hours in counseling sessions, as opposed to the more difficult tasks of probing the mysteries of the Enemy in their studies, preparing messages instead of sermons, and praying for the spontaneous and radical conversion of their hearers (If pastors ever return to this out-of-date but dangerous technique, we could have serious problems).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Certifiableand Indisputable Election Results

"Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases." - Psalm 115:3

"By me kings reign." - Proverbs 8:15

"The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes." - Proverbs 21:1

"He removes kings and establishes kings." - Daniel 2:21

"His dominion is an everlasting dominion, And His kingdom endures from generation to generation.  And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, 'What hast Thou done?'" - Daniel 4:34-35

"Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me,  10 Declaring the end from the beginning And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.'" - Isaiah 46:9-10

"The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." - Revelation 11:15

"Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. " - Revelation 19:6

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dear Screwtape, XIII: "Fog or Cloud?"


Dear Reader, you may read chapter thirteen of The Screwtape Letters here.


My Dear Screwtape,

Really now! You cannot Babel Lies if you bumble Truth. Your stunned reaction to what you call our patient’s “second conversion” proves that you are yet a child in understanding. Now just what in Gehenna do you mean that my patient has undergone “a second conversion,” and what relation, if any, does this second conversion have to do with the “first conversion” thus implied? Only three possibilities exist: either the first conversion was not real and the second conversion is real; or the first conversion was real and the second so-called “conversion” was not a conversion at all but rather a manifest evidence of the Enemy’s deepening work growing out of a genuine and antecedent “first” conversion; or, let us hope, neither “conversion” is real but both are merely manifestations of that false repentance which springs from the natural operation of the human conscience. Let me explain. 

In your recent correspondence you spoke of a “whole vague cloud of half-conscious guilt” that shrouded our patient’s conscience, but now you speak of a second cloud, an “asphyxiating cloud which prevented our attacking the patient.” Dear uncle, let us, if we can, penetrate these clouds and blow away their obfuscation that you may see your purpose more clearly. Now, these two clouds either do or do not represent the same thing. If these two clouds are really one and the same cloud, then we may have nothing to worry about, for then these clouds are really just a moral fog, what I have already described for you as my patient’s “natural operation of conscience.” By this I mean that the “repentance” of which you speak may be only a quite normal psychological reaction a patient undergoes when guilt smites his conscience for some wrongdoing; this, then, is the good kind of repentance in which the patient attempts to rid himself of guilt through some remedy concocted by his own intellect and directed by his own will, or someone else’s. 

You see, in His original design, our Enemy wrote upon all human hearts His despicable Moral Code, and even in their fallen state, the humans possess an innate capacity to recognize the Enemy’s moral nature, their own fallenness away from His nature, and their worthiness of damnation; therefore, the humans are always going about performing what the Enemy calls “dead works,” attempting to sew fig leaves together in response to these inherent guilt mechanisms. Humans frequently call this “repentance,” though it is a mistaken counterfeit. This, we hope, is the “whole vague cloud of half-conscious guilt” that shrouded my patient’s conscience, and even perhaps the “asphyxiating cloud which prevented your attacking the patient.” If so, fear not; this cloud is greatly to our advantage, for it is really only a fog. 

If the idle mind is Our Father’s workshop, then the conscience is his hammer. We should use this hammer of conscience to smite the patient with self-interested guilt, thus intensifying the fog that shrouds his mind in self-conceived religious interest and moral impulse. We should beat our wings wildly to stir Gehenna’s smoke and surround the patient in all the foggy grey we can muster; then trust his fallen conscience to rationalize his own justification from evil with the rhetoric and liturgy of apostate religion. This creates the deception of a false conversion, which is really only a conscience-motivated “psychological release.” This is truly one of our best strategies, one we learned from a more recent tenant whom we call Siggy, and which we have successfully implemented toward the deception and damnation of many souls. It’s a modern version of our old “fowl-stone-thorn” technique that we used for centuries to steal away the Enemy’s seed or make it shallow or choke it with worldly cares.

But if either or both the first and second clouds was real, then we do have a problem on our claws. This cloud could be none other than the HANIKEHS, that same cloud which the Enemy put between our Egyptian allies and our Israeli foes at the Bloody Sea that proved impenetrable to our forces. Our strategy now should be to watch the fog for the slightest feathery slit and then to fly in swiftly at the first sign of black. But if no such incision appears, then it is indeed not a fog but a cloud, and I assure you that the breath of a thousand Hells fanned by Legion’s wings will not blow away that cloud. But let us prey for the worst.
            Your affectionate nephew,

            WORMWOOD

Monday, October 29, 2012

Dear Screwtape, XII: The Wandering,Wobbling Star




Dear Reader, you may read Chapter XII of The Screwtape Letters here.

My Dear Screwtape,

From Geology to Astrology, your metaphors are both consistent to your point and persistent in their erroneous conclusions. To the peaks and valleys of your “law of undulation” you now move to the astrological image of the patient as a fallen and wandering star, whose “change of direction in his course . . . is already carrying him out of his orbit around . . . the sun [the Enemy] . . . into the cold and dark of utmost space.” Now let us explore the accuracy of your metaphor.

I know you recall the beautiful but tragic story of our Lord Lucifer the Dawn Treader, how he merited the highest heaven, “full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” Girded with the majesty of heaven’s brightest light and earth’s most shimmering jewels, he pulsated with a radiance so lovely it outshone all - all but One, that is, the One who took from our lovely Lord Lucifer the title which rightly belonged to him, “Son of the Morning” or “Morning Star.” So, justifiably, our Lord Lucifer sought to take what was lawfully his, the highest place in Heaven, where he, its brightest star, should shine.

I know you also remember how the splendid trail of his magnificent glory encircled us in crimson flame as he ascended to the throne above the starry heights, and drew us into an adoring and loyal conspiracy with him against the Enemy. But, alas, the Enemy unleashed against us, his most resplendent creatures, that force which you say He does not use, His irresistibility, and thus overpowered our Lord Lucifer’s most sovereign will and cast him, and us, into the nether regions of outer darkness. Now all we have is “the unconquerable will, and study of revenge, immortal hate, and courage never to submit or yield.” So you see, my dear Uncle, it is we and our counterfeit defectors who have changed our orbits from around the Sun and wandered into the cold darkness and void of space. 

Screwtape, the true defector is no wandering star "to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever," but rather a constant orb fixed and immutable in its shimmering path. Once the Enemy names a new star (that is, deceives a new defector; I’m using your metaphor) and spins it in orbit around Himself, that star maintains its circuitous path eternally and shines “for ever and ever.” Therefore, you are mistaken in your idea that we can alter the orbit of a star whose path our Enemy has fixed in His Second Constellation. Oh, certainly, we can pummel such a star with our fiery meteors or cloud it momentarily from its Golden Axis, but to finally alter its course, we might as well try to extinguish the Sun, for to remove the Enemy’s grip from a single star we would first have to remove it from a single sparrow, and we know that not even a sparrow falls without Him, much less a star. So you see, my dear Uncle, you have deceived yourself again; the patients whose courses we may alter are not truly stars in our Enemy’s new heaven, but dying stars fallen from our own brazen and ancient sky; it is those whom we can knock from their already derailed and shaken orbits and pull them with us toward the Black Hole. I will try your strategy, but if my patient truly shines and spins in the Enemy’s galaxy, my efforts will be futile. Please, dear Uncle, would you be a little more thoughtful in your recommendations about how I burn up my time?

Your affectionate nephew,
WORMWOOD

Monday, October 22, 2012

Dear Screwtape, Chapter XI: Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy



Dear Reader, you can read Chapter XI of The Screwtape Letters here.

My Dear Screwtape,

Your division of laughter into four causes - Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy - this, indeed, is excellent and merits Hell’s applause. How perceptive you are to understand that Joy is inexplicable to us, as you say, like Music and Heaven, “a meaningless acceleration in the rhythm of celestial experience.” I also commend your definition of Fun as “a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct” which “can sometimes be used to divert humans from something else which the Enemy would like them to be feeling or doing.” But I think you somewhat overstate the danger that Fun “has wholly undesirable tendencies,” such as charity, courage, and contentment. Relax, dear Uncle, Fun seldom leads to such evils, as humans now are obsessed with Fun and consider it their primary reason for existence. And as for the Joke Proper, you note that “it is especially promising among the modern generation who take their ‘sense of humour’” most seriously; you call it an “all-consoling and . . . all-exciting grace of life” that functions as an invaluable “means of destroying shame.” Witness to this our media’s bombardment of humans with vulgar jokes and jokesters through sitcoms and late-night hellevision in which scatological and sexual humour gradually liberate our victims from the natural restraints of conscience and produce in them a delightfully savage regression to the primitive. Finally, how subtle you are to recognize Flippancy as perhaps “the best of all,” a “very economical” form of emotional delusion in which “any of them can be trained.” But, dear Uncle, more than a half century has passed since our original correspondence about this matter of laughter, and we have gained even more ground since then in our battle for control of human emotion, especially humour. Therefore, to your list I add two more causes of laughter, Cynicism and Ridicule, causes that now parallel and perhaps even predominate among post-modern humans, especially the young.

No matter what the dictionary says, we know that Cynicism and Ridicule evolve from a common source, the Bitterness sprung from Cruelty. How efficient we have been in the last fifty years to hatch Bitterness from Cruelty. Our most effective strategy has been to assail young children, especially through their parents. Certainly the external, corporeal techniques of cruel striking, cursing, and neglect have been fiendishly effective, but even more productive has been the internal, emotional technique we call the “split-slit.” The Enemy knows that the “one flesh” refers not only to the father-mother union, but also to the child. As we split the parents we also slit the child. A child’s natural reaction to this split-slit is always bitterness. This bitterness produces a psychological wound no child can heal by himself, so he tries to cope with parental cruelty through psychological placebos. One such placebo is a cynical view of life characterized by a sweetly diabolical laughter at the world and everything in it.

Cynicism and Ridicule also operate in our favour with regard to Hedonism, the all-consuming desire to gratify lust. What strides we have made here! No longer do we have to hide our darkest secrets; they are now in such full view that the youngest members of contemporary society fathom the darkest depths of depravity.  We have so desensitized most young people to the delicacies of Hell that they no longer blush and whisper at our most graphic displays. Frankly, humans have invented things not even Our Father Below has conceived and thus have accelerated their own destruction and made our task even easier. What a shrewd device we have concocted: over familiarity with Hell breeds boredom! As a result, how often upon the lips of young humans do we hear the phrase, “I’m bored,” which really means “I have seen everything, done everything, and been everywhere.” Hedonism accentuates Cynicism and Ridicule.

One caution before I close, though. You contrast real Joy with “the realism, dignity, and austerity of Hell.” But be admonished, Heaven too has its realism, dignity, and austerity, and I have heard a disturbing rumor that part of the Enemy’s future plan is to take a more laughless approach to the recovery of His church, so we must keep our patients laughing as much as possible through whatever means of entertainment we yet have at our disposal in the modern church, especially the witty preacher and the popular entertainer.

    Your affectionate nephew,

    WORMWOOD

Monday, October 15, 2012

Dear Screwtape X: The Puritan


Dear Reader, you can read The Screwtape Letters, chapter X, here.

My Dear Screwtape,

Alas, you make it increasingly difficult to continue. You underestimate Faith, you overestimate our own diabolic abilities, and then you exacerbate these errors by insisting that your superficial observations of fraudulent religion equate with Christianity. Screwtape, you are blind to truth because you are blind to error. If you would blind others to Truth, you yourself must see it clearly. Remember, we devils must also believe if we would deceive.

Nowhere is your blindness more evident than in your complete misunderstanding of the term “Puritanism.” Oh, I do admit your correct assertion that “the value we have given to that word is one of the really solid triumphs of the last hundred years.” And you are accurate to associate Puritanism with “warnings about Worldly Vanities, the Choice of Friends, the Value of Time . . . temperance, chastity, and the sobriety of life.” But although you correctly describe our present successful distortion of the term, most everything you have said about Puritanism betrays your ignorance of its original definition. I’m afraid you have deceived yourself again on this, another matter, because you base your understanding of the Puritans upon your own misunderstanding of their character.

Wake up, dear Uncle, and remember that we have successfully forced the public to focus upon a twisted perversion of Puritanism by misrepresenting its external qualities. For instance, when we remind our patients that the Puritans were “temperate,” they now believe that temperance means “prohibition,” or, in a broader sense, “legalism”; if we say that the Puritans practiced “chastity,” immediately our patients wince at this idea (the “A”theist Hawthorne and the Marxist Miller came to our aid here) and conceive the Puritans to have been prudish and priggish; if we remind our patients that the Puritans practiced “sobriety of Life,” they immediately conjure images of black-clad, scowling judges with hardened frowns who never look at others except to condemn them. We have done a smashing job here. No, my dear Uncle, it is not away from these external qualities of our brand of “Puritanism” that we should direct our patients, but toward them, especially toward the fraudulent facsimiles I have described. By thus directing our patients’ wills, we accomplish two things. First, we deceive those who would embrace this arrogant pseudo-Puritanism by attracting them to a religion of pious externals; secondly, we successfully alienate those who in turn reject this misrepresented Puritanism and thus protect them from the more sagacious and threatening tenets of Puritanism.

Ironically, your insistence that we combat our patients’ reason makes you almost an ally, not an enemy, of the Puritans, and, I warn you, this makes our Father Below very uneasy. Be advised, Screwtape, that the Puritans viewed Reason as fallen, and asserted that the only God whom Reason could not destroy is the God who destroys Reason. But this is the only place you agree with them. You see, the Puritans knew nothing of the bogus believers you describe, except to call them reprobates and apostates; nor did they know (except to call it heresy) of your idea of a grace which retained bad habits, or of the benefits of inattention to the Inner Life and the cultivation of spiritual duties, or of the glory and power of man’s free will. Theirs was no religion based upon your “law of undulation,” much less a religion which allowed its proponents to live, as you say a Defector can, “for quite long periods, two parallel lives.”

Your misconception of Puritanism derives from your failure to realize that their external qualities reflect the deepest intellectual, emotional, and spiritual contemplation our Enemy can generate in the human species. Such dangerous concepts as Predestination, Providence, Election, and Perseverance controlled the Puritans’ hearts and minds, and made them practically unassailable by any forces we could muster. Besides possessing almost impeccable ethics, real Puritans (or those like them) reshaped the whole continent of Europe, humiliated our Babylonian Whore, founded prominent universities, wrote magnificent poetry, invented integral calculus, and preached a God who actively exercised “the Irresistible and the Indisputable” qualities of our Enemy which, you claim, He holds in reserve.  The Puritans attributed their likeness to our Enemy’s image, not from the exercise of their will, but from the sovereign exercise of His will and the conquest and subsequent surrender of theirs. Their virtuous stench (a fragrance sweet and tender to our Enemy, not harsh and hard like our myth) caused our Father below to spew them out of his mouth. That is the kind of Puritan about whom we must be warned and against whom we must be on our guard.

Do not fear that the patients you describe will ever be lost to that brand of  Puritanism. Those patients remain trapped in moral externals and mundane conversations. But we must steer our course carefully here, Dear Uncle, for if our patients ever recover real Puritanism, we could experience a severe setback (the Enemy calls it revival). That would be most tragic since we have made it through more than two centuries without any serious threat to our deception.


    Your affectionate nephew,

    WORMWOOD

Monday, October 8, 2012

Dear Screwtape, Chapter IX: Troughs and Peaks



Dear Reader, you may read Chapter IX of The Screwtape Letters here.


My Dear Screwtape,

Although the topographical metaphor you have chosen to describe the effects of the law of undulation does not apply to true Defectors, it fits quite nicely with the current religious landscape. If I understand you correctly, you speculate that we can exploit our patients’ psychological and moral weaknesses at those times that they are in what you call the valley or “trough” of dullness and dryness. You say that when our patients are in this trough we should tease their sensual natures, particularly their predilection to sexual perversion, and probe their psychological vulnerabilities by making them depressed so that they think gloomy thoughts about their predicament in the trough and retreat to mere “wishful thinking” (modern professors call it “having a positive attitude”). Indeed, we have refined this strategy to delude our more naive patients with the notion that the real problems they face – spiritual battles, financial burdens, emotional crises, or physical suffering – are only momentary illusions that can be dissipated by the power of the mind as easily as a dream evaporates at morning. As for a direct attack upon our patients’ “faith,” you imagine that we can gradually chip away their religious persuasion and move them from the merely skeptical and dangerous idea, “I am losing interest in this,” to the more gullible and damaging idea, “This is false.”

Perhaps using the word “topographical” to describe your metaphor is a bit too chic, but when you use the words “peak” to describe our patients’ “up-times,” and “trough” to describe our patients’ “down” times,” I immediately visualize images of mountains and valleys. I must confess that those images make me shudder when I recall similar pictures in our Enemy’s Handbook. He often mentions peaks and troughs, though He calls them mountains and valleys, and has been known to exalt valleys and bring mountaintops low, making crooked things straight and turning dangerous troughs into triumphs and ominous peaks into pinnacles of conquest. My dear Screwtape, one of the Enemy’s old Apologists discussed long ago what you call the “trough” (I think you have your consonants confused; he called it “slough”), and I think he understood the law of Undulation somewhat more clearly than you. He described the trough as a miry bog in which the true Defector may wallow “for a time” but from which he afterwards emerges with the aid of One called Help. In fact, what you call “the law of Undulation” the Enemy calls “Pliability,” and says that the genuine Defector leaves this Pliability behind him in the miry muck as he moves toward his homeland. Keep in mind, my most diabolical Uncle, that it is the Enemy who burrows these troughs and sloughs to distinguish between true and false Defectors. The false ones stay down; the true ones get up and out, and there is nothing we can do about that. In fact, struggling from the troughs and sloughs only strengthens the true Defector. As for your strategy that our patients should be made to focus upon their troubles in the trough, I’m afraid that’s quite an impossibility in the case of the true Defector. When the Enemy knocks him down, He always leaves him face up. In such a posture, a horizontal trough is only a prelude to a vertical triumph. And as for chipping away at faith, oh, certainly, we may disfigure and even destroy the flinty-soft stone of religious profession; but when we strike the iron anvil of real faith, our flaming swords shatter into a million sparks that fade into fast oblivion.

Dear Uncle, I’m afraid the task is a little more difficult than you perceive. It’s one thing to attack those who embrace what you call “a moderated religion” but quite another to wrestle with a lion in sheep’s clothing.

    Your affectionate nephew,
    WORMWOOD

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dear Screwtape, Part VIII: The Law of Undulation

Dear blog readers, I have changed the on-line Screwtape Letters source to a more reader-friendly version; however, you will have to scroll down to Chapter VIII of TSL, which you can access here.

My Dear Screwtape,

Your theory of the “law of undulation” deserves special attention, for it certainly characterizes many in the Enemy’s camp today who identify themselves by His name but who truly align themselves with us. But let me be sure that I understand you correctly. By the “law of undulation” you mean a behavior of inconstancy, vacillation, unsteadfastness, and double-mindedness, or what you describe more specifically as a periodic “religious phase” in which the Christian experiences a sort of temporary “dying” to his religion; or, in other words, a “repeated return to a level from which [Christians] repeatedly fall back.” You trace this phenomenon to the origin of the human species; “amphibians” you call them, which denotes their twy-naturedness as physical and spiritual, temporal and eternal beings, a “revolting hybrid” who move in and out of Christianity like filthy frogs that move in and out of water. Because of their twy-naturedness, you conceive Christians to be in a kind of gravitational dilemma, a simultaneous double pull, now towards the earth and then towards heaven; you say that this pull splits our patients’ commitment to Christianity and, more importantly, fractures their affections. Moreover, you say, our patients never really overcome this double pull and therefore undulate continually throughout their lives on earth. You also ascribe this undulation to certain limitations that you imagine the Enemy imposes upon Himself, specifically, the Enemy’s refusal to exercise His Irresistibility and Indisputability that, if He were to exercise, would therefore enable Christians to overcome this law of undulation but, detrimental to His own integrity, would therefore interfere with our patients’ free will.

I quite agree with your defense of human freedom, as all Hell does, but it seems, my dear Screwtape, that you base your opinions about the law of undulation upon a number of false presuppositions which you derive from your observations of mere religionists and, thus, you have drawn false conclusions. First, you presuppose that, because you notice undulation (vacillation, double-mindedness, etc.) in many of our patients’ lives, you may therefore conclude that this quality truly characterizes the Enemy’s disciples; but doesn’t the Enemy Himself declare that such undulation disqualifies, not identifies, a disciple? Doesn’t our Enemy forbid His farmers to put their hands to their plows and look back, his soldiers to entangle themselves with the affairs of this world, and his sheep to follow the voice of strangers? In fact, does He not categorically condemn an on-going double-minded undulation in his disciples and command them to be “steadfast” and “immovable”? This is not to say that His ploughmen never stumble being weary, His soldiers never fall being wounded, or His sheep never wander from the fold; but it is to say that they make this stumbling, falling, and wandering no habit as you suggest, not a perennial “law of undulation.”

You also base your erroneous conclusion about undulation upon a second false presupposition - that the Enemy takes “away His hand” in order to cause our patients to “stand up on [their] own legs--to carry out from the will alone” their duties from which they have temporarily fallen away. Now, where did you ever get this idea, that the Enemy leaves His followers alone to their own legs and wills? That’s our strategy, not His! And despite your contention to the contrary, the Enemy does in fact override and even redirect the wills of His followers, not only in the immediate moment of their defection to Him, but also in subsequent instances when He “works in them both to will and to do His good pleasure.” His hand never leaves them, but consistently holds and controls their every movement. If they ascend to the highest heaven, if they make their beds in hell, if they fly at light speed on dawn’s wings to the deepest ocean’s farthest shore, even in these extremities, the Enemy’s hand, even His right hand, holds and controls them. How He does this without violation of their freedom is a mystery inexplicable, but it is everywhere attested in His Book of Lies, and in every way confounds our best theologians to explain, and defies our devices to oppose. Nothing makes us gnash our teeth more than when the Enemy invokes His Irresistibility and Indisputability.

Dear Screwtape, do not confuse a patient’s failing pursuit of the Ideal for an actual experience of the Real, and do not draw theological conclusions from the shaky grounds of empirical and circumstantial observation. Otherwise you will be deceived by your own deception. Please remember, the undulators are ours!

    Your affectionate nephew,

    WORMWOOD