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,


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