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