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Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Wormwood Letters: A Crash Course in Screwtapery

My dear Snagheel,

It is my deliciously nefarious privilege to offer you the following summary of the strategies that have been used most effectively by your fellow tempters in this present age, two thousand years since our Enemy walked the earth in human form. I learned many of these basic principles from Screwtape, my ingenious tutor, but I have updated and added to them for your benefit. When my time-consuming current assignment in Philadelphia has ended, I will endeavor to compose for you a more complete handbook of letters, to assist you in your significant, if not happy, business.

To begin with a time-honored method: Prompt your human subjects to suppose that we do not exist. Build upon the helpful groundwork laid by the scientific empiricism of the modern age, and capitalize on the tendencies of their own hearts to think that nothing exists but what they can see, touch, or experience emotionally.

If they do believe we are real, trick them into thinking we are grotesque, slobbering monsters, rather than sly and subtle tempters. If they should discover that our master appears as an angel of light, for instance, they may become far too skeptical and discerning for their own good.

Entice them to forget that we are at war with the Enemy and with their own souls. Our most powerful weapons in this regard are the various entertainment media, of course. If you can get them to absorb large amounts of the television, movies, music, and netfare we inspire, you will most likely succeed on that count alone. And you will most certainly be successful if you can get them to do this mindlessly, without recognizing the subtle and not-so-subtle temptations and lies imbedded in their "fun."

If they do recognize the reality of spiritual warfare, try to divert them into perverse variations and additions to what the Enemy has enjoined upon them in his loathsome Book. Encourage them to think they should talk to us, "bind" us, "cast us out," or resort to ritualistic prayer formulas. You will find, if given the enviable opportunity, that there are few enjoyments greater than willfully suspending your influence on a human subject when a well-meaning friend "binds you" or "casts you out." This amusing frolic leaves the friend thinking he has power over us, while the subject has been "delivered" by some other means than his own repentance.

Remember the power of "little sins" like pride, gossip, laziness, and judgmentalism. As Screwtape so elegantly instructed me, time and again, the usefulness of these lies in the fact that a subject's life can be utterly filled with them, while he continues to be esteemed by others and think of himself as a godly man.

If the hairless apes do become agitated at their own sins, quickly offer them alternate explanations for why they have done wrong. Do not allow them to accept personal responsibility for their crimes against the Enemy, because from there they may stagger closer to his cross (which is the last place we want them to go). Toward this end, you can supply them with numerous excuses, drawn from the infinite well of modern psychological theory.

If those excuses fail for some reason, and they look toward religion for absolution and forgiveness, encourage them in this pursuit. But, as I already said and will say a thousand more times, keep them away from the cross at all costs. Non-Christian religions are ideal, most forms of Christianity are acceptable, and even evangelical Christianity will pose no problem as long as they think the Enemy is saving and forgiving them because of something that they do, and not because of his free, undeserved grace. We have made great inroads into the once formidable evangelical church by suggesting that making a "decision" or saying a prayer somehow moves the Enemy to bestow his grace. We have so successfully obscured the meaning of the word faith that even many of his captains are misusing it. I shall write more of this glorious victory in the future, but for now it suffices to say that any way of "salvation" that bypasses the cross, even slightly, is highly desirable. Like the pilgrim in that infamous and repulsive old book by John Bunyan, your subjects will most surely lose their burdens of sin and guilt if they are allowed to hear and understand what Jesus was doing on that most despised of all days. We have lost far too many promising subjects when the Spirit of the Enemy has made use of such learning, turning them away from all self-reliance and turning their hearts toward him in trust and love.

Finally, Snagheel, permit me to summarize my summary by saying that your goal should be to turn their attention away from the person of Jesus Christ, by any means available. Tempt them to focus on themselves and the world around them, or even on doctrines about Christ, benevolence in his name, or other things that are not bad in themselves. Though they might be "good" things, they fortunately can become "bad" when they distract from the one at his right hand. When such distractions fail, and the humans take the time to sit at their Savior's feet, he invariably demonstrates a frustrating ability to win their hearts completely. He becomes so awe-inspiring and beautiful to them that they willfully and cheerfully become his servants forever. Then for us, all hope is lost.

Affectionately yours,

Your uncle WORMWOOD

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Wormwood Letters: Introduction

“I have no intention of explaining how the correspondence which I now offer to the public fell into my hands,” wrote C.S. Lewis in the preface to his 1961 collection of “positively diabolical” advice from one devil to another (which he entitled The Screwtape Letters). The four additional letters I am about to publish on my blog were crafted by Screwtape’s nephew Wormwood to one of his lowerlings, and have an equally mysterious origin, considering the fact that Wormwood was on the verge of being “eaten” at the end of The Screwtape Letters! But apparently the young apprentice survived (unless this is all a trick), and has left us his own legacy of bad counsel.

As you read these missives in the coming days, you will notice that most of Wormwood’s strategies are centered on the communication and proliferation of ungodly ideas. For the most part, as a careful study of Scripture bears out, the demonic forces of evil spend much more time spreading doctrinal and philosophical lies than they do in personal, experiential temptations. For instance, we are much more likely to find demons plotting a new twist on an old heresy or influencing the media to make sin attractive than we are to find them soliciting an individual to believe that particular lie or to indulge in that particular sin. This is because the devils know that within man himself lies the capability of the greatest evils; as Jesus said in Mark 7:21-23: "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man."

Satan and his minions do not need to create evil inside us, nor do they even have to directly produce experiences that can mislead us. Sinful tendencies and desires lie deep inside of all of us, as does the psychological capability to manufacture “spiritual” experiences which we believe to be “from God.” And though the demons may sometimes act directly upon us (with God’s permission), it is only necessary for them to create an environment in which we will be tempted. In other words, they don’t somehow force us to fall—they simply provide the opportunity, and we fall just fine by ourselves. By our very nature we are attracted to their false ideas, and to the opportunities to sin which they present.

The first temptation recorded in Genesis 3:1-6, in fact, reveals much about the essential character of Satan’s activity. Notice that he took basically two approaches to Eve: he made sin seem attractive to her, and he also presented to her ideas that were contrary to the revelation of God. And this is what the enemies of God are still doing today, but with even more success now that we are fallen and sinful in our nature.

Finally, before you read the following entries, I must warn you that Wormwood does not write as well, nor is he as clever, as his uncle Screwtape was in his letters. Wormwood is also not nearly as creative, because his mentor innovated the practice of writing letters to junior tempters, while he is merely imitating it. Though this may unfortunately result in duller reading, for which I apologize, it may actually be a good sign for the forces of good. Perhaps as time goes on, our enemies are becoming less proficient at their schemes, and so in the end the Lord may win many more than He loses…

(Watch this blog in the coming days for Wormwood's "positively diabolical" advice about the Bible, the Reformation, women's roles, and more...)