“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...)