C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (6) Escaping the Wiles of the Devil (last video)

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will posts as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

The Screwtape Letters Part 1 – The Background

The Screwtape Letters Part 2 – C. S. Lewis’s Concept of Hell

The Screwtape Letters Part 3 – Pride throughout the letters

The Screwtape Letters Part 4 – The Rationalization of Evil, Akrasia, or „The Lust of Deceit”

The Screwtape Letters Part 5 – The Lust of the Flesh

the-love-of-god-

Last Part 6 – Escaping the Wiles of the Devil

Dr. Root, C.S. Lewis scholar at Wheaton College, Illinois, in his last lecture gives some antidotes to Screwtape’s wiles and ways to avoid temptations and see more victory from the writing of C.S. Lewis in the Screwtape Letters. If you want to escape the wiles of the evil one, take the love that He has given you, and let that be the canvas on which you will paint the struggles of growing in courage and temperance and justice.

Screwtape’s overtures must be detected and overcome. How can this be done? Any study of C S Lewis’s Screwtape Letters must end with a word of hope and some positive advice, as to how we can become less and less susceptible to the wiles of the evil one. In Mere Christianity, C S Lewis said he thought pride was the great sin. And, certainly pride is one area, one thread on which several of the Screwtape Letters are held together. When Lewis says ‘pride is a great sin’ though, I would tend to take issue with him, unless he means by ‘great sin’, like the apex of a pyramid is the greatest point of a pyramid, I’m comfortable with what he’s claimed. Lewis wasn’t the only one who said pride was the greatest sin. Augustine, in his commentary on Psalm 19 says the same thing. And, many christians throughout time.

But, let me see if I can make a case. If, again, they mean pride is at the apex of a pyramid, it’s at the end of a process. We know that the apex of the pyramid is being supported by things far more substantive beneath the apex. But, let me explain what we discover as we go to the parts that are the more substantive of the pyramid, where something like pride would be the apex. I am not talking, too, of pride as pride in a job well done. I’m talking about that form of pride that manifests itself as a kind of pretense- making myself look better than I am. Deluding myself into thinking I am  better than I am, or wanting other people to buy into the delusion.

Could it not be that maybe pride is preceded by insecurity and fear. If you knew me as I am, you might reject me. So I try to make myself better than I am. If this is true, then the Bible is explicit about what would be beneath – fear and insecurity. 1 John 4:18 „perfect love casts out fear”. Now, you and I have never been loved perfectly by another human being before. Well meaning people have done the best they can, but we’ve still picked up mixed messages. So, consequently, if perfect love casts out fear, a corollary might be that imperfect love breeds anxiety. And, each of us, by the methods we picked up from others, have been at some level saddled with the burden of anxiety. Furthermore, it gets worst before it gets better. You and I have never loved anybody perfectly either. So people in our world, who have looked to us for love. Though we’ve done the best we know how, we’ve still saddled them with some burden of anxiety.

There’s only one person who knows you utterly and loves you completely, and that’s God. His love is non contingent, it’s not based any kind of performance on our part. When we fail, He loves us and forgives us. When He’s picked us up by His grace, His love nurtures us. His love is not increased by our performance, nor is it diminished by our failure. This is overwhelming. God knows us and loves us completely. That doesn’t mean He’s not disappointed at our failure. But His love is such that He remains with us. He’ll never leave us or forsake us.

Therefore, it would appear that the greatest sin, at the base of the pyramid is to reject the love of God, to be unwilling to accept the love of God in our lives.

Antidote – The love of God. 

Security in the love of God is a preventative, making us less susceptible to Screwtape’s temptation and offerings. Lewis writes an essay: First and Second Things. You put first things first, you get second things thrown in. You put second things first, you lose out on first and second things. For, who can eat, and who can enjoy life without Him? Screwtape provides false notions of the self and of the world. When we define ourselves by these falsehoods, we become susceptible by the things he suggests will fulfill us. We look for artificialities, rather than something substantive in God. God loves you. He knows you and He loves you. And, nothing will keep you safe from the evils of the wicked one more than the realization of God’s love for you and your loving response to Him. Trusting that He has your best welfare at stake, so you don’t start looking for it in other places. I think we need to define ourselves by how He sees us and He loves us. We are always having a great love story told to us, by the great lover of our souls, and we live most of our lives out of cognition. There are brief moments when we get it. He loves us and we’re overwhelmed. And then, we fall out of cognition as quickly as we fell into cognition.

In the heart of God, He offers us the best He can offer us- His love. And we, instead, vector off towards artificialities. The love of God keeps us secure. If you neglect God’s love, you will begin to drift away from Him and drift towards those artificialities that we use as a substitute for God. And once Screwtape could move towards these idols, these artificialities, he’ll start to have His way with us. We, withdrawing into ourselves  and becoming self-referential, we also look on others in a utilitarian way, which compounds our sense of isolation. We also increase our own sensitivities, becoming more easily hurt by the actions of others around us, while becoming less sensitive to the hurt others around us may be enduring because of us. Photo below via www.pastormattrichard.com

Growing in Virtue

There is something we can do in order to grow in grace as well

Growing in Virtue 2 Peter 1:1-11 and Lewis also writes about virtue in Mere Christianity. Virtue is an integrated hole. Virtue is a means to the good life. Virtue had facets, but they were all interdependent. – These things grow in response to our love for God. These are the offerings of our love back to God, in loving response. All these are habits, too, by the way.

  1. Courage is the habitual ability to suffer pain and hardship. It’s endurance, fortitude, it’s staying power. Courage is the ability to say „Yes” to right action, even in the teeth of pain. Our own moral development will not progress if we don’t have this endurance. When the temptation comes we endure. When we run the risk of vectoring we need to endure in our loving response to God. We need to lather up again in God’s love for us, that we might triumph over some of these other things. 
  2. Temperance, on the other hand is the habitual ability to resist the enticement of immediate pleasure, in order to gain the more remote good. If courage is the ability to say „yes” in the right action even in the teeth of pain, temperance is the ability to say „no” to wrong action even in the jaws of pleasure. And we can do that most readily, when we’re most satisfied in our relationship with God. If you find yourself caving in because you’re intemperate, let the red light go on the dashboard of your life- God loves you, He forgives you… when the red light goes on, go to Him in your intemperance and receive from Him His grace, that you might reinsert yourself in the world. Temperance is a mark of maturity. When my children were little, they weren’t born temperate. When they were little, they would have been willing to sell their souls for sweets. They were easy marks for Screwtape whenever he came. If you want to escape the wiles of the evil one, take the love that He has given you, and let that be the canvas on which you will paint the struggles of growing in courage and temperance and justice.
  3. Justice is the habit of being law abiding and concerned with the common good and general welfare of ones society. Justice recognizes that my own moral development is interlinked with my responsibility to you. Justice seeks to secure and protect natural rights, to be fair and render to others their due. If I am engages in self-referential ways that treat you in a utilitarian way, my own character is diminished, and as a human being I am not enjoying life to the fullest. Justice testifies to the fact that character and development is connected to one’s responsibility to another. One’s moral development is linked to practicing fairness and showing genuine concern  for the welfare of others.
  4. Wisdom. Lastly, wisdom is the habit  being careful about decisions one makes. It seeks counsel and advice. Wisdom is the perspective of the scaffold, it’s the perspective of God’s word, it’s the perspective of friends who bring to us insight that we wouldn’t have, if we were operating individually, or self-referentially. We need this wisdom.

The thing that keeps us moving in the realm of virtue and spiritual maturity is when it’s all built on the foundation of God’s love. God’s love is the antidote to the wiles of the evil one. Three weeks before C S Lewis died, an American girl wrote him a letter, and she had read the Narnian chronicles, and Lewis was on his deathbed, virtually. Nobody would have faulted him if he wouldn’t have wrote this girl back. But, he writes her a letter, this great christian leader, not struggle free in his life, but a struggler who learned the art of living through his struggles. He learned about the grace of God and the love of God. And Lewis writes this girl, as he’s on the threshold of eternity, to an 11 year old American girl on the threshold of her earthly experience, and he says to her, „If you continue to love Jesus, nothing much will go wrong with you. And I pray you may always do so.” It’s still great advice.

C. S. Lewis – The Screwtape Letters (5) The Sins of the Flesh

Taken from the C.S. Lewis Study Program ‘The Screwtape Letters’ a six-part video study guide of one of the most popular and profound works of C.S. Lewis. By Dr. Jerry Root – noted C.S. Lewis scholar and faculty member at Wheaton College. CSLewisInstitute

The Screwtape Letters is a satirical Christian apologetic novel written in epistolary style by C. S. Lewis, first published in book form in February 1942. The story takes the form of a series of letters from a senior Demon Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, a Junior Tempter. The uncle’s mentorship pertains to the nephew’s responsibility for securing the damnation of a British man known only as „the Patient”. The Screwtape Letters comprises thirty-one letters written by a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, a younger and less experienced demon, who is charged with lewis holy trinity churchguiding a man toward „Our Father Below” (Devil / Satan) and away from „the Enemy” (God). (Read more, including the plot of the book at Wikipedia)

Here are the six parts Dr. Root covers in 4 separate videos (which I will posts as soon as they each become available):

  1. Background
  2. Doctrine of Hell
  3. Three major themes that run through these letters
  4. Antidote to Screwtape’s wiles and what Lewis might say about how we might protect ourselves against various forms of temptation.

The Screwtape Letters Part 1 – The Background

The Screwtape Letters Part 2 – C. S. Lewis’s Concept of Hell

The Screwtape Letters Part 3 – Pride throughout the letters

The Screwtape Letters Part 4 – The Rationalization of Evil, Akrasia, or „The Lust of Deceit”

Part 5 –  The Sins of the Flesh

Screwtape, when he writes, especially about the sins of the flesh, and fleshly desire, he writes this in Letter 19, and it’s his key concept to the desires of the flesh. He writes: Separate your patient’s sexuality from all that might humanize him. To humanize the desire is not to deny the desire, but to allow love and justice to guide and direct it. That place where we begin to respect  the humanity of the other person, not be self-referential and utilitarian, using other people for our own ends. Screwtape writes in Letter 7: Once you’ve made the world an end of faith and means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. So we see that Screwtape seeks to hold the patient in a state of confusion over real pleasure. And, artificiality, or the corruption of pleasure.

In letter 9, we are informed that the devil cannot produce pleasures. Screwtape says, „All we can do is to encourage humans to take pleasures which our enemy has produced at times, or in ways, or in degrees He has forbidden. Hence, we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure, to that which is least natural, least redolent of its maker, and least pleasurable. An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula. Screwtape tells Wormwood, „Exploit the troth. Undulation – we have these up and down periods in our life. He says, „Exploit the troth, exploit the down time.” In other words, help your patient move towards pleasure, that is a kind of anesthetizing behavior.

All of us are wounded. Not necessarily all of us are broken. Brokenness is an awareness of our wound, and how it affects us at some level. And, our tendency, because of our woundedness, rather than bringing it to Jesus, to begin the process of healing us, we will gravitate towards anesthetizing behaviors. These behaviors are things like drug addiction, alcohol addictions, eating disorders, sexual addiction, workaholism. Usually, these anesthetizing behaviors get us by, they don’t get us better. And, usually, as time comes, we pick up some convictions along the way, and the anesthetizing behaviors that got us by from our youth, these anesthetizing behaviors begin to operate in contrast to our convictions.

Romans 7 15 For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. Who will set me free form these things? Paul says Christ will. Why is it that we keep going back to these things, even though they are contrary to our convictions? I would like to suggest to you that: Our wounds are deeper than our convictions. And, if we’re not finding the grace of God healing us in the places of our life, especially in the troth period, we become particularly susceptible to the sins of the flesh, and Screwtape has his way on us. (10:22)

What is the antidote to lust? It’s reality. To see another person as she or he really is. That is why Screwtape says, „Separate his sexuality from all that might humanize it. Separate it from reality. Separate it from virtue, as a means to pleasure, and lead them towards vice and unrestrained expression that doesn’t take into account the humanity of another person.” In Letter 13 Screwtape warns Wormwood not to allow his patient to experience real pleasure. The characteristic of pains and pleasure, he writes, is that they are unmistakably real, and therefore, as far as they go, give the man who feels them a touchstone of reality. He writes, „How could you have failed to see that a real pleasure  is the last thing you ought to have him meet?” Because a real pleasure would see things as they are, not as he would have them be. In an experiment in criticism, Lewis said: In coming to understand anything, we must accept the facts as they are, not as they are for us.

In Letter 17, he talks about the glutton of delicacy, and we talked about that under pride. But, Lewis finishes his discussion of the gluttony of delicacy by talking about this woman, who talks about- „All I want” state of mind. I want it like this, I want it like that”. She has in her mind what she wants. He says at the end of that particular statement: She doesn’t mind what she eats herself, but does like to have things nice for her boy. In fact, of course, her greed has been one of the chief  sources of the boy’s domestic discomfort for many years. She thinks she’s doing right by the boy, but she’s projecting on the boy what she wants the boy to be like, rather than being concerned to let the boy be what he ought to be. (18:00)

In Letter 20 we see Screwtape say this to Wormwood, „The goal is to produce in every age, a general misdirection of what may be called sexual taste.. (Here, sexual taste is the abuse of another person for my own ends, but, it’s an abuse of another person in a particular way). This they do, by working through the small circle of popular artists, dressmakers, actresses, and advertisers, who determine the fashionable type. As a result, we are more and more directing the desires of men towards something that does not exist, making the role of the ‘I’ in sexuality more and more important. At the same time, making it’s demands more and more impossible.

The use of undulation is a seedbed for temptation. In Letter #8, Screwtape invites Wormwood to exploit troth times. In Letter 25, we see this: There’s the horror of the same old thing. The lust then for novelty. You can’t get a person, then, to be satisfied in their present state, they have to lust for something that’s beyond what’s in their own pasture, or their own world. The God who is immutable created the immutability of time. He even entered it himself. He gives His creatures a love of permanence, as well as a love of change or variety. God seeks to gratify both of these loves via the rhythms of life. To overindulge one side of the permanence-variety struggle is to neglect the other, to play to eternity, while failing at temporal responsibility. This is gnostic. So to, to play to time, while failing at the eternal responsibility, this is damnable. The antidote to the excesses of change is permanence. Permanence is to discover the light in the particular.

Screwtape seeks to exaggerate the pleasures of either, to make an end of it. He seeks to destroy balance, and the struggle to bring about balance. And this results in diminished pleasure and increased desire. So, the pleasure of novelty is subject to the law of diminishing returns. This leads to the susceptibility to fashion or vogues, and so on. Screwtape’s goal is mainly to produce that nonsense in the intellect, which reinforces corruption in the will. Screwtape tells Wormwood, „We want cattle who can finally become food, but God wants servants who can finally become sons. We want to suck in, He wants to give out. Screwtape will try to make man in his image, where as God will remake us in the image of His Son. All choice moves us one way or another, towards a miserific vision, or the beatific vision.

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