Screwtape Letters Part 6: Repost

UPDATE: This is a repost (with certain edits/improvements) of my most popular blog series in honor of the 50th anniversary of C.S. Lewis’ death.

Click here to get your copy of the 50th anniversary annotated edition.

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screwtape-logo.0Chapter 7

All extremes except extreme devotion to the Enemy [God] are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep.

In this excerpt, Uncle Screwtape is teaching his nephew the art of discerning the times. What he wants Wormwood to understand is that at times it is better to direct the Christian’s attention toward absolute devotion to a cause, even a “good” cause, rather than toward God.

My observation is that usually in the beginning, the cause is justifiable because it generally fits within the framework of being a “biblical responsibility.” For example, many times I have seen Christian men become so engaged in their jobs that they eventually lose both their spiritual life and their families because of chronic absenteeism at home. They presumably devoted themselves to their job in order to fulfill their biblical responsibility of providing for their family (1 Timothy 5:8), but their devotion to their job became increasingly larger than their devotion to their family, or to God. The demands of the job grew to the point that there was no time to pray or meditate on Scripture, or spend time with the family. Next thing you know, the husband/father is hardly ever home and is trying to fill his absence with stuff. Of course, it takes more money to buy more stuff and more time on the job(s) to make more money. And the cycle starts spinning out of control.

Sadly, many pastors fall prey to this, putting their devotion to “ministry” above their devotion to God. The results of this are staggering: no prayer, no meditation, no spiritual life, and no joy – only rigorous, legalistic efforts at ministry. Unfortunately, the examples of extreme devotion to a cause being destructive to a devotion to God are legion and are not limited to dads or pastors. I’m sure that anyone reading this can think of several examples of their own. Beware, lest we too fall prey to extreme devotion to something other than God!

The second point that Uncle Screwtape makes about discerning the times is that of mediocrity. In other words, if a Christian is lukewarm about his devotion to God there is no need to spark his devotion to become extreme toward another target. From a demon’s perspective, it is sometimes better to “let a sleeping dog lie.” The dysfunctional state of popular Christianity is, I think, the result of the Wormwood & Sons of the underworld simply allowing lukewarm Christians to continue in their slumber. The Apostle John gives us a warning of the danger of staying comfortably lukewarm:

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: The Amen, the faithful and true witness, the Beginning of the creation of God, says this: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see.

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. He who overcomes, I ill grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ (Revelation 3:14-22 NASB)”

To be continued . . .

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