Yesterday in my sermon, I mentioned C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity. I also discussed that verse in James 4 about rebuking the devil. Well, put those two together what do you get? You get another C.S. Lewis classic, The Screwtape Letters. This is a most unique collections of letters from a senior demon named Screwtape to his nephew, Wormwood, offering advice on how to tempt an English gentleman identified only as “the patient.” God is referred to throughout as “The Enemy”. The devil is “Our Father Below.” Here’s just a sample of Lewis’ biting wit and profound understanding of human nature that comes through in this delightful little book.
My Dear Wormword,
I note with grave displeasure that your patient has become a Christian. Do not indulge the hope that you will escape the usual penalties, indeed, in your better moments, I trust you would hardly even wish to do so. In the meantime, we must make the best of the situation. There is no need to despair, hundreds of these adult converts have been reclaimed after a brief sojourn in the Enemy’s camp and are now with us. All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily are still is our favor.
One of our great allies at present is the Church itself. Do not misunderstand me. I do not mean the Church as we see her spread out throughout all time and space and rooted in eternity, terrible as an army with banners. That, I confess is a spectacle which makes our boldest tempters uneasy. But fortunately it is quite invisible to these humans. . . . Your patient, thanks to Our Father Below is a fool. [When he goes inside church], he gets to his pew and looks around him . . . Provided that any of these neighbours sing out of tune, or have shoes that squeak, or double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will quite easily believe that their religion must therefore be somehow ridiculous.
Work hard, then, on the disappointment or anticlimax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman. The Enemy allows this disappointment to occur on the threshold of every human endeavor. It occurs when a boy who has been enchanted in the nursery by Stories from the Odyssey buckles down to really learning Greek. It occurs when lovers have got married and begin the real task of learning to live together. In every department of life it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing.
[The patient] still believes he has run up a very favourable credit balance in the Enemy’s ledger by allowing himself to be converted, and thinks he is showing great humility and condescension in going to church with these “smug” commonplace neighbours at all. Keep him in that state of mind as long as you can.
Your affectionate uncle,
I’ll close with this from Martin Luther: “The best way to drive out the devil, if he will not yield to texts of Scripture, is to jeer and flout him, for he cannot bear scorn.”