A few months ago I did a teaching session for another church on evil and suffering. One of my convictions was that we need a clearer grasp of how Satan works. It is much easier to resist Satan when we spot what he is doing. And when we fail to spot him at work, we are likely to accept his lies as our own rational thinking- or worse, the mind of God. So I’ve planned for a while to write up some of my reflections from this teaching session in a blog. However, after teaching on evil I read the Screwtape Letters (good planning I know- it might have been better to do that the other way round…). As I have written in the last couple of blogs- it is a great read. It isn’t, though, a tight summary of Scriptural teaching on Satan’s work- his role in accusing Christians (Zechariah 3; Revelation 12) or snatching the word away (Luke 8) for instance. So here is my rash, mad and foolish attempt to write up some of my biblical teaching on evil in the form of a Screwtape letter. My debt to Lewis will be very obvious.
My dear Wormwood,
I am glad to hear that you have got your patient so discouraged in his faith. That is excellent and makes him far less of a danger to our cause. When he is weary and feeling himself distant from our Enemy, there is much less likelihood of him talking to others and recruiting them to his side. Indeed you might even get him to give up completely.
The one vital necessity to keep him in his despairing state is for you to stay hidden. It is self effacing work that we do for the moment but don’t worry about that. We have plenty of time to show ourselves to our victims once we get them down here. For the moment we choose to work in secret. That has huge potential when it comes to your patient. You should be able to convince him that the discouragement in his mind is all down to him. If you handle this really well, you can make it even worse for him- by sending all his thoughts inwards so he despairs even over his discouragement. It is always amusing to watch this “vicious circle”, as they term it, kick in.
One of the reasons for our success is that, even when these foolish humans do glimpse us, they expect us to be consistent. I am sure that at your training school they must have taught you the “180 degree turn.” It is a great way of keeping your man discouraged. It is the most brilliant manoeuvre. You start the ball rolling just as our Father did with that first woman. Ply him with a temptation- greed, anger or lust- I’m sure you must know by now which one works best with him. It is vital though that you accompany it with one of our little “truths”- that it really doesn’t matter if he gives in because our Enemy will accept him back because of his Son’s accursed death. That normally does the trick. Once you have got that into his head he is much more likely to give way. And when he does, that is when you leap the other way. It is such fun to do it. You can then accuse him. You tell him that there is no way the Enemy loves his now, that he should be ashamed, that he can’t pray and that he must lie in despair. Do it with subtlety and he will never notice that this is the complete opposite to the truth that was in his head just a moment before. And- because he hasn’t spotted you- he may think this is the Enemy condemning him.
Be warned- there will be a battle at this point. One of the great tricks of our Enemy is to put his own Spirit in the man. That is such a nuisance because it means we can only get at him from the outside. And I know what that Spirit does at the moment. Like us that Spirit will point out the way the man has broken the Enemy’s commands. But annoyingly the Spirit will then urge the man to go back to Him, to mention the Son’s death and to seek to repent- whereas those are the last things we want the man to do. You must do your best to run as much interference on this Spirit’s voice as possible. In closing- let me explain the best way to do that.
It seems that your patient is still attending church and occasionally reading our Enemy’s book. That’s a shame. Our success is much greater when these people choose to insulate themselves from any way of hearing the Enemy’s voice. But all is not lost if they do. The key is to take that Word away as soon as they hear it so that it doesn’t lodge in their mind and change them. Actually our Enemy told people that during those awful years when he roamed the earth but they don’t really pay much attention to that. There are all sorts of ways of doing it. Distraction is normally the best. If they are at church, get them irritated with some little thing and the enemy’s word will have disappeared right away. Sometimes their preachers can help us by telling stories that have nothing to do with the word and people remember them instead. And you’ll find it is much easier in England. They find it socially uncomfortable to have conversations about what they have learnt after their services so you should be able to get them to talk about all sorts of stuff that will mean the word will happily fly away. Above all, though, make sure they don’t come back to the Word later in the week to remember what they were supposed to learn- that’s deadly for us. The Enemy gets a good crop when that happens- ugh!
For the moment, keep going. It seems like you have perfected the 180 degree turn and have got your man believing that he is condemned. Just make sure you do your job and that you keep your success going by ensuring he doesn’t take to heart our Enemy’s words. After all- unlike our Enemy- we don’t tolerate failures here.
I must go. You may have noticed that in these days plenty of their churches are moving with the times and have altered what they have taught for nearly two thousand years. That is giving me plenty of opportunity in devouring and so is keeping me tremendously busy.
For the moment I am your affectionate uncle,