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Screwtape Letter #10

<i>My Dear Wormwood,</i>
My Dear Wormwood,

(Editor’s note: These posts on the Screwtape Letters are the result of the high-school Sunday school class that my wife and I teach at Trinity Baptist church, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If any of this material would be useful to anyone for a similar purpose, please feel free to use it, modifying it in any way you feel necessary. If you have any suggestions, comments, or observations, I invite you to please post them here. These posts are comprised of study and preparation on my part before class, with discussion that occurred during the class being added afterwords. This is a work in progress, looking for any honest and sincere help you might offer.)

Vocabulary:
belittling: the act of making someone seem unimportant
vanity: pride in one’s own achievements
exploiting: to make full use of something
urbane: of a person being well refined, well mannered and courteous
mammon: riches, in the sense that it is regarded as an object of worship
bawdy: dealing with sexual matters in a comical way
blasphemy: speaking irreverently or without proper respect in matters relating to God.
priggish: self-righteous, moralistic, holier-than-thou

Lesson:

I was delighted to hear from Triptweeze that your patient has made some very desirable new acquaintances and that you seem to have used this event in a really promising manner.

Very desirable, indeed! Obviously Screwtape doesn’t have the patient’s best interest at heart in this opening statement to letter 10. In this letter we find some of the pitfalls of having non-Christian friends. How is a Christian suppose to navigate in this fallen world? We are told by our Lord to be salt and light (Matthew 5:14-16), and to go and make disciples (Matthew 28:19). We are also commanded to keep ourselves unstained by the world (James 1:27), and not to be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2). How can we have contact without contamination? After all, we are told that bad company corrupts good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33).

What we have here is a tight-rope act, a walking on the razor’s edge. If we truly love our neighbor as ourselves, then we should long to tell our fellow man about our God and Savior. So how do you befriend those lost whom you work with, go to school with, live next door to? In the course of class discussion, we looked at the following passages:

  • Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15, ESV). First of all, we need to be concerned primarily with what God thinks, not man.
  • Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God (Colossians 3:16, ESV). In this passage we learn that we must both study the Bible, so that it will dwell richly; and we must share it freely with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
  • But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:14,15, ESV). We must persevere in the faith, using God’s word to remind us of what we believe, the truth of the Gospel.
  • Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect (Romans 12:2, ESV). The battle is ever and always in the head and the heart. We must, by constant vigilance, strive to take every thought captive to obey Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5).
  • “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16, ESV). Our purpose while here on earth is to reflect the glory of God in our lives. This means living a careful life for Him, not because it saves us, but because we have been saved and redeemed from every lawless deed (Titus 2:14).

Other passages: 1 Timothy 4, 1 Corinthians 15, the Proverbs.

<i>Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape</i>
Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape
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February 9, 2007 Posted by | Sunday School | Leave a comment

Screwtape Letter #9

<i>My Dear Wormwood,</i>
My Dear Wormwood,

(Editor’s note: These posts on the Screwtape Letters are the result of the high-school Sunday school class that my wife and I teach at Trinity Baptist church, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If any of this material would be useful to anyone for a similar purpose, please feel free to use it, modifying it in any way you feel necessary. If you have any suggestions, comments, or observations, I invite you to please post them here. This is a work in progress, looking for any honest and sincere help you might offer.)

Vocabulary
exploited: to take full advantage of, but in an unfair, selfish way
innocuous: not harmful; perfectly harmless
drab: dull; lacking any quality to invoke interest
perversions: to alter something from its original meaning or use
concomitants: a phenomenon that naturally accompanies or follows something
anodyne: a pain-killing drug or medicine
expansive: free of speech, very willing to talk openly
redolent: strongly reminiscent or suggestive of something
ardours: enthusiasm or passion; (British spelling)
desponding: to become dejected and lose confidence
acquiesce: to accept something reluctantly but without protest
proposition: a statement or assertion that expresses a judgment or opinion
patronising: to treat someone with kindness, but with an obvious air of superiority
antithesis: a contrast or opposition between two things
adolescent: that age or development between a child and an adult

Lesson
Last week in letter eight, Screwtape explains and defines the law of undulation. As we look at letter nine today, Screwtape instructs his nephew on techniques to exploit the “Trough” periods that take place in this undulation of the human soul. He begins letter nine by declaring that these low times “provide excellent opportunity for all sensual temptations, particularly those of sex.“; the reasoning being that, first, his powers of resistance are low, and, secondly because his “whole inner world is drab and cold and empty.” This last reasoning implies that man feels that he has a right constantly to be entertained, constantly to be on an adventure. The problem runs much deeper, as we discover later in this letter.

Screwtape makes an interesting observation about human pleasures: “Never forget that when we are dealing with any pleasure in its healthy and normal and satisfying form, we, are, in a sense, on the Enemy’s ground.” Paul tells Timothy that God richly provides us with everything to enjoy (1 Timothy 6:17), and so we must realize that this world is not inherently evil. What makes it evil is what sinful mankind does with it, which is usually make the good things in the world to be our gods, which amounts to idolatry.

In addition to a lowered resistance during these low times, Screwtape points out several other avenues of exploitation. They all have their root in the reoccurring theme of keeping the patient from thinking too much: As always, the first step is to keep knowledge out of his mind. So it doesn’t matter, in the final sense if the low times lead you to despair, or to think that Christianity was just a phase you were going through, or to cause you to accept mediocrity as the norm for living the Christian life. The devil has won the battle from the very start if you fail to use your mind, and the means to grace that involve the mind, such as prayer and meditation and study on the word of God. As is the case in so many of these letters, their aim is to make us use our minds. That is what God’s word is for; to remind us of the promises of God (Acts 2:21, Hebrews 7:25), that He will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5, Matthew 28:20); of the commands of God, to love Him with all our hearts (Matthew 22:37); to see the story of redemption, especially the price that was paid for our great salvation (Hebrews 12:2, Philippians 2:5-11).

<i>Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape</i>
Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape

February 2, 2007 Posted by | Sunday School | Leave a comment

Screwtape Letter #8

<i>My Dear Wormwood,</i>
My Dear Wormwood,

(Editor’s note: These posts on the Screwtape Letters are the result of the high-school Sunday school class that my wife and I teach at Trinity Baptist church, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If any of this material would be useful to anyone for a similar purpose, please feel free to use it, modifying it in any way you feel necessary. If you have any suggestions, comments, or observations, I invite you to please post them here. This is a work in progress, looking for any honest and sincere help you might offer.)
Vocabulary:
hybrid: a thing made by combining two different elements; a mixture.
phenomenon: a fact or situation that is observed to exist or happen.
propaganda: information of a biased or misleading nature used to advance a point of view.
appalling: awful or terrible.
loathsome: causing hatred or disgust.
ignoble: not honorable in character or purpose.
incentives: a thing that motivates or encourages one to do something.

Lesson:
Has no one ever told you about the law of Undulation?” In this first of a twin-letter set, Screwtape defines and explains the law of Undulation to his young nephew, Wormwood. In letter nine, he will proceed to show Wormwood how to take advantage of this most curious phenomenon, “which“, he says here in letter eight, “will do us no good unless you make a good use of it.

Screwtape defines the law of Undulation in the following sentence: “As long as he lives on earth, periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty.” Isn’t this true of every one of us. This emotional roller coaster has many causes, most of which can be attributed to sin. Each of us crave all kinds of things most of the time, as James points out in James 4:1, 2. If we have to, we bite and devour to get what we want. When we cannot obtain what we crave, then we become dejected. Even if we do get what we sinfully crave, it fails to satisfy for any length of time, and that too brings us down. This is not a picture only of the lost, but of God’s people too. It is only by God’s graciously wooing us that we return to Him for full and lasting satisfaction and contentment.

The bulk of our class time was spent discussing ways Christians can minimize this “law of Undulation”, as Lewis puts it. Here are some of the Scripture passages around which the discussion revolved:

  • Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5, ESV)
  • Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2, ESV)
  • Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:1-4, ESV)
<i>Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape</i>
Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape

January 25, 2007 Posted by | Sunday School | Leave a comment

Screwtape Letter #7

<i>My Dear Wormwood,</i>
My Dear Wormwood,

Vocabulary:
dilemma: a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made
sceptic (skeptic): someone who doubts all that is standard and accepted.
Psychoanalysis: a system of psychological theory aimed to treat mental disorders by bringing the sub-conscience to the surface.
patriot: someone who vigorously supports and is willing to defend their country.
pacifist: someone who believes that any form of violence for any reason is unacceptable.
complacent: self satisfied.
coterie: a small exclusive group of people with shared interests.
faction: a small organized dissenting group within a larger group.
sect: a group of people with somewhat differing views from the larger group they are a part of.
temporal: relating to worldly rather than spiritual matters; having to do with time and space.

Lesson:

This week’s lesson from Screwtape letter #7 focuses on four questions, which were the basis for discussion:
1. What is the difference between forces and spirits? This opening paragraph to letter seven illustrates what the author points out in his preface, that there are two equal and opposite errors that we fall into. The first is that we do not believe in the devils, and the second is that we do and place too much interest in them. The Bible tells us that Satan and the demons are real. Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7, ESV)

2. What are the effects of divisiveness in the Church? Screwtape states that the “subordinate factions within [the Church] have often produced admirable results”. How do denominations, and even strife within denominations limit the effectiveness of the Church’s purpose on earth?

3. How should we view conscientious objection and the Just War theory? How should we approach military service, and armed conflict. This issue can be complicated, but God’s word can help us as we begin to sort out the issues behind the role of the military, and domestic law enforcement:
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For the same reason you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing. Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. (Romans 13:1-7, ESV)

4. What are the effects of combining other things with religion, or confusing other things as a part of, or vital to Christianity? Notice the next to last sentence: “the more “religious” . . . the more securely ours.”What effect does a diluted or absent gospel message have on the purpose of the Church? For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2, ESV) Also read Philippians chapter three.

<i>Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape</i>
Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape

January 17, 2007 Posted by | Sunday School | Leave a comment

Screwtape Letter #6


“My dear Wormwood,”

(Editor’s note: These posts on the Screwtape Letters are the result of the high-school Sunday school class that my wife and I teach at Trinity Baptist church, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If any of this material would be useful to anyone for a similar purpose, please feel free to use it, modifying it in any way you feel necessary. If you have any suggestions, comments, or observations, I invite you to please post them here. This is a work in progress, looking for any honest and sincere help you might offer.)

Vocabulary:
tribulation: great trouble or suffering
fortitude: courage in the presence of tribulation
hypothetical: something not necessarily true or real
periodicals: a magazine or newspaper published weekly or monthly
vindictive: having or showing a strong unreasoning desire for revenge
milksops: someone laking courage or decisiveness
benevolence: showing kindness or helping someone in need
circumference: the edge of or distance around something, usually a circle
pernicious: having a harmful effect in a gradual or subtle way
concentric: two or more circles, of different sizes with all sharing the same center

Lesson:
We turn again to issues of faith, fear, and doubt in letter 6 of The Screwtape Letters,which were begun in letter 5. We conclude the letter on the subject of loving one’s neighbors and enemies.

The use of the word cross in the first part of this letter employs a device known as allusion, in which a well-known literary or historical event, person, or object is used to draw comparisons or contrasts to something in the story. In this letter, Screwtape uses cross to refer to those things that make our lives uncomfortable, or worry us. In history, the cross was that instrument on which the Romans put Jesus to death. It was the electric chair, or the gallows of his day. Notice in Mark 8:34-36 that even before He was crucified on a cross, Jesus referred to his disciples taking up their crosses.
And he called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in return for his life? (Mark 8:34-37, ESV)
Note the different ways the word cross can be used, in Jesus’ execution, in Jesus’ teaching, in our common use every day. In this last usage we should be careful not to trivialize its meaning.
Fear of the present is no sin, but to fear the multitude of possible happenings off in the future is. Screwtape points out the fact that Wormwood needs to work on the patients forgetting the fact that all of his fears cannot possibly happen, since they are incompatible. Remember from last week’s lesson the verse emphasizing God’s concern for the well being of His children.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6, ESV)
Screwtape wraps up his letter to his nephew by giving him good advice concerning hatred. Hatred for the Germans, whom the British were presently at war with, was no real big deal, since they were mostly far away. Screwtape advises Wormwood to direct the patient’s malice toward those near to him, and his benevolence toward those who are far away. This brings to mind how Jesus responded to the lawyer in Luke 10:29, who asked “And who is my neighbor?” Jesus’ reply within the story of the good Samaritan basically was anybody whom you happen to come across is your neighbor, whether he be a family member, a close friend, or a dreaded foe.


“Your affectionate uncle, Screwtape”

January 6, 2007 Posted by | Sunday School | Leave a comment