983) Advice From the Devil

One of the great Christian classics of the 20th century is The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis (1942).  Published over seventy years ago, it continues to sell well and has even been turned into an off-Broadway play.  The book consists of thirty-one letters from a veteran demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, Wormwood, on learning the art of temptation.  Screwtape is trying to help Wormwood who has been given the task of securing the damnation of a British man referred to as “the Patient.”  Everything is written from the perspective of hell, so the “Enemy” is God, and the devil is referred to in the letters as “Our Father.”  Many Christian theological issues are addressed in this creative format, primarily focusing on temptation and resistance to it.  In the brief sample below, Screwtape instructs Wormwood in the art of twisting “the Enemy’s” good gift of pleasure into an opportunity for sin.

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     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.  I know we have won many a soul through pleasure.  All the same, it is His invention, not ours.  He made the pleasures; all our research so far has not enabled us to produce one.  All we can do is to encourage the humans to take the pleasures which our Enemy has produced, at times, or in ways, or in degrees, which He has forbidden.  Hence we always try to work away from the natural condition of any pleasure to that in which it is least natural, least redolent of its Maker, and least pleasurable.  An ever increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.  It is more certain; and it’s better style.  To get the man’s soul and give him nothing in return—that is what really gladdens Our Father’s heart.

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James 1:17  —  Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

I Peter 5:8-9  —  Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.  Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Ephesians 6:10-12  —  Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

I Corinthians 10:12-13  —  So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind.  And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

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O heavenly Father, subdue in me whatever is contrary to your will and command.  Grant that I may ever know your will, so that I may know how to please you.  Grant, O God, that I may never yield to those temptations which, in my prayers, I desire to avoid.  Lord, never permit my trials to be above my strength.  Amen.

–Thomas Wilson, Anglican Bishop  (1663-1755)

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