Presentation on theme: "THURDAY MORNING STUDY GROUP FAITH AND LIFE SECTION I: SELECTED WRITINGS OF C. S. LEWIS FACILITATORS: JOHN SCRUGGS AND ART SAUER SEPTEMBER 25, 2014."— Presentation transcript:
THURDAY MORNING STUDY GROUP FAITH AND LIFE SECTION I: SELECTED WRITINGS OF C. S. LEWIS FACILITATORS: JOHN SCRUGGS AND ART SAUER SEPTEMBER 25, 2014
SEPTEMBER 25, 2014 TODAY’S AGENDA Opening Prayer: The Screwtape Letters Preface Summary Key Themes Selected Letters Discussion Questions
DIABOLICAL VENTRILOQUISM Screwtape the Senior Devil instructing Wormwood his junior Idea developed from listening to Adolph Hitler Twisting reality and truth into something false “Teaching in reverse” ultimately described as Diabolical Ventriloquism Lewis vowed never to write another
PREFACE: THE EXISTENCE OF SATAN Satan a real creature rather than a Biblical metaphor for evil Lewis “My religion would not be in ruins if this opinion were shown to be false.” Whether purely allegorical or a more literal description of the activities of devil-tempters, the value of the observations on human nature, worldly temptations and challenges to the Christian faith remain.
PREFACE: THE EXISTENCE OF SATAN Two traps about Satan and his demons: Ignore or deny their existence – just a metaphor for evil Focus on them to much (magicians and spiritualism) Lewis says Satan “hails a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
PREFACE: THE EXISTENCE OF SATAN Letter #7 Screwtape instructs Wormwood: “The fact that ‘devils’ are predominantly comic figures in modern imagination will help you. If any faint suspicion of your existence begins to arise in his mind, suggest to him a picture of something in red tights, and persuade him that since he cannot believe in that…he therefore cannot believe in you.”
PREFACE: THE EXISTENCE OF SATAN Lewis believed Hell to be an actual place Uncertain how suffering manifests itself there Does not dismiss the notion of torture in Hell, but did not see strong Biblical support for or against it
PREFACE: THE EXISTENCE OF SATAN Letter to a friend, Lewis speaks of Hell as a place of mental torture visited when a person is… “left with nothing at all but one’s own envy, prurience, resentment, loneliness, and self conceit…But when there is nothing for you but your own mind…it will be as actual as…a coffin is actual to a man buried alive.”
SUMMARY Barest bones of a story, no dialogue and very little action Focus is Screwtape’s explication of Hellish philosophy Plot secondary to Christian apologetic Wormwood the junior tempter: Revelation 8:11 “and the name of the star is called Wormwood; and a third of the waters became wormwood; and many men died from the waters, because they were made bitter.”
SUMMARY Wormwood’s “patient” a young Englishman during the German “blitz” Focus is not on the horrors of war and the atrocities visited by humans upon humans Focus is on the young persons attempt to live by faith, challenged by pride, sloth, pettiness and doubt Ultimately the young man is killed in a state of grace defeating the machinations of Screwtape and Wormwood
SUMMARY Subplot is the deadly relationship between Screwtape and Wormwood Hell modelled on contemporary (1940) corporate culture and fascist states “Dog eat dog” a core – and literal – value Wormwood ultimately to be consumed by Screwtape because of his failure, which he presages with bloodthirsty gloating
KEY THEMES Satan has no redeeming qualities Debunking Satan as Promethean Hero or Faustian gentleman Not a mischievous adolescent punished by a pompous authoritarian God Satan thorough evil and evil as thoroughly ugly Devil also portrayed as self-centered, vain, and mendacious to the point of ridiculousness
KEY THEMES Satan has no redeeming qualities Throughout Lewis echoes Martin Luther and Thomas Moore in suggesting ridicule as a weapon against Satan: “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.” - Luther “The devil…the proud spirit…cannot endure to be mocked.” - Moore
KEY THEMES Satan is NOT co-equal with God Lewis rejects notion that God and Satan are beings of equal power Satan no threat to God, but to those who by misuse of free will, put themselves outside God’s protection Hell not a serious rival to Heaven, nor even necessary. Hell not a heavenly plan and serves no purpose – rather it is an unfortunate side effect of the grant of free will
KEY THEMES Satan is NOT co-equal with God Satan and God fundamentally differ in views of humans God wants “little replicas of Himself” freely aligned with His will Satan wants to draw “all things into himself” thus the language throughout about “eating” and “devouring” Satan views humans as “cattle who can become food,” while God views humans as “servants who can finally become sons” God “woes” people having free will, Satan “ravishes”
KEY THEMES Satan is NOT co-equal with God “…for us [absorption] means the sucking of will and freedom out of a weaker self into a stronger.” Screwtape to Wormwood “Jesus said to them, ‘I am the bread of life, he who comes to Me shall not hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.’” John 6:35
KEY THEMES Damnation as the “The Gentle Slope, Soft Underfoot” Screwtape takes diabolical pleasure in human misery, but the task is to capture a soul, not to delight in wars and disasters: Letter #25: “Pray do not fil your letters with rubbish about this European War. Its final issue is, no doubt, important, but that is a matter for the High Command. I am not in the least interested in knowing how many people in England have been killed by bombs. In what state of mind they died, I can learn from the office at this end. That they were going to die sometime I knew already. Please keep your mind on your work.”
KEY THEMES Damnation as “The Gentle Slope, Soft Underfoot” The “work” is to justify selfishness, petty vanities, subtle slights and turn from the generousness of spirit God desires Screwtape’s art is to take all and give nothing If the patient enjoys his sin, the tempter lacks finesse If the patient doesn’t even notice all the small, self-justified sins constitute the surest path to Hell, if is all “soft underfoot, with no signpost of turnings,” then the soul is all the more secure.
KEY THEMES The Modern World and Modern Culture “Screwtape Proposes a Toast” Screwtape delighted and Lewis appalled with the modern(1940) obsession with sex, androgyny, the modern education system and consumer culture.
KEY THEMES The Rise of Government and Corporate Bureaucracy “Lowerarcy” of Hell is an organization of polite functionaries, who smile but don’t trust anyone Totalitarian governments are the fruition of this ethos, monstrous cruelties dispensed in the name of organization, order and efficiency Evil accompanied by well-organized committee meetings, accounting records, and insipid memos (Nazis and Soviets)
KEY THEMES The Rise of Government and Corporate Bureaucracy “I live in the Managerial Age, in a world of ‘Admin.’ The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid ‘dens of crime’ that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labor camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voice. Hence naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the offices of a thoroughly nasty business concern.” Preface to The Screwtape Letters
KEY THEMES The Modern Church - Lewis scrutinizes the popularity of “Christianity and…” - Christianity and Spelling Reform - Christianity and the New Order - Christianity and Pacifism - Christianity and Ecology - Trouble begins with the “and” part when it assumes greater importance and the church becomes merely a vehicle for worship of an ideal or cause rather than love of God, Christ’s atonement and sharing the Gospel
KEY THEMES Speculations on the “Historic Jesus” As a Christian, Lewis believed Christ fully human pursuant to His own plan and design As a scholar, Lewis welcomed all historic evidence of Jesus’ time on earth He objected to Jesus being portrayed as a revolutionary, a pacifist, or just a great teacher in order to support modern secular notions One doesn’t worship revolutionaries, pacifists or teachers. Jesus should only be worshiped if he is, in fact, God
THE LETTERS Letter #1: Screwtape advises Wormwood not to engage his patient in reasoning, but to deaden his mind with jargon and distractions. Thought about things beyond human experience is to be discouraged by any means necessary. God has an “abominable advantage” over Screwtape and Wormwood. “The trouble about argument is that it moves the whole struggle on to the Enemy’s own ground…By the very act of arguing, you awake the patient’s reason; and once it is awake, who can foresee the result?”
THE LETTERS What is this “abominable advantage” to which Screwtape refers? “For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be make like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” - Hebrews 2:16-18
THE LETTERS Letter #3: Screwtape advises Wormwood how to use his subject’s relationship with his mother to the advantage of Our Father Below. If the man can be made to think high spiritual thoughts while ignoring the daily routines of life, he can be made to think himself very spiritual while at the same time becoming increasingly annoyed with his mother and she with him. Little offenses can be made to produce significant results if handled correctly. Screwtape suggests keeping the patient believing that his conversion to Christianity is merely something inside of him.
THE LETTERS “When two humans have lived together for many years it usually happens that each has tones of voice and expressions of face which are almost unendurably irritating to the other. Work on that. Let him assume that she knows how annoying it is and does it to annoy. And, of course, never let him suspect that he has tones and looks which similarly annoy her. As he cannot see or hear himself, this is easily managed.” Screwtape to Wormwood “So then you will know them by their fruits. Not every one who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 7: 20-21
THE LETTERS Letter #4: Screwtape advises Wormwood to get his man to think that prayer only really occurs when he “feels spiritual,” thus getting him to focus on himself rather than the Enemy. When he does pray to God, he should be encouraged to pray to his own imagined version of what God should be, so that his prayers are reality directed to nothing at all. “Not what I think thou art but what thou knowest thyself to be.” “It is funny how mortals always picture us as putting things into their minds: in reality our best work is done by keeping things out.”
THE LETTERS “And when pray, you are not be as the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners, in order to be seen by men. ‘Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you when you pray, go into your inner room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition, as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.’” Matthew 6:5 – 8
THE LETTERS Letter #10: Screwtape is glad to hear that Wormwood’s subject is making worldly friends, and encourages the young tempter to teach his man skepticism. Most, importantly, he should be taught to look down on the Christians around him because they are less worldly-wise than he, while looking down on his new friends because they are not as spiritual. “All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be.”
THE LETTERS “I exhort you therefore, be imitators of me.” I Corinthians 4:16 “Beloved, do not imitate what is evil, but what is good. The one who does good is of God, the one who does evil has not seen God.” III John v. 11
THE LETTERS Letter #12: Screwtape here emphasizes the importance of keeping the subject ignorant of his true condition, while he thinks he is continuing to move in the orbit of the Enemy, he must never be allowed to see that the path he is following leads directly away from the Truth. In this regard, it is important that he continue to go to church, but that he learns not to take it too seriously. “It does not matter how small the sins are, provided that their cumulative effect is to edge the man away from the Light and out into the Nothing. Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick.”
THE LETTERS “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide, and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and many are those who enter by it. For the gate is small, and the way is narrow that leads to life, and few are those who find it.” Matthew 8: 13 - 14
THE LETTERS Letter #13: Screwtape is deeply disappointed that Wormwood’s subject has repented of his sins. Screwtape finds hope, however, in the fact that the subject has not turned his repentance into action, and urges Wormwood to see that this never happens. “The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”
THE LETTERS Letter #25: Screwtape advises Wormwood to corrupt his subject with the desire for novelty and change. Christianity must always be associated with some new fad. Novelty is subject to the law of diminishing returns and leads to discontent, avarice, and ultimately the desire for hidden pleasures. “The horror of the Same Old Thing is one of the most valuable passions we have produced in the human heart – an endless source of heresies in religion, folly in counsel, infidelity in marriage, and inconstancy in friendship.” “But the greatest triumph of all is to elevate this horror of the Same Old Thing into a philosophy so that nonsense in the intellect may reinforce corruption of the will.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS 1) How important are the words we use in our day-to-day lives? What can words do to faith? 2) What role do other people play in a person’s faith (both positive and negative)? 3) What is the meaning / importance of the phrase used in the context of prayer, “Not what I think thou art but what thou knowest thyself to be?” 4) Is it true that humans become who they are pretending to be? How can that help or hinder our faith? 5) What does Screwtape mean by “The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able to act, and, in the long run, the less he will be able to feel?”
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