Search This Blog

Friday, 15 February 2013

Screwtape Letters Letters 3-7 Reviewed

This is a continuation of our Screwtape Letters study.  I have made available the notes from the study if they are of any interest to anyone...
Screwtape Letters - Chapter 3 - Relationships
“My dear Wormwood,
I am very pleased by what you tell me about this man’s relations with his mother. But you must press your advantage. The Enemy will be working from the centre outwards, gradually bringing more and more of the patient’s conduct under the new standard, and may reach his behaviour to the old lady at any moment. You want to get in first.... The following methods are useful.
1. Keep his mind on the inner life. He thinks his conversion is something inside him and his attention is therefore chiefly turned at present to the states of his own mind—or rather to that very expurgated version of them which is all you should allow him to see. Encourage this. Keep his mind off the most elementary duties by directing it to the most advanced and spiritual ones. Aggravate that most useful human characteristic, the horror and neglect of the obvious. You must bring him to a condition in which he can practise self-examination for an hour without discovering any of those facts about himself which are perfectly clear to anyone who has ever lived in the same house with him or worked in the same office....
Your affection uncle,

“Intercessory prayer is, therefore, always concrete in some sense; prayers which have no reference point in the real world are just words. A great rabbi once observed that we should never ask God to do something if we are unwilling to be an instrument of God’s action. So it is playacting to pray that the hungry be fed, if we are unwilling to change our lifestyle, contribute to relief, and seek justice to enable those goals to be accomplished. It is a delusion to pray for peace and understanding in our homes if we are not willing to listen, endure, and give of ourselves in the mundane things such as washing dishes, arranging schedules, and deciding what sofa to buy.”

While “conversion” or “faith” may well entail an internal reorientation, it becomes powerful and real only when it makes a difference in our behaviors.

Peace on earth begins with patience with an annoying word or tone uttered by one in our own household.
         Bill King, Virginia Tech

Read aloud:

James 2:14-26, Matthew 25: 31-46

In what ways did Chapter 3 ring true to you?  Have you ever lived with someone (a parent, sibling, husband or wife) where you could relate to what was said?

Give an example in your own life where you see your prayer or spiritual life penetrating through other parts of your life and give an example where you do not.

Letter 4 – Sincere Prayer

Why do you pray?  Why do you think God wants us to pray?

“The best thing, where it is possible, is to keep the patient from the serious intention of praying altogether...Teach them to estimate the value of each prayer by their success in producing the desired feeling; and never let them suspect how much success or failure of that kind depends on whether they are well or ill, fresh or tired, at the moment (The Screwtape Letters, Letter 4).”

Do you believe Christians are guilty of judging the quality of their relationship with God by how they feel?  Why or why not?  

Who is God to you?  If you had to describe God in five words which words would you use?  Write them down.

Have you ever had a prayer that God answered?  Describe it.  A prayer ignored?  Describe.

 “For if he ever comes to make the distinction, if ever he consciously directs his prayers ‘Not to what I think thou art but to what thou knowest thyself to be’, our situation is, for the moment desperate.... In avoiding this situation – this real nakedness of the soul in prayer – you will be helped by the fact that the humans themselves do not desire it as much as they suppose.  There’s such a thing as getting more than they bargained for!” The Screwtape Letters, Letter 4

Letter 5 – War and Suffering
In this chapter Lewis emphasizes the essential theme that suffering, in and of itself, does not serve evil. While the Evil One delights in our “anguish and bewilderment of soul”; the bigger issue is whether these experiences bring us closer or further from God. The key issue for Screwtape is “undermining faith and preventing the formation of virtues” (p. 22).  Screwtape notes that the dangerous things from his perspective (and remember that Screwtape’s interests are always at odds with God’s) are that suffering prompts humans to recognize their need of God, that they are prompted to focus on things outside themselves, and that they are forced to focus on their mortality (Note his scathing critique of a culture that denies death in its medical system, pp. 23-24).  “Contented worldliness” is lifted up as one of the great danger the believer faces. This is a recurring theme in the work.–Bill King, Virginia Tech

Screwtape spends some time explaining that war is entertaining for himself and every other demon, but that war should not be enjoyed so much as used. "If we are not careful," he writes, "we shall see thousands turning in this tribulation to the enemy." War breeds suffering, which can turn some to their "father," but more often than not the pain, physical and mental, causes the afflicted to turn to a higher power. Also, it would be much better (from their point of view) for the people in the war to die in a nursing home where everyone lies to them: every indulgence is granted because of their illness, rather than them dieing in a bloody conflict, where they can apply for salvation and be granted it. – UTA Canterbury Blogpost

Screwtape closes with a reminder that though war can be bad for them because of the awareness of mortality, "at the precise moment of terror, bereavement, or physical pain, you may catch your man when his reason is temporarily suspended. But even then, if he applies to Enemy headquarters, I have found that the post is nearly always defended." This shows how the opportune moment for tempters is when "reason is temporarily suspended" because of anything. This is our weakest time. However, Screwtape also discloses the fact that God will always defend and protect us from facing more than we can bear IF we turn to Him at these times -- if we "apply to [God's] Headquarters...[we] will nearly always be defended." –Frank Mariduena Orca IFS

What spoke the most to you out of this chapter?

Letter 6  - Anxiety and Fear

Read aloud:

Isaiah 41:10, Matthew 6:34, Psalm 118:6, 2 Timothy 1:7, Psalm 27:1

“direct the benevolence toward distant people, complete strangers or those in need, and to direct the malice toward the Patient's neighbors - those he is around constantly.”

“the grandest good intentions cannot keep a man from Hell, but they may make him more amusing once he gets there.”

Letter 7 – Patriotism vs Pacifism

Screwtape discusses patriotism versus pacifism as it relates to extremism. Screwtape says, “All extremes except extreme devotion to the enemy are to be encouraged” because extremism almost always pulls the focus away from God and toward a “cause.”

What problems or social injustices in the world do you see Christians becoming extreme over?

No comments:

Post a Comment