The Place of Devils

The 1960 preface to the Screwtape Letters included this fascinating response to the place of the devil:

The commonest question is whether I “believe in the Devil”.  Now, if by “the Devil” you mean a power opposite to God and, like God, self-existent from all eternity, the answer is certainly No.  There is no uncreated being except God.  God has no opposite… The proper question is whether I believe in devils.  I do.  That is to say, I believe in angels, and I believe that some of them, by the abuse of their free will, have become enemies of God and, as a corollary, to us.  These we may call devils.  They do not differ in nature from good angels, but their nature is depraved.  Devil is the opposite of Angel only as Bad Man is the opposite of Good Man.  Satan, the leader or dictator of devils, is the opposite, not of God, but of Michael [the archangel].”

Fascinating.  Did you get that?  Angels are created beings with free will.  Some of them rebelled and were thrown out of heaven, along with their leader Satan/Lucifer.  (See Isaiah 14:12ff, Revelation 127ff)  He commands the armies of fallen angels (demons/devils/minions/whatever word you like) who are trying to tempt men into rebellion again God.  Yet remember that they are under the authority of God.  (See Job 1-2)  Michael commands the armies of angels who are ministering spirits sent to aid those who belong to God (Hebrews 1:14) and also fall under the authority of God.

Now we know what the spirit world’s organizational chart probably looks like.  Something to think about.

Screwtape Reveals the Battle

Book club discussion last night of The Screwtape Letters was quite lively!  We were unanimous – it was a hard book to read, it required concentration, note-taking, and head scratching.  It was a bit like being back in school.  BUT, it was really worth reading.  It was the kind of book that changed how you looked at the world.

Probably the biggest shift in our thinking came from the global message of the book.  In the modern preface C.S. Lewis writes,

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils.  One is to disbelieve in their existence.  The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them.”

In general we agreed that we believed in Satan and devils (his minions) – but we never really gave much more than a passing thought to their existence.  We tended to think of temptation as something obvious – something that felt a bit wrong but we wanted it anyway.  That was the temptation “feeling” we were familiar with.  We also tended to – somewhat flippantly – credit devils with things like a day full of drama or other negative things or thoughts that happened to us.

We were shocked at the battle being waged in the world unseen.  Caught off guard at the all-encompassing nature of the warfare being waged against Christians… Persistent.  Specific to each man’s weakness.  In good times and in bad.  In his relationships.  In his thoughts.  In his community.  Every single day.  Whether he sees it or not.  It’s more focused on what we THINK than what we DO.  It’s not big obvious sins – we catch on to those too quickly and repent.  It’s a slow fade (thank you Casting Crowns).  It’s complacency, ignorance, apathy, and pride.

It’s scary!  We must pray that the Lord will reveal to us where we are weak, to keep us from being blinded by the temptations and distractions that are thrown our way.

More tomorrow.

Focusing on the Here and Now

God’s goal is to get you to focus on the Present and the Eternal.TodayIsDay

The Enemy’s goal is to get you to focus on the Past and the Future.

Think about that for a moment.  Where has your mind been today?  This morning?  Last night?  What has consumed your thinking and your energy?  Are you focused on the Present and the Eternal?  Or the Past and the Future?

Consider this fascinating passage from the C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters:

(*If you’re not familiar with this book, it is a series of instructional letters from a senior demon to his trainee about how to best distract a new Christian and so destroy his usefulness to the Kingdom of God.)

“He [God] would therefore have them continually concerned either with Eternity (which means being concerned with Him) or with the Present – either meditating on their eternal union with, or separation from, Himself, or else obeying the present voice of conscience, bearing the present cross, receiving the present grace, giving thanks for the present pleasure.

Our business [the demons] is to get them away from the Eternal and the Present.  With this in view, sometimes we tempt a human to live in the Past.  But this is of limited value… It is far better to make them live in the Future… The Future inflames hope and fear.  Also, it is unknown to them, so that in making them think about it, we make them think of unrealities… Nearly all the vices are rooted in the Future… Fear, avarice [greed], lust, and ambition look ahead… We want a man hagridden [worried or tormented] by the Future – ready to break the Enemy’s [God’s] commands in the Present if by doing so we make him think he can obtain heaven…  We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now…”

I find that when we look to the Past – if it was negative and full of our mistakes or the mistakes of others that have affected us – then we feel trapped.  We are bitter or angry or feel victimized or feel stupid and incapable.  We feel hopeless and frustrated.  The Past can be an ugly place.

However, if your Past was beautiful, and amazing and full of joy – and your Present is none of those things – then you are tempted to be discontent, discouraged, and frustrated.  Nathalie Grant wrote a song called “Painting Pictures of Egypt” describing how sometimes we look to the Past and long for all that was good, forgetting what was troublesome, and we are unable to move in the Present.

We are often tempted to live in the Future instead.  The Future is so full of unknowns.  Sometimes we have great hope for the Future, but perhaps that hope is sowing seeds of discontent in our souls.  Mostly we have fear of the Future.  We spend so much time worrying about “what if”.  The Future is unknown and – quite honestly – out of our control.  Control is but an illusion.

God’s desire is that we focus on the Present… and on that which is Eternal.

Let the Past go.  Refuse to dwell in the Future.  Embrace today.  That’s my goal for today.

“The Present is the point at which time touches Eternity.”

*Screwtape Letters, chapter XV.

The Screwtape Letters, and one for Moms

Up next on the Thirsty Girls Book Club list, an old-time classic:  The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.Screwtape

Yes, it was written in 1950’s era English and yes, it’s an interesting format that might take a bit of head-scratching to put it all together… but it is one of the most interesting religious satire books we’ve ever discovered.

Reviewers write, “A milestone in the history of popular theology, The Screwtape Letters is an iconic classic on spiritual warfare and the dynamics of temptation.” “At once wildly comic, deadly serious, and strikingly original, C.S. Lewis’s The Screwtape Letters is the most engaging account of temptation—and triumph over it—ever written. 

As I’m introducing our group to the imaginary dialogue between demons plotting the fall of a young believer, I was delighted to discover this blog article last week.  It is written in the same style as The Screwtape Letters, but addressed to a young Mom.  Read it once and laugh.  Read it a second time and take notes regarding the plot and tactics of the enemy in his efforts to discourage this young lady.  It is excellent!

Sex – The Central Issue in Christian Morality?

I have been watching current social and political debates on sexuality issues with some degree of curiosity, horror, and shame.

Last week I re-read C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”, which was first published in 1952.  It was taken from a series of radio addresses he gave at Oxford from 1942-1944.  At the end of the section titled “Sexual Morality” he writes,

“Finally, though I have had to speak at some length about sex, I want to make it as clear as I possibly can that the centre of Christian morality is not here.  If anyone thinks that Christians regard unchastity as the supreme vice, he is quite wrong.  The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins.  All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronising and spoiling sport, and back-biting; the pleasures of power, of hatred.  For there are two things inside me, competing with the human self which I must try to become.  They are the Animal self, and the Diabolical self.  The Diabolical self is the worse of the two.  That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who regularly goes to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute.  But, of course, it is better to be neither.”

Timeless wisdom.  Convicting.