Screwtape Letter #29 – Discussion Guide

Screwtape Letter #29 – Discussion Guide is article #60 in the series: Screwtape Letters. Click button to view titles for entire series

Letter #29

The Screwtape Letters Study Guide

Screwtape’s logic now begins to reveal much
– about us.

 


My dear Wormwood,

 

Now that it is certain the German humans will bombard your patient’s town and that his duties will keep him in the thick of the danger, we must consider our policy. …

Well, I am afraid it is no good trying to make him brave. … A very unsatisfactory arrangement, but, I trust, we shall one day learn to do better.

Hatred we can manage. … In other words let him consider himself sufficiently identified with the women and children to feel hatred on their behalf, but not sufficiently identified to regard their enemies as his own and therefore proper objects of forgiveness.

But hatred is best combined with Fear. … And Hatred is also a great anodyne for shame. To make a deep wound in his charity, you should therefore first defeat his courage.

 

29.1) One analysis of The Merchant of Venice from the Law School at Samford University in Alabama says of the play –

Merchant of Venice is neither a simple tale of an unfounded prejudice, nor is it a tale that pits justice against mercy merely characterizing a puzzle without offering an, albeit tentative, resolution. Rather, the play offers a conception of justice that embraces both law and mercy. What one learns by the end of the play is not that vengeance overtakes mercy or that mercy trumps law. Instead, the play suggests that mercy, understood properly as an undeserved sacrifice, is a necessary condition to the fulfillment of law, understood as that which binds a community together in its bond.

How does this relate to what Screwtape is saying?

Although you may not know the full details of the play, can you see how it could parallel Christ’s sacrifice to save us?

 

 

 

What did Jesus say about mercy and sacrifice?

Jesus says –

Mt 9:12 On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13 But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

After all – He is the sacrifice – given for us – even though we don’t deserve it.

However, what of the original Law?

Indication of this is seen in –

Mt 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

Finally, grace is available to us because ...

And that grace comes only because God offers it to us – out of love – not out of anything we did.

Made Alive in Christ

Eph 2:1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 

 

Now this is a ticklish business. We have made men proud of most vices, but not of cowardice. … There is here a cruel dilemma before us. If we promoted justice and charity among men, we should be playing directly into the Enemy’s hands; but if we guide them to the opposite behaviour, this sooner or later produces (for He permits it to produce) a war or a revolution, and the undisguisable issue of cowardice or courage awakes thousands of men from moral stupor.

 

29.2) Screwtape is revisiting an old topic – fear.

Screwtape has written about fear in previous letters. He returns to it again – but this time with some warnings about too much fear possibly driving people to “The Enemy”. Look at Jesus’ message to His disciples before he sent them out to proclaim the good news in Matthew 10. Talk about some of the reasons why Screwtape would be afraid of generating too much fear in the patient.

Mt 10:5 These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near.’ 8 Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. 9 Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10 take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep.

Mt 10:11 “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. 15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

Mt 10:17 “Be on your guard against men; they will hand you over to the local councils and flog you in their synagogues. 18 On my account you will be brought before governors and kings as witnesses to them and to the Gentiles. 19 But when they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, 20 for it will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Mt 10:21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 22 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. 23 When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another. I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

Mt 10:24 “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!

Mt 10:26 “So do not be afraid of them. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs. 28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny ? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father. 30 And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

Mt 10:32 “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. 33 But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

Mt 10:34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn

“ ‘a man against his father,

a daughter against her mother,

a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law—

Mt 10:36 a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’

Mt 10:37 “Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; 38 and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Mt 10:40 “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me. 41 Anyone who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and anyone who receives a righteous man because he is a righteous man will receive a righteous man’s reward. 42 And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones because he is my disciple, I tell you the truth, he will certainly not lose his reward.”

 

Many possible passages - here is one ...

Among so many possible verses – here is but one suggestion – from Isaiah 41 –

Isa 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Isa 41:11 “All who rage against you
will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
will be as nothing and perish.

Isa 41:12 Though you search for your enemies,
you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
will be as nothing at all.

Isa 41:13 For I am the Lord your God
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.

 

 

This, indeed, is probably one of the Enemy’s motives for creating a dangerous world—a world in which moral issues really come to the point. … Pilate was merciful till it became risky.

It is therefore possible to lose as much as we gain by making your man a coward; he may learn too much about himself! … But I fear you have already let him get too far in the Enemy’s school, and he knows that Despair is a greater sin than any of the sins which provoke it.

 

29.3) Will fear lead to despair?

The word despair occurs in the NIV 12 times – only once in the New Testament. The once appearance is in Paul’s 2 letter to the Corinthians – in the “Jars of Clay” section:

2Co 4:7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

From this, where does Screwtape’s own fear come from regarding crossing the line on despair – similar to the previous problem with too much fear?

 

 

 

 

That depends on ...

Absent God – fear will lead to despair – because there’s no way out.

We may be able to convince ourselves otherwise –
and may even appear to be winning over evil / despair –
having a false sens of hope – hope in ourselves –
but ultimately it will be shown for what it is.

Screwtape has no one to go to for help.

The patient however – should he choose to – can turn to God.

 

 

 

As to the actual technique of temptations to cowardice, not much need be said. The main point is that precautions have a tendency to increase fear. … Then, at the moment of real terror, rush it out into his nerves and muscles and you may get the fatal act done before he knows what you’re about. For remember, the act of cowardice is all that matters; the emotion of fear is, in itself, no sin and, though we enjoy it, does us no good,

Your affectionate uncle

SCREWTAPE

 

29.4) Will fear and despair lead to cowardice?

It sounds so easy –

Then, at the moment of real terror, rush it out into his nerves and muscles and you may get the fatal act done before he knows what you’re about. For remember, the act of cowardice is all that matters; the emotion of fear is, in itself, no sin and, though we enjoy it, does us no good,

Does this mean that God won’t forgive cowardice – since fear itself isn’t a sin, but the act of cowardice is all that matters?

What happened to the lines Screwtape wrote in the first paragraph of this same letter?

There is here a cruel dilemma before us. If we promoted justice and charity among men, we should be playing directly into the Enemy’s hands; but if we guide them to the opposite behaviour, this sooner or later produces (for He permits it to produce) a war or a revolution, and the undisguisable issue of cowardice or courage awakes thousands of men from moral stupor.

Can you think of an act of cowardice in the Bible where the person was not only forgiven, but drawn that much closer to God afterwards?

 

 

 

 

For early example(s) - see Moses

For an early example (or more) – check out Moses. Especially note ex:4:13.

Moses and the Burning Bush

Ex 3:1 Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. 3 So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”

Ex 3:4 When the LORD saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”

And Moses said, “Here I am.”

Ex 3:5 “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” 6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Ex 3:7 The LORD said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. 8 So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. 9 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. 10 So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.”

Ex 3:11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?”

Ex 3:12 And God said, “I will be with you. And this will be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain.”

Ex 3:13 Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?”

Ex 3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ”

Ex 3:15 God also said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.

Ex 3:16 “Go, assemble the elders of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—appeared to me and said: I have watched over you and have seen what has been done to you in Egypt. 17 And I have promised to bring you up out of your misery in Egypt into the land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites—a land flowing with milk and honey.’

Ex 3:18 “The elders of Israel will listen to you. Then you and the elders are to go to the king of Egypt and say to him, ‘The LORD, the God of the Hebrews, has met with us. Let us take a three-day journey into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God.’ 19 But I know that the king of Egypt will not let you go unless a mighty hand compels him. 20 So I will stretch out my hand and strike the Egyptians with all the wonders that I will perform among them. After that, he will let you go.

Ex 3:21 “And I will make the Egyptians favorably disposed toward this people, so that when you leave you will not go empty-handed. 22 Every woman is to ask her neighbor and any woman living in her house for articles of silver and gold and for clothing, which you will put on your sons and daughters. And so you will plunder the Egyptians.”

Signs for Moses

Ex 4:1 Moses answered, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me and say, ‘The LORD did not appear to you’?”

Ex 4:2 Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?”

“A staff,” he replied.

Ex 4:3 The LORD said, “Throw it on the ground.”

Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake, and he ran from it. 4 Then the LORD said to him, “Reach out your hand and take it by the tail.” So Moses reached out and took hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. 5 “This,” said the LORD, “is so that they may believe that the LORD, the God of their fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob—has appeared to you.”

Ex 4:6 Then the LORD said, “Put your hand inside your cloak.” So Moses put his hand into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was leprous, like snow.

Ex 4:7 “Now put it back into your cloak,” he said. So Moses put his hand back into his cloak, and when he took it out, it was restored, like the rest of his flesh.

Ex 4:8 Then the LORD said, “If they do not believe you or pay attention to the first miraculous sign, they may believe the second. 9 But if they do not believe these two signs or listen to you, take some water from the Nile and pour it on the dry ground. The water you take from the river will become blood on the ground.”

Ex 4:10 Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.”

Ex 4:11 The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? 12 Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

Ex 4:13 But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”

Ex 4:14 Then the LORD’S anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and his heart will be glad when he sees you. 15 You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you speak and will teach you what to do. 16 He will speak to the people for you, and it will be as if he were your mouth and as if you were God to him. 17 But take this staff in your hand so you can perform miraculous signs with it.”

 

 

 

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