Advice to Hell Raisers
June 2011By Carl Sundell
Carl Sundell is Professor Emeritus of English and Humanities at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, Massachusetts. He currently resides in Lubbock, Texas.
The Screwtape Letters. By C.S. Lewis.
The Snakebite Letters. By Peter Kreeft.
Lewis created a senior devil named Screwtape whose job it is to train a younger devil, his nephew Wormwood, in the art of tempting humans (called patients). The format of instruction involves Screwtapes supervision of Wormwoods efforts and frequent evaluations of his progress or failure by way of letters praising or chastising him.
In the preface to his Letters, Lewis reminds the reader that Satan is not the opposite of God, because God is absolute uncreated good whereas Satan is not absolute uncreated evil. Rather, Satan is the opposite of the archangel Michael, his counterpart in Heaven. Satan is the Father of Lies and therefore cannot use truth, but only wiles (deceptive promises of gain), to reach his goal, which is the enormous growth of the empire of Hell.
Screwtape advises Wormwood to remember that authentic prayer is the most important thing to discourage because it puts the patient squarely in the Enemys (Gods) camp. Every distraction must be employed, and the single most effective tactic is to make the patient think he is praying when he really is not. Let him get into the habit of avoiding the learned prayers of his childhood, which are aimed at God, and instead be creative by composing in himself feelings of righteousness, courage, and good will. The very purpose of prayer, which is to lean on God, will be defeated when the patient learns to rely on his own self-congratulating inner sentiments.
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