(Editor’s note: These posts on the Screwtape Letters are the result of the high-school Sunday school class that my wife and I teach at Trinity Baptist church, in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If any of this material would be useful to anyone for a similar purpose, please feel free to use it, modifying it in any way you feel necessary. If you have any suggestions, comments, or observations, I invite you to please post them here. This is a work in progress, looking for any honest and sincere help you might offer.)
draught: a single act of drinking or inhaling; (a British spelling of the word draft)
chalice: A large cup or goblet, usually used for drinking wine, often connected with the Lord’s Supper.
patriot: a person who vigorously supports and defends his country
ardent: enthusiastic or passionate
pacifist: the belief that any violence, including war, is unjustifiable under any circumstances
temporal: limited by time and space; the physical world
barbarous: savagely cruel; exceedingly brutal
sophistical: clever but fallacious reasoning
unchastity: Lacking self-control, self-restraint, especially in, but not limited to the sexual realm.
partisans: A strong supporter of one side.
diffused: Spread out over time.
bereavement: the state of having been deprived of a loved one, usually through death
In this letter we will look at the factors of suffering in the life of the Christian, and its effect on his walk of faith. In this letter we find that World War II has begun, and Wormwood is ecstatic because of the various sufferings that it is causing his “patient.” Screwtape warns him in this letter not to be overly optimistic because suffering often drives Christians closer to God, not further away. Note first one passage which reveals some incorrect theology:
If, on the other hand, by steady and cool-headed application here and now you can finally secure his soul, he will then be yours forever – a brim-full living chalice of despair and horror and astonishment which you can raise to your lips as often as you please.
When Jesus comes back to judge the world in righteousness, Satan and the demons will not be rejoicing over the “gains” they had made up to that point. Hell will not be a place where Satan reigns, it will be a place where Jesus reigns.
and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:10-15, ESV)
The devil’s business is to try to shake our faith:
So do not allow any temporary excitement to distract you from the real business of undermining faith and preventing the formation of virtues.
We have way too many promises in God’s word to loose heart when trials come. Let us cling to them in all hope:
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.
So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. For this slight momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4:1-18, ESV)
The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. (Romans 16:20, ESV)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 5:6-11, ESV)