Screwtape Letter #15 – Discussion Guide


This entry is part 33 of 65 in the series Screwtape Letters

Letter #15

Circumstances present a fork in the road –

it’s time to make decisions about how to proceed.

 


 

My dear Wormwood,

I had noticed, of course, that the humans were having a lull in their European war … Tortured fear and stupid confidence are both desirable states of mind. Our choice between them raises important questions.

The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. … giving thanks for the present pleasure.

15.1) In the NIV, the phrase “Do not be afraid” appears 65 times – 12 in the Gospels alone.

What do “tortured fear”, “do not be afraid” and “living in the present moment” have to do with each other?

 

 

 

 

What is unique about the 'present moment'
The first instance of 'do not be afraid'
The second instance of 'do not be afraid'
Tenses in the Hebrew language

Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. … In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity. … The sin, which is our contribution, looked forward.

15.2) Screwtape now launches into a discussion of the Past, the Present, the Future and eternity.  Read carefully – this is the foundation for the rest of this letter.  

What’s the difference – from Screwtape’s point of view – between the eternal and the Future?

How would the patient focusing on eternity be a really bad thing for Screwtape, compared to the things like Creative Evolution? Think in terms of not just the Past and the Future – but in terms of the Beginning and the End.

 

 

 

 

What is the human perception of time, as compared to God?
Think about parallel universes and time as a dimension
add God being all-knowing to the mix
Given what we've seen - what does Screwtape want?

To be sure, the Enemy wants men to think of the Future too—just so much as is necessary for now planning the acts of justice or charity which will probably be their duty tomorrow. … We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.

15.3) The Past / Present / Future / eternity discussion goes deeper. Maybe deeper than Screwtape can really understand. Pay close attention.

Consider the previous paragraph when Screwtape says “the Present is all lit up with eternal rays“.

Then he goes on to say “In a word, the Future is, of all things, the thing least like eternity.“

Eternity, going forward, is in the future. So – is it really splitting straws? When Screwtape says the future is unknown, what does he mean and what is he counting on? What is he ignoring?

 

 

 

 

Given our previous discussion, 'what future' does Screwtape want us to focus on?
Why?
Again, is this a foregone conclusion?

It follows then, in general, and other things being equal, that it is better for your patient to be filled with anxiety or hope (it doesn’t much matter which) about this war than for him to be living in the present. But … All the same, I should break it up if I were you. No natural phenomenon is really in our favour. And anyway, why should the creature be happy?

Your affectionate uncle

SCREWTAPE

15.4) Here we have Screwtape’s conclusion on how to react to the lull in the war.

Screwtape’s advice essentially comes down to ‘ do something – do anything – just don’t let things stay the same.

While he continues to try to blur the line between the Future and eternity – the last two lines really sum up this letter. How does this letter continue to clarify the different feelings that God and Satan have for / towards us?

 

 

 

 

The more things change ...

Vocabulary:

But we want a man hag-ridden by the Future—haunted by visions of an imminent heaven or hell upon earth—ready to break the Enemy’s commands in the present if by so doing we make him think he can attain the one or avert the other—dependent for his faith on the success or failure of schemes whose end he will not live to see.

Hag-ridden – worried or tormented, as by a witch.
 

Here again, our Philological Arm has done good work; try the word ‘complacency’ on him.

Philological – the study of literary texts and of written records, the establishment of their authenticity and their original form, and the determination of their meaning.
 

Series Navigation<< Screwtape Letter #15 – QuestionsScrewtape Letter #16 – Questions >>

References   [ + ]

1. Augustine, S., Bishop of Hippo, & Pusey, E. B. (1996). The confessions of St. Augustine. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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