A Good Read: “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis

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“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. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight (From the Preface of The Screwtape Letters).”

To catch an early glimpse of the sharp insight and satirical wit that is on full display in C.S. Lewis’ classic work, The Screwtape Letters, one need look no further than the second paragraph of the authors Preface. The excerpt above provides an incisive, cautionary backdrop for the journey that follows.

Written in the form of short letters, each chapter transports the reader into the clever and utterly diabolical mind of a senior devil named Screwtape as he seeks to counsel his apprentice-nephew, Wormwood, in the nuanced intricacies of tempting humans – or “patients” as Screwtape calls them. Wormwood is assigned to a particular “patient” – a young Englishman living out a seemingly normal life in Great Britain during the 1930s and 1940s. Each letter from the “wise” and experienced Uncle Screwtape creates a window into this young man’s everyday experience as he becomes a Christian, struggles to grow in his new faith, deals with family relationships, falls in love, serves in the military during the great war, and ultimately matures to a point where Wormwood’s influence is inconsequential at best. The path for this young man is filled with a wide range of delectable  opportunities for Wormwood to skillfully enact his Uncle Screwtape’s directives, which are ultimately aimed at keeping “the patient” away from, and of no use to “the Enemy” – which is of course God Himself.

In classic fashion, C.S. Lewis blends a brilliant use of satirical fiction with sheer reason and spiritual insight to create a world in which the daily struggle “against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12)” becomes more tangible, without appearing mystical or cartoonish. In so doing, the reader is granted what seems like covert access to highly classified demonic operational documents that, once thoughtfully analyzed and understood, could truly produce a formidable safeguard against the common errors in thinking about the existence of devils and their crafty methods of deceit.

It should come as no surprise that deception is the consummate name of the game for Screwtape and Wormwood. That is, after all, the essential essence of all Satanic activity. In one of the most piercing and heated confrontations with the religious leaders of His day, Jesus describes the devil as, “a murderer from the beginning, [who] does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).” Clearly, this passage was in the mind of Lewis when he wisely warned the readers, “to remember that the devil is a liar. Not everything that Screwtape says should be assumed to be true even from his own angle (From the Preface of The Screwtape Letters).”

I recommend that you pick up a copy of The Screwtape Letters and give it a read. You should know, however, that you will be entering a world of comical, ingenious, and diabolical deception. While this foray into the intellectual underworld might reveal to you possible demonic strategies that make you more astute in recognizing and resisting temptation, don’t be surprised if you see yourself in ways that you did not expect and may not like. You might even be compelled, at times, to ask yourself whose side you are really on. Since self-examination can be a healthy, biblical exercise (Matthew 7:1-52 Corinthians 13:52 Peter 1:3-11), I would say that the The Screwtape Letters is, indeed, a good read.

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).

A Good Read: “From Forgiven to Forgiving” by Jay E. Adams

From Forgiven to Forgiving


How comfortable are you when you read? Are you the type of person with a nice spot on the sofa, or are you someone with the ability to turn a page on the treadmill? Whenever an idea comes our way, the internal posture counts for more than the circumstances in which we find ourselves. I’m speaking of that willingness to conduct an interior review, while I read, rather than watching the thoughts go by. As an educator, I’d call it active versus passive reading; but in the coffee spills and calendar jams that constitute my daily life, I frequently find myself in contempt of the familiar. Biblical topics will usually provoke this quicker than any others. It should come as no surprise to you then, that reviewing a book on being forgiven does more to self-illuminate than to market.

I’m on the first page of the first chapter, and Adams is telling me all about the substantial claims that “go about masquerading as forgiveness.” I’m curious, but still primarily suspicious. It’s been years of people telling me to read this or that and often finding that the book says nothing. Then there’s the categorical failing of many authors. You know, whenever so and so releases a new book, it basically repackages what the last one said? Another fifteen dollars to read your last book reworked through metaphors about movies instead of history? Consider my surprise when Adams informs me that this isn’t a book answering the question “what does forgiveness do?” He’s taking a swing at the issues which confuse what forgiveness is, namely: apologies, the old forgive and forget, and the feelings that drive us to approach it in many different ways.

Sometimes “sorry” simply isn’t enough. If you’re into etymology, the word apology comes from the word apologia, or defense. We don’t want to go up to people asking them to accept our defense, do we? The profoundly Christian power of forgiveness, according to Adams, comes from one person confessing guilt and asking to be forgiven. For some, the distinction seems irrelevant, but what saying “I’m sorry” seems to do, is elevate how badly someone feels into a strong enough reason to move past an issue.

What about forgiving and forgetting? There’s a problem with that too. Indeed, even as God promises to remember our sins no more, we understand that an omniscient ruler of the universe can’t actually forget. What He can do, however, is deliberately not use them against us. There’s a reversal that takes place when this happens between two people then. Once a person grants another forgiveness, the forgiven individual is expected to keep the other from using the persistence of memory as a weapon against them. It’s good to understand the expectations placed upon us. But I thought forgiveness was a more private thing?

The process of forgiveness is intended to bring reconciliation to people through the process of confrontation over sin. The whole of Adams’ book is set in the context of Matthew 18. This idea of feeling like we’ve forgiven or moved on has little to do with the spiritual discipline prescribed by scripture. After all, sin’s tendency is to divide, isolate, and as James tells us, eventually produce death. Eventually we’re each called to take a step we’d rather not take. The work of being reconciled to others is messy, but how can we be peacemakers if we don’t? A passive aggressive status quo simply won’t suit in this case.

Adams’ book is a well balanced approach to both types of conversations. There’s a good amount of information on needing to confront other people with their sin and be reconciled. If you’re like me, there’s about the same amount of advice on going to others and asking them to forgive you. Familiarity almost cost me a good read here. It doesn’t matter if you intend to read this one in bed or at the gym, just make sure you approach this slender text with an active mind looking towards self-evaluation.

A Good Read: “The Faithful Parent” by Martha Peace & Stuart Scott

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Martha Peace is a Bible teacher and counselor to women, through Faith Biblical Counseling Center in Sharpsburg, GA. Stuart Scott is an associate professor of Biblical Counseling at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY. Dr. Scott and Mrs. Peace collectively have fifty years of experience in biblical counseling and teaching. They have each raised two children, and have a combined 14 grandchildren. In the book, The Faithful Parent, Dr. Scott and Mrs. Peace blend their biblical training with their practical experience as parents to produce a very compelling and useful guide for all parents who desire to raise their children in a God-honoring manner.

The book is divided into three parts. In Part One, the authors discuss the biblical basis for Christian parenting. The assertion is that the parent’s role is to be faithful to the two primary responsibilities that God has entrusted to them:  1) to bring their children up in the discipline of the Lord, and 2) to bring their children up in the instruction of the Lord. The goal for Christian parents is to reliably and faithfully obey the Lord in this call. The foundation for this faithful charge as parents is their own daily maturity in Christ, as they themselves strive to become more like Christ each day. The authors remind parents that they are to teach their children diligently what God is like, what man is like, what sin is, and what God has done to take away sin. Our children, on the other hand, are called to obey their parents and honor their parents in the Lord. Children are to always obey, unless they are being asked to sin. In this section, Stuart Scott also addresses the most important aspect of our children’s lives – salvation and sanctification.

In Part Two, the authors explore the different stages of childhood, from infancy to teenager, and give practical wisdom and principles for discipline and instruction. They consistently remind parents of common sense tips and biblical principles for each stage of growth. They also address the nature and temperaments of each developmental age and how to effectively discipline and instruct children as they advance through childhood. The authors also address the many ways in which parents can provoke their children to anger and disobedience. At the end of each chapter, the book provides review questions to help parents think about and apply the principles learned.

In Part Three, Scott and Peace address the persistent and steadfast parenting that arises during times of trial, sinfulness, and suffering. In this section, the authors explore briefly the special cases of parenting. Some of the topics they cover are single parenting, divorced parents, blended families, an absentee parent, homes with one Christian parent and one unbelieving parent, grandparent problems, and children with special needs. This is not an in depth study, but rather a quick overview of special situations, with practical advice for parents in these situations.

This final section of the book also covers the child that rejects the gospel and turns away from faith in Christ. It provides biblical principles to remember while persevering through hardship, poor choices, sinful situations, etc. The authors even supply a 30 day devotional to reorient the parent’s heart and mind throughout their trial and suffering.

The book ends with four appendices that serve to assist parents with presenting the Gospel to their children, dealing with sin in their own lives, raising a godly man, and taking their own thoughts captive. This book is a thoughtful and practical resource for parents to gain a biblical understanding of their God ordained responsibility, and it provides applicable strategies to implement in the lives of their children. It is a great reference for parents who are striving to bring their children up in the discipline and the instruction of the Lord.