Reversing Screwtape: Pride

2. Pride

Screwtape attends now to the believer’s pride.  A pride that displays itself in naivete about oneself and contempt for the ordinary collection of people in the church.

About oneself, Screwtape writes, 

“He has not been anything like long enough with the Enemy (aka God) to have any real humility yet.  What he says, even on his knees, about his own sinfulness is all parrot talk.  At bottom he still believes he has run up a very favourable credit-balance in [God’s] ledger by allowing himself to be converted…”

This letter is about how we may perceive people in the church, through the lens of our so-called “very favourable credit-balance” with God.  The most unlikely people, or the hypocritical person singing or saying the most impenetrable liturgies.  This all lends itself to viewing the Church as a ridiculous thing, and therefore irrelevant.  And in some glorious way it is, but that’s the genius of the Church – it is unlikely; it is often ridiculous, it is strange.  It is a miracle of God hiding in plain sight!

Therefore, Screwtape encourages Wormwood to “work hard on the disappointment or anticlimax which is certainly coming” to those who go to church and practise the spiritual disciplines.  Screwtape does observe that the Enemy [aka God] does in fact allow this disappointment in a believer’s life.  And this disappointment is to see that a Christian is not merely reliant upon their religious emotions or feelings, but that whenever they get through their spiritual dryness successfully, they become “less dependent on emotion and therefore much harder to tempt.”

Screwtape provides examples of what this might look like:  A boy reading Stories from the Odyssey going on to actually study the New Testament language of Greek; Or two lovers having got married and then beginning the task of learning to live together.  Screwtape says, “In every department of life, it marks the transition from dreaming aspiration to laborious doing” because the Enemy (aka God) wants “free lovers and servants, sons [and daughters]”, much to Screwtape’s disgust!

So this second devilish letter combats disillusionment with the church because of pride.  Pride is often called the chief sin, and has long been recognised as a particularly pernicious type of sin.  Pride is a distortion of the divine longing for abundance, and the antidote to pride is of course, humility, whereby we see that God allows us to experience as we grow in the spiritual life from, say, reading stories to learning Greek, or falling in love to living in love.  C. S. Lewis said, “Humility is not thinking less of ourselves; it is thinking of ourselves less.  And Paul writes in Romans 12:9, “Let love be genuine.  Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.  Love one another with brotherly affection.”  This provides us with a true abundance in Christ which shatters the sin of pride.

Affectionately yours,


Tristram Kenton/The Guardian

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