Listen to Audio

Screwtape Letters 2 Church

C.S. Lewis

Considered – one of – most influential writers of the 20th century.

Born: 1898

At 15, he loses his faith and pronounces his commitment to atheism and the occult.

B/C of that influence, He eventually returns to Christianity.

Writes Books:

  • Chronicles of Narnia – Lion, Witch, wardrobe,
  • Mere Christianity

The Screwtape Letters

Telling of the story of a human life. Told from the view point of a demon bent on destroying the humans faith.

Also, of course, not everyone believes in a literal satan & demons. I personally do. But don’t get caught up on that. As you’ll see, that’s not actually what the book is about. – Traps that we so easily fall into.

For us, it basically serves as a fun way to talk about some issues that seem to trip up a lot of Christians.

All you need to know is 3 characters.

1. Screwtape

The uncle – Senior demon. – Highly experienced and extremely successful demon. – The author of all the letters. ‘Our father below’ – Satan. ‘Our enemy above’ – God.

2. Wormwood

Screwtapes nephew. – Demon who’s new to the job and doesn’t really know how to tempt his human yet.

3. The Patient

The recently converted human who is the subject of the book. Wormwood (the nephew) is assigned the patient to reclaim back from the camp of the enemy (God).

Last Week: The Patient Becomes a Christian.

  1. The patient is encouraged to never turn his feelings into actions.
  2. The patient is encouraged to think that his view of the world is always right.

Wk2: The patient goes to church

A little time passes, and screwtape is upset to hear that the patient has begun to attend church.

You mentioned casually in your last letter that the patient has continued to attend one church, and one only.

Why don’t I have a report on the cause of his fidelity? Don’t you realize that unless it is due to indifference that is a very bad thing?

Screwtape – always – plan.

He then introduces wormwood to his 2 counter attacks against the patients fidelity to the church.

1. The patient is encouraged to focus on the imperfection of the church.

I’m not talking about the church spread throughout time an space, rooted in eternity. Fortunately that church is quite invisible to most humans. Most humans will simply see the half-finished, brown building on the east side of town.

In place of saints and brothers and sisters, I want you to put in his mind the local grocer with oily skin, and the stay at home mom with frazzled hair.

Provided that these neighbors sing out of tune, have boots that squeak, have double chins, or odd clothes, the patient will easily believe that the religion is somehow ridiculous.

Never let him ask himself what he expected these people to look like.

So: the imperfection of the church.

2. The patient is encouraged to be a critic and connoisseur of churches.

If the patient can’t be cured of churchgoing, the next best thing is to send him all over town looking for a church that ‘suits’ him until he becomes a great taster of churches.

But the patient is encouraged to be violently opinionated when it comes to things like calling it ‘service’ vs ‘mass’. ‘Communion’ vs ‘The Eucarist’, seeker-friendly vs ‘discipleship’, if the sermon is too shallow or too deep.

Ultimately those arguments serve to pull people away from things that are really important.

Instead of the patient leaving service motivated by love, he leaves service offended by things that don’t ultimately matter.

The ability to connect with God is not all about the sermon, rather, it’s largely about the hearer and about the heart that is open to receive or not.

There is hardly any sermon, or book which may not be dangerous to us if it is received in humility.

Overarching theme – comes to the patient and his relationship with the church is this:

We want the Church to be small and insignificant. Not only so fewer men may know the Enemy but also that those who do will feel their faith is a faith of fools.

I want to talk about the Church b/c I think it’s important.

I can see such ugliness in the church. – Closed minded, hateful, petty, exclusive.

I can also see this beautiful thing that was started by Jesus to help heal the world.

And I’m not ready to give up on it.

Show my cards a little: If not working: find a new way. Not abandon it altogether.

So it was for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’. (Acts 11:26)

Paul his friends – Troaz – (Turkey)

Planning: Going north & east into Asia.

Spirit told them that’s not what they were supposed to do.

1 night: Paul – dream.

Man across sea – in macedonia, (greece)

“Come over and help us”

Paul “God has called me to preach the gospel in Macedonia.”

So they cross the sea, come to macedonia.

Introduce people to the message of Jesus.

Fast forward 1000 years – Europe is largely converted to Christianity.

Fast forward another 1000 years – NOW, there’s definately some pockets of Christianity in europe, but as a whole it’s a very secular, post-christian culture.

There was a man who foresaw this. – Lived in the mid 1800’s

Friedrich Nietzsche – (Knee-Chay) Philosopher/Atheist

Compared Christianity to a lucust shell on a tree. Still looks like it’s there, but it’s long since died.

Famous parable – The Madman

Talk about a man who comes into a marketplace at noon on a clear day, holding a lantern. – Walks around “Where is God?! I’m looking for God?! Searching for God! Can’t find God anywhere!”

People – laughing, mocking., – middle of the day holding a lantern, looking for God.

Madman says “I’ll tell you where God is, God is dead. We have killed him.”

The people just continue to laugh.

“But I can see that I’ve come too soon.”

Meaning: When he says “God is dead”, remember he’s an athiest, so it’s not like he thinks there’s some omnipotent being that’s died. – No, he’s saying – “Christianity, faith in God, is dead.”

He can see it, but he knows that other people can’t see that and that’s why he says “I can see that I’ve come too soon.”

Don’t be too hard on the guy, he’s not excited about the current situation. He’s just asking the question “What’s next?”

Christianity had come, taken over, and now it’s dying.

What’s next?

“It’s like we’ve lost the horizon. We don’t know what’s out there that’s coming next.”

HOPED : Humanity – rise up – heroic. “Ubermensch” – Superman.

FEARED : Niche HOPED humanity would rise up and become heroic. Hoped for “Ubermensch” – Superman. Feared that something else would happen.

Mankind would degenerate into what he calls “The Last Man”

He describes: Sitting in a couch, blinking stupidly, saying “We have invented happiness.”

In other words, more than a century ago saw “The Couch Potato.”

No greater aspiration that to be entertained.

A Prophet?

Some would consider Knee-Chay a prophet. In his own way. He’s of course an athiest, stark opponent of Christianity, went insane the last 10 years of his life. But he ALSO foresaw tons of stuff including the demise of Christianity in Europe.

Now Europe is considered one of the most ‘Post Christian’ continents in the world.

Now let’s talk about Christianity in America in the 21st century.

Does it have a brighter future?

Hard to say.

Mainly b/c it’s so tangled up with american-ism, hard to separate the two.

But most would have to admit: The idea that Christianity will remain a dominant culture is wishful thinking.

MY hope, for Christianity in America: Will be the radical alternative of a minority.

More authentic / honest / passionate / devoted.

But I also believe it will be the faith of a minority.

But here’s really what I want to say tonight: According to Screwtape and according to me:

The message of Christ suffers without the church.

Many people here that have been hurt, or disillusioned by the church. And I’m not trying to minimize that, I’m saying that to completely abandon the idea is an overreaction. B/C Jesus is the one who introduced us to the idea of the church.

What is a Christian?

Lots of popular answers.

In Evangelical America you’ll get answers like this:

  • “A Christian is someone who has been born again.”
  • “A Christian is someone who’s accepted Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.”
  • “A Christian is someone who has a personal relationship with Jesus.”
  • “A Christian is a follower of Jesus.”

All true. – But there’s also a glaring omission in all of those answers.

Make no mention of Christian community.

And that’s not the picture you get when you read the bible.

B/C almost assumed – esp in America today – other people have nothing to do with being a Christian.

Two separate things.

We’ve made being a Christian completely independent from Christian community.

It’s something we’ve done. You didn’t get this from the scripture, you didn’t get this from our Christian heritage.

We’ve made Christianity very private, very personal. Me and Jesus and ehh… sometimes the bible.

The church is thought of as an optional common interest club.

For those who want it, but certainly not necessary.

So now, we can talk about being a Christian. And:

  • Communion
  • Corporate Worship
  • Liturgy
  • Discipleship – Extra.

we view as extra stuff.

B/C we’ve cheapened it to be mostly about postmortum things: Who goes to heaven and who goes to hell.

Christianity is the bible is not only about YOU. Christianity in the bible had A LOT to do with you playing a part in something bigger than yourself. The idea of ‘The Kingdom of God’.

So it was for an entire year they met with the church and taught a great many people, and it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called ‘Christians’. (Acts 11:26)

So it’s this church that’s giving birth to these Christians.

Peter goes around preaches: “Repent and be baptized.”

Cool – B/C 2 things: 1 you can do by yourself (repent) and another you need Christian community to do (be baptised).

  • Can’t – Baptize – yourself.
  • Serve yourself communion.
  • Teach yourself to pray.
  • Disciple yourself.

Cyprian (Church Father , lived in the 200ADs): “He that confesses God as his father, must have the church as his mother.”

Instead of saying “I’m done with the church.” Say “It’s time for us to right the wrongs of the church.”

But don’t abandon it. Jesus made it.

We want the Church to be small and insignificant. Not only so fewer men may know the Enemy but also that those who do will feel their faith is a faith of fools.

Where do Christians come from?

They come from the same place the bible comes from. The church.

The bible didn’t float down from heaven.

Takes Church :

Write, compile, canonize, interpret, the bible.

Evangelize, baptize, nourish, and form Christians.

Brian Zahnd – You might be some kind of Christian apart from the church, but your children probably won’t be, and your grandchildren definitely won’t be.

Christianity doesn’t long survive outside of the Church.

That’s just the way it is.

Some people get angry with that idea. That’s the american in you.

“Don’t want anyone – tell.


Personal relationship.”

Sorry, it doesn’t work that way.

We want the Church to be small and insignificant. Not only so fewer men may know the Enemy but also that those who do will feel their faith is a faith of fools.

So where does the Church need to go?


I don’t always know exactly what the church will look here for the next generation, but I am exceedingly confident that just getting american ideals and slapping a Christian sticker on them is not going to work.

New wave of young people going to Calvinism. – Neo-Calvanism

I’m not a Calvinist, but I understand the appeal.

People are looking for a more complete gospel than ‘Pray that God will give you the american dream.’ That’s not gonna hack it.

The church needs to be an authentic representation of Jesus in the 21st century.

1. The Church that will last in the 21st century is a church with roots.

That go down into the Christian tradition. Confessions / practices – historic church.

IMO: Make-it-up-as-you-go Christianity is not going to survive this next 50 years. TO ME.

We must have the NEW. – We must trust the holy spirit.

But I also believe God is calling us back into the great tradition.

We get to translate and interpret Christianity, but we don’t get to invent it.

Passed on – generation to generation.

HUGE uprising of weekly communion.

2. The Church that will last in the 21st century is a church with community.

One of the great things about Church: It FORCES you to hang out with people you wouldn’t normally hang out with.

Learn to love people who are not exactly like you.

Now we come to the table of the lord

Tonight, amongst the hate and violence of our world.

We come to the table and we receive Christ’s reconciliation. & healing.

Let’s be the church.

Let’s be the church. Don’t think about a building, think about your brothers and sisters in this room.

And confess the creed that the church has been confessing for nearly 2000 years.

Apostles Creed

“I believe in God, the father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.
He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.
He descended to the dead.
On the third day he rose again.
He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the Holy Catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.


Father we come to this table, and we confess that the cup that we bless is our own mysterious participation in the blood of Christ. And this bread that we eat is our own mysterious participation in the body of Christ.

And tonight we receive you. And we say that we believe in you. And we thank you.

This is His body – broken for you

Blood – poured out for you.

Take a moment – take communion.