A Master Demon’s Advice

Facebook_logo_(square)With a nod to C. S. Lewis, I am once again revisiting a Master Demon’s advice to his young lieutenant:

Wormbottom, er, Tonguetape is it, or Tapeworm—whatever you’re called—I’ve had some additional thoughts about our fight against the Enemy.

You’ve done a credible job of late suggesting to your charges that the Enemy is nothing but their fan, standing on the sidelines cheering them on to greatness.

His highest goal is their success, you’ve told them. Bravo! I heard three or four of the weaklings repeating that line at work, and one posted it on Facebook. With any luck we can get several of them to share it on Twitter, too, where someone is bound to retweet it.

Be that as it may, the next phase of your work is to shift your charges’ focus so they begin to think it their responsibility to evaluate the Enemy. You can prompt them to ask such questions as, Is He really as kind as they are? Is His plan for Humankind fair? Don’t all people everywhere deserve better?

256px-JUDGE_PARKER'S_COURTROOMOnce they start asking such questions, they have slid toward the role of judge.

Above all, keep them away from the Enemy’s playbook because there are some clear statements that will ruin this plan—things like, “There is one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy.”

Our Master claims the line is written about him, but of course the Enemy says otherwise, and it is His playbook. At any rate, if any of your charges are thinking at all, they’ll realize that line is not talking about them, that in fact they are not the judge, and therefore they are wrong to usurp that role.

You must not let them consider the possibility they are wrong. Rather, encourage them, Bottomtape, er, Tongueworm, whatever, to think that they deserve to know and understand the Enemy’s every move.

Once they have reached this conviction, move them to the next phase: they deserve to approve of what the Enemy is doing. Of course you must also convince them that the Enemy’s plans are not up to the standards of today.

Tell them morality has improved over time, that people everywhere now know slavery is wrong, for example, or that prejudice is intolerable. Tread carefully here, though. You must lead them to a prejudiced opinion without realizing that they are condemning the thing which they have embraced.

Once you have appealed to their pride, the rest should be easy. They will see their advanced state and the Enemy’s archaic standards, and conclude it is only right for them to make corrections of His plan, and even reinterpret His handbook. The net result will be that they end up saying the opposite of what the Enemy intended.

narrow_pathFor example, when He said, the way is narrow, they’ll think it’s too narrow and can’t possibly be an accurate picture of the way the world is unfolding. In fact the Enemy either was mistaken or His followers who wrote those words were exaggerating for effect.

Granted. That will be a hard one, but I have faith in you, and and foot soldiers in the past have had some success with this plan of attack.

You might try another tact in these postmodern times. Get them to think the narrow way is for people today who have copies of the handbook. Those who embrace its philosophy are on the narrow way—which actually is true. But here’s the key. Get your charges to adopt a second narrow way and a third, if you want to, maybe even a fourth.

For example, the weaklings the Enemy created can be sincere about what they believe and that will put them on another narrow way. Or they can do their best with what they had, and that will put them one a third narrow way.

Only don’t let your charges think these are actually separate ways. Convince them that they are different manifestations of the same path.

And whatever you do, don’t let them realize they are standing in disapproval of the Enemy. Rather, convince them that He came up with the “many narrow ways which are simply different manifestations of the same path” idea. Let them think they are actually ferreting out His meanings and intentions, because, after all, He would certainly be fair.

Fair, of course, in their understanding means giving everyone, no matter what they think of the Enemy, the same chance to live with Him forever.

What nonsense! As if most of your charges can even stomach to talk with the Enemy for five minutes, let alone offer Him praise throughout eternity.

More ridiculous still is their false belief that they deserve to live with Him, since He’s the king and all, and they are surely good company for a king to keep.

You’ve made a good start, Wormbottom. But there’s lots yet to do. Nevertheless, I’m confident you can sway your charges to hold the Enemy in contempt for His exclusivist views and bigoted plans. You’ll have them working for you then. So keep at it.

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Published in: on May 5, 2014 at 6:31 pm  Comments (7)  
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7 Comments

  1. Lewis tells of an account (I think it might be in “The Screwtape Letters,” if my memory serves me well) of a young woman mentioning to him that she had read one of his books. His reply was, “Which one?” To which she answered, “The Screwtape Letters because it’s the shortest one.” He got a kick out of it. I’ll have to check my accuracy one day. I don’t have a copy anymore.

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  2. I’m not willing to disavow any possibility that there could be multiple manifestations of the same narrow way, although I think it would be dangerous to try to describe what those hypothetical manifestations would look like.

    At any rate, I think it would be bad to disparage some of the better motivations behind inclusivism. I’m sure its true that the concept of God is intolerable to many people, but it doesn’t follow that no one who doesn’t know the specific truth of the Gospel might be willing to repent. At the very least, you can’t blame us for being uncomfortable with the notion that other undeserving sinners like us will never have a chance to be redeemed. I don’t think that discomfort is of the devil.

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    • it doesn’t follow that no one who doesn’t know the specific truth of the Gospel might be willing to repent

      Bainespal, that’s only true if either God is a) not omniscient, b) not omnipotent, or c) not loving and therefore willing to let people who would come to Him die anyway.

      How can anyone be “comfortable” about the notion of sinners going to hell? God Himself isn’t “comfortable” with the fact:

      Ezekiel 33:11 – “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’

      Lam. 3:33 – For He does not afflict willingly
      Or grieve the sons of men.

      1 Tim. 2:3-4 – This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

      2 Peter 3:9 – The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

      Would Christ have died if God was comfortable with the eternal destiny of sinners? God’s whole rescue plan shows that He is willing to do what it takes to make a way for sinners to escape.

      And we who are His followers must be about the business of telling people about that way of escape. Do we do it out of joy or out of compassion? I could say with Paul—what does it matter as long as the gospel is preached? But I also would add, it’s misguided to think only those are loving who disbelieve what God says about Christ as the way, and that way being narrow. I think it is far more loving to stand in the broad way and wave the warning sign telling the multitudes that the bridge is out ahead.

      Becky

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      • Bainespal, that’s only true if either God is a) not omniscient, b) not omnipotent, or c) not loving and therefore willing to let people who would come to Him die anyway.

        Okay, that’s a fair enough philosophy I guess — total predestination. However, I have to believe that everyone who has ever lived in the history of Earth who was ever willing to repent from his or her inherent self-worship has been or will be redeemed, because God is both omniscient and loving. The problem is that it seems unlikely that everyone who has ever repented has had the opportunity to hear the Gospel, especially considering Old Testament times, etc. (I know people have been debating this in circles, and I have nothing to add, so let’s not go there.)

        Age of Accountability is a big problem for me. It seems like an extra-biblical dogma to me. A period of my life when I spent a long time in the company of severely retarded adults was one of things that eroded my confidence in evangelical soteriology. These people were not innocent — I could see periods of defiance and rebellion in them. I can’t accept that God simply decides not to hold them accountible because they don’t understand, especially if we’re not to believe that God has always held isolated pagans accountible. They had no ability to understand the Gospel and make a profession of faith, at least not with spoken language that other people could witness and understand. (Maybe they really could believe and confess Jesus in some way that we didn’t understand. If so, that’s sort of the point of Inclusivism, as I understand it.)

        I think it’s probably true that everyone who is repentent will hear the Gospel. However, if hypothetically even one person who would repent did not hear the Gospel, I think that person would still be saved by grace and through unspoken faith. I admit that it’s a hypothetical situation, but the fact of history makes it hard to avoid.

        But I also would add, it’s misguided to think only those are loving who disbelieve what God says about Christ as the way, and that way being narrow.

        I don’t think that you’re unloving. I understand that the evangelical zeal for evangelism is driven by love and compassion, for the most part. I’m just not confident enough to say definitively what God meant, and how the Bible interacts with our deepest spiritual realities.

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        • Let me re-emphasize that I don’t think you’re unloving at all. I think you’re a far better Christian than I am. For all I know, maybe I’m not a real Christian. I certainly know that I should be going to hell, and I wouldn’t feel to surprised if I end up there, seeing as I have so much of a problem with “saved.”

          I just really need a way to reconcile the Bible with universal truth. Because if Jesus isn’t universal, than I don’t see how He can be the true Way.

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      • You brought up some really good things, Bainespal. Where to begin?

        I don’t think I believe in total predestination, though I suppose it sounds like it. Here’s my take on salvation. God love the world, sent His Son to die for the world, every person in it. Those who believe will have everlasting life.

        So to use an analogy, God gave each of us a check for a billion dollars, but only the one who deposits the check will see a penny of what He gave. I know that ‘s not what Calvinists believe and I have no idea if that’s what Armenians believe. But I think that’s what the Bible teaches.

        In this discussion, then, why do I think those who want to know God will hear the gospel? Because God promised as much. He said in James, Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Matt. 7:7 says to ask, seek, knock and it will be given. Actually the entire passage is way cooler than that:

        Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

        See that last verse? That’s why I think God will make sure that anyone whose heart is inclined to Him will indeed hear the gospel. He gives good gifts.

        OK, so the age of accountability. I haven’t believed in that either, but just recently I came across a verse that made me think, Oh, this might be where people get the idea of an age of accountability. Of course I didn’t write the verse down and don’t remember anything about it other than it prompted that thought.

        I know some people support the idea from the Jewish practice of considering boys adults when they turn twelve and particularly Jesus going into the temple when He was twelve, but I find that hard mesh with the idea that we have a sin nature. What, it only kicks in at twelve? I don’t think so. On top of that, the most loving thing a parent could do would be to kill their child before they turn twelve to make sure they go to heaven. It’s not logical.

        As far as the severely retarded. Belief in Jesus doesn’t take a lot of intelligence. Jesus said, Let the little children come to me. Then this:

        “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

        I became a Christian when I was three. I don’t even remember it. Just that I did. And for years I wasn’t sure I was a Christian and if I was when I’d become one. I did the raise your hand and go up front bit just to be sure, but I wasn’t sure. For years and years, I wasn’t sure.

        I don’t remember who it was, but someone finally got through to me that the “sure” part was faith. I had to believe that God meant what He said. And if He did, then I was a Christian because I had confessed and believed. I’d recognized I was a sinner in need of a Savior. I trusted that Jesus had paid what I owed.

        I didn’t understand all that when I was three. I knew Jesus loved me and I wanted to be with Him in heaven. Did the dying thief understand much more? I don’t think so. My point is, I think God has made the gospel so simple a child can understand and so profound we can spend our lives studying it and still not grasp it fully.

        As far as knowing what God means, bainespal, I think we can only know that by reading His word and asking Him. Scripture says the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth. I believe that promise is for all of us who have the Holy Spirit and who ask Him to explain what we don’t understand.

        Becky

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  3. bainespal brings up an interesting point, i.e., with the developmentally challenged (to use the acceptable parlance — I worked at United Cerebral Palsy here in Phoenix for 5 years) in particular. I also tend to agree that the notion of the “Age of Accountability” is an extra-biblical one and not part of biblical soteriology. My answer to these dilemmas is the assertion Abraham made — “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do that which is right?” For example, biblically I can’t say (God forbid ANY such death) that an infant dying automatically goes to heaven. Or to hell. That God has not chosen to reveal. But I can most definitely say that the Judge shall do what is right — whatever that may be. Those souls. like the developmentally challenged, like precious infants taken away by any means, are in His Hands. And those Hands shall do what He deems right.

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