The Missing 32nd Screwtape Letter


My Dear Wormwood,

Do not be alarmed by your patient’s recent foray into so-called conservative Christianity. Perhaps it is only a fad; these silly humans are ever looking for external certainty in an uncertain world. But if it is not, splendid! You can use this extremism to your advantage.

Plant the idea in your patient that his reason cannot be trusted, that it is not a gift of his Creator but a depravity to be discarded for true faith . Show him that his inner voice is suspect. This is simple enough: point out his many flaws and failures and how these have gotten him into hot water over and over again. He will shortly come to distrust the still and patient voice of our Enemy, the voice that does not twist free will (also a gift from his Creator-and a boon for us) but gently urges your patient to seek and find.

The success of your manipulation will be obvious. Your patient’s Bible will become a dry crust, a stale book of rules and aphorisms. It will cease to have a living quality, specifically, as a guide to the truth that is already written in his heart. He may even put all reason aside and try to twist his mind into a Biblical literalism that ignores the Truth of the Scriptures for a false sense of certainty that denies cosmology and hails ignorance as a counterweight to soulless naturalism. He will not be able to see that the search for Truth can be found in science and philosophy without the necessity of rejection if it doesn’t seem to fit the Bible. With this error of self-righteousness in hand, your patient will eventually begin to reject the tortured searching of Christians who don’t agree with him, ending in rejection of other Christians altogether. The trap will snap shut, and you may then carry him to Our Father.

Of course you must be aware that he may shift gears and go completely in the opposite direction. Don’t panic. These narrow-minded humans live under the illusion that our universe-seen and unseen-operates under a duality: there can be only two positions to any view. Encourage this in your patient. Steer him to the liberal extreme, where the false virtues of tolerance and inclusiveness replace the true virtues of humility and patience. This view is at least as great a trap as the other extreme and will do as a stumbling block.

Above all, do not permit your catch to discover that there is a middle way that holds to the centrality of Truth and personal experience of the divine while rejecting or limiting those ideas that do not enter into human salvation and love of others. If your patient discovers love, this will be your undoing.

Your affectionate uncle,