February 12, 2006

My Screwtape Letter #2

Dear Wormwood,

I have received your letter. I am glad to hear that your Calvinistic patient is now frequenting Internet discussion boards and chat rooms to learn about Calvinism. We want him to learn theology through the most incompetent would-be "teachers" who are not given to studying primary sources. I hear that he is already engaging in debate in these forums. Encourage this practice among the immature and theologically ignorant. One of our major goals is to create verbal littering, especially among the Christians. Make sure they ignore passages like James 1:19 and James 3:1. Maximize noise in order to make them avoid quiet contemplation of truth.

Also, make sure that your patient is more excited about his "Calvinism" than his conversion. We shall use this later in order to make him elevate the TULIP doctrines to an essential doctrinal status. After he gives his typical "conversion" testimony to Calvinism to other Calvinists in chat rooms, and expresses how he has been so abased, make sure that he behaves arrogantly toward the non-Calvinists who enter the room. Encourage group-think among the Calvinists so that they feel like they are in an elite club of true intellectuals. We want them to behave like a cult group where people must conform to certain speculative and secondary doctrines (particularly those which we secretly introduce), or be cast out of the group. Encourage a white-hat/black-hat mentality. With regard to those who do not conform, make sure the true members of the club hurl names at them that function as Shibboleths.

Now, I wish to address your questions about particular false dilemmas to put in the mind of your patient. Remember what I previously said about his reasoning processes. Even though he now believes different theological propositions, we want him to reason the same way that he did when he was not a Calvinist. If he formerly thought that God must love everyone equally, now make him think that God must only love the elect, in order to be "consistent." It’s the same sort of rationalism that we so admire. As I said, flatter him about being logically consistent. If he formerly thought that God’s so-called "preceptive" or "revealed will" was the only real will, now make him think that the "secret" or "decretal will" is the only real will, even if he continues to superficially distinguishes between them. If he formerly thought that God equally wills the salvation of every human being, now make him think that God only wills the salvation of the elect. If he formerly thought that responsibility presupposes ability (constitutional ability as well as moral ability), now make him think that unregenerate humanity has no ability to obey in any sense (not even constitutional or natural ability). If he formerly thought that Christ died to save all humanity with the same intent to save, now make him think that Christ only intended to die for the elect alone. This false dilemma is related those I mentioned above regarding God’s love and will. If he formerly thought that the gospel was an offer, now make him think that it’s only a bare command (i.e. not an expression of a divine desire for compliance) and not an offer, especially not a sincere or well-meant sort of offer.

See how this works? His way of thinking will still be as rationalistic as it formerly was. These "Arminian"-like thinking patterns will cause his new found "Calvinism" to become hyper-Calvinism. When this happens, he will not realize how Arminian his "Calvinism" really is! He won’t even be able to detect the correct reasoning patterns in Calvin and his ilk. Your patient will stamp his own presuppositions on Calvin (if he ever bothers to read him first hand—Satan forbid!) and other writings, like a template. Whenever he reads, all of his reasoning will be top down and deductive, or system-driven. He will merely assume the validity of his system and read through that grid like a pair of glasses, which will actually blind and blur, not help him see. He will even humorously call his invalid interpretations "contextual" and "exegetical," as though merely using these words ensures that his interpretations are sound. As he reads and reflects, he will only be reaffirming his biases and prejudices. Do not allow your patient to become epistemologically self-aware and self-suspicious. Make sure that he’s always asking the wrong questions, and only seeing problems outside of himself.

Your ill-meaning uncle,

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