Written by Christiaan A. Grutz
“The real trouble about the set your patient is living in is that is merely Christian. They all have individual interests, of course, but the bond remains mere Christianity (Lewis, 126).” -Screwtape
“Merely Christian (Lewis, 126),” is how Screwtape described it. What does it mean to be “merely Christian?” Screwtape, a tempting devil of seniority, contrasts it against something which he calls “Christianity And (Lewis, 126).” He informs his neophyte nephew that he must retain his “Patient’s” mind dwelling on that which is not simply and merely Christian.
“You know-Christianity and the Crisis, Christianity and the New Psychology, Christianity and the New Order…(Lewis, 126)” Why might C.S. Lewis’ devil desire for Wormwood to distract his patient? It would counteract any benefit of Christianity and conquer it. When pure Christianity is diluted with a worldly idol, it transforms the purpose of Christianity from “entrusting [ones]self to [Christ] as saviour (ACNA, 25)” to a convoluted portrayal of Christianity based on one’s ambitious dreams. Rather than a devotion to Jesus Christ, it is fidelity to a cause with a possibility of Christian thought tossed alongside. But how is “Christianity And” really a divergence from being “merely Christian?” When one is merely Christian, he must aver an undiluted faith in Jesus Christ, elevating God’s hegemony as a priority above all else. Secondly, it is a discipline to embrace that faith as precious and sacred before God and men, never to “substitute for the faith itself some Fashion with a Christian colouring (Lewis, 126).” Consequently, it is the joyful devotion to sharing the testimony of unadulterated Christian faith. Employing deceit, trickery, and the appeals to human thought patterns, Screwtape and Wormwood, strive to turn the “Patient” away from unsullied Christian faith.
Screwtape’s “grave displeasure (Lewis, 15),” at receiving the news that Wormwood’s patient is now a Christian is to be expected. After all, he is a demon and the human has now issued a setback for the two tempters. But Screwtape is also convinced that this “…sojourn into the enemy camp (Lewis, 15),” will be fleeting and ineffective into his ultimate salvation: “All the habits of the patient, both mental and bodily are still in our favor (Lewis, 15).” However, contrary to Screwtape’s assertion, the Patient’s habits are not leaning to their favor. The man’s habits, behaviour, and perception of reality had become altered entirely because of his choice. “To be a Christian… begins with becoming a Christian in a conscious way…(ACNA, 17).” Christianity isn’t simply the statement of fact: action and faith embody vigilance in spiritual abandonment. In one of his letters, which is now contained in a book aptly titled Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis outlines three virtues: Faith, Hope, and Charity. Every Christian who truly devotes himself to knowing Christ either possesses these or is ardently pursuing them. Conversely, Screwtape utterly despises the thought of these virtues and as such describes a righteously beautifully moral, “merely Christian” woman as a “vile, sneaking, simpering, demure, monosyllabic, mouse-like, watery, insignificant, virginal, bread-and-butter…insipid little prude (Lewis, 111-112).” Wormwood is told that her presence in the patient’s life is unhealthy because her faith is untarnished. Her influence on him is not a “good” one. The image created by the young woman and Screwtape’s compulsory abhorrence of her conveys what true Christianity represents: unblemished and pure trust in Jesus Christ without any sublunary distractions.
After the patient’s initial decision for Christianity comes a period of trials. Screwtape likens the time to Wormwood as a “…disappointment or anticlimax which is certainly coming to the patient during his first few weeks as a churchman (Lewis, 17).” He further explains that the journey from declaration of faith to dedication to Christianity is akin to newlyweds learning how to live together as husband and wife or the transition from high hopes and anticipatory dreams to “laborious doing (Lewis, 17).” Grimy, exhausting, and arduous at first, it is the expedition following the embryonic realization that the Christian is liberated. When it comes to the daily business of living in Christianity, one realizes the difficulties. Constantly tempted to forego their previous engagement with God, Christ-followers must comprehend that they are requested to sacrifice all for the Lord. As such, they should be described as recklessly devoted to Christ Jesus. Oswald Chambers states: “the consequence of abandonment [to Christ] never enters into our outlook because our life is taken up with Him (Chambers, 73).” Christianity is a fanatic obsession and abandon to Christ the Lord. Yet Chambers does not mean that Christians should only be concerned with their faith, rather that as Christians, they are to serve the Lord with everything by loving one another. They are not to catch themselves up with the world, only to live in it as slaves to Christ Jesus. The Patient has arrived to the period of faith in which he feels some sort of emptiness. The exhilarating joy of new Christianity is depleted, he feels the temptation toward his worldly habits once more, and he feels empty of God’s will. Where is he to go? How is he to be a Christian without this faith? Screwtape defines this period as a “trough” referring to the “Law of Undulation (Lewis, 44). “Humans naturally swing back and forth in”a series of troughs and peaks (Lewis, 44).” The present dullness of the Patient’s Christianity is a summons from God. He asks the man to follow Him without question wherever He may lead even when lost, bored, blind, and deaf. Screwtape advises Wormwood to “…ask what use the Enemy wants to make of it, and then do the opposite (Lewis, 45).” Devilry seeks to uproot the fresh new faith of a Christian. With perseverance and God’s help, the period of trial will soon become an ease.
Once a Christian is strong enough in their “mere” faith to withstand the temptations and deceit of demons, it is their duty to joyfully spread the Good News of the Gospel with an unadulterated Christian faith. It is the downfall of a devil when a soul is “lost” to the “Enemy.” “In the same way, I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents (NASB, 996).” For that reason alone, Christians ought to share the Freedom of Truth throughout the land. Joy and Truth, faith and purity, promise and fulfilment: the freeing, redemptive, comfort of Jesus Christ. As a mere Christian, the Patient is to live as one who knows these assurances. Contrariwise, Screwtape urges Wormwood to strive in leading the Patient to doubt. When the Patient doubts, he cannot spread the Word. When he cannot spread the Word, another soul is more likely to be lost to the “Father in Hell.”
Once more, the query: what does Screwtape mean when he declares that some of the Patient’s relations “merely Christian?” It is plainly opposed to Screwtape’s “Christianity And,” which describes a weak, diffused Christianity attached to a worldly cause. Rather than the fidelity to a cause with a possibility of Christian thought tossed alongside, the averation of an undiluted faith in Jesus Christ and God’s authority is to be elevated. Rather than the indecisive fluctuation between Christ and the world, it is a discipline to embrace mere Christianity as venerated and irreplaceable. Rather than allowing one’s mind to be clouded by doubt, being “merely Christian” means the joyful devotion to sharing the testimony of unadulterated Christian faith. The ambiguity of the meaning of “Christian” has gone too far. Around the world, Christianity is often not considered a righteous, upstanding, moral, guidepost to a faithful life in Christ. On the contrary, many Christians are perceived as “slap-in-the-face, be faithful” evangelizers who are ignored by a vast amount of those around them. The application of faint Biblical truth to things of earthly value has caused mere Christianity to lose significance. Many have fallen into the trap of “Christianity And.” Only by the simply pure faith in Christ, will any be saved from the devil’s house. “…There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved (NASB, 1046),” Acts 4:12.
- Anglican Church of North America. To Be a Christian: an Anglican Catechism. Anglican House Publishers Inc, 2018.
- Lewis, C. S. Mere Christianity. The Macmillan Company, 1960.
- Lewis, C. S. The Screwtape Letters. Fount Paperbacks, 1977.
- Chambers, Oswald. My Utmost For His Highest. Classic Edition ed., Oswald Chambers Publications Associations, 2018.
- Various. New American Standard Bible. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1978.