Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Screwtape – I

“Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn’t think of doctrines as primarily ‘true’ or ‘false’, but as ‘academic’ or ‘practical’, ‘outworn’ or ‘contemporary’, ‘conventional’ or ‘ruthless’. Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church.” C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters, page 1; 1942, HarperCollins, San Francisco.

Later in life Lewis will use narrative to communicate Mere Christianity; in this letter from Screwtape to Wormwood, Lewis thinks that engaging others in rational discussion is still possible, though difficult. What would he think today if in 1942, 72 years ago, the people around him were comfortable living with a mere dozen incompatible philosophies? Can we count the number of incompatible philosophies that surround us in 2014?

Today’s thinking often focuses on pleasure, money, and immediate gratification. There is little concern about philosophical or theological consistency; consistency and coherence are quaint ideas of the past – today we are free from the constraint of having to make integrated sense out of our thoughts and actions.  

And yet we can still ask questions. We can ask whether it makes sense for loving parents to save for their children’s future and yet not consider eternal questions. We can ask whether or not, in light of the accepted fact that we are the products of time plus matter plus chance, how anything can be morally wrong. We can ask what the logical outcome of nihilism is. We can ask what a person thinks about life and death and about whether or not there is life beyond this life…and if so…then ask why the person thinks that way. We can probe and ask what the foundation of a person’s life rests upon. 

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