Tuesday, October 04, 2005

A Screwtape Letter

I'm in a study group studying the Screwtape Letters, by C. S. Lewis. In our last study we came across a very puzzling statement. It goes like this, from the eleventh letter:

Fun is closely related to Joy - a sort of emotional froth arising from the play instinct. It is very little use to us. It can sometimes be used, of course, to divert humans from something else which the Enemy would like them to be feeling or doing: but in itself it has wholly undesirable tendencies; it promotes charity, courage, contentment, and many other evils.

For those of you not familiar with the premise of Screwtape Letters, they are a series of letters written by a senior tempter (Screwtape) to his nephew, Wormwood. Hence the "undesirable tendencies: charity..."

I was puzzled by this passage. Why should fun produce charity (which is the word Lewis uses for agape love), and courage? I had certainly never thought of it that way.

I saw, however, that fun could produce contentment. Why is that? Because fun is focused on the now, the present. It is not focused on the future, which is where coveting lies. Coveting does lie in the future, does it not? I want what I do not have now, but would like in the future.

And then, in a flash, I saw how the other two fall out of that. Consider: of the Ten Commandments, the Tenth is a keystone commandment. It is a linchpin. Why? Because coveting leads to breaking all the other commandments, including the first four, I might add. What is the opposite of coveting? Contentment. So the Tenth Commandment commands us to be content. Now if we are content, we are much more likely to keep the rest of the commandments. But that is just obeying God. Loving God and obeying God are precisely the same thing. I've explained this on other blog entries, so I won't repeat myself here. So there's your charity! Fun produces charity, just like Lewis said.

So what about courage? Well, we could get that from 1 Cor. 13, where it says that perfect love casts out fear. So whammo! Fun, whatever Lewis is thinking of here, produces contentment, which in turn produces charity, which in turn produces courage.

Naturally, this truth must not be taken too far. As Screwtape says, fun can distract us from more important things. So we are not to pursue fun all the time because there's a good chance it might produce good qualities; some might argue that doing so would destroy the fun! Well, at least I hope this entry persuades you that fun is not inherently evil.

In Christ.

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At 10/04/2005 11:56:00 AM , Blogger Mr. Baggins said...

Actually, all the commandments involve all the others. You can figure this out, once you've gotten all the lesser commands and restrictions of each commandment figured out. That is why James said that if you've broken one commandment, you've broken the entire law.


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