Three 'light Bulb' Insights From The Screwtape Letters By David Trim

Posted at 07:46am on 25th July 2020

What follows are the 'light bulb' insights from The Screwtape Letters, written by David Trim, a much valued member of the Book Club I lead.

1. To consciously direct our prayers to God "Not to what I think thou art, but to what thou knowest thyself to be" [in Ch 4]. This makes a great daily prayer for us gradually to see God more fully as he really is. The wonderful thing is that God patiently bears with all our misperceptions of his stupendous reality while using the Bible and our experiences of Christian living to replace bit by bit what we think he is with 'what he knows himself to be'.

2. [Paraphrasing from Ch 15] Live for today. For us, living in time as a sequence of days, the present is the point at which God's eternity touches our time. The present is real and we can learn from God at this point because eternity is concerned with God. The past is a reality too. But it is the future which can be a snare to us if we start to fret, fear or fantasise about it - it will never turn out how we expect anyway. Avoid living in the future. It is there that vices such as avarice, lust, selfish ambition, and fear are rooted. Of course, necessary planning for some things in the future is a valid duty for today. ["Therefore do not worry about tomorrow ....." Matt 6:34]

3. God's eternal creative act. [Paraphrasing from Ch 27]. 'We live within his whole, self-consistent creative act. We see this as a series of successive events. For us, free will is experienced genuinely as our reality which means that our experiences of love are real. God, however, sees everything in his unbounded Now.'

Reflection: this casts light on the Biblical teaching of predestination to salvation [the Bible does not teach predestination to hell, those who are lost are lost because of their rejection of God by their own choices and actions]. And also to the mysterious [apparent contradiction - or antimony in the] way that prayer changes things and yet is also part of fulfilling God's eternal plan [Eph 1:11] and creative act (next para). "You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed." Ps 136:16 NLT

I have tended for much of my life to think of God's action of creating as his initial speaking the universe into being. However, his creation act also includes his speaking into creation and our world continually to keep the universe going.

The Bible says of Jesus that "He reflects the brightness of God's glory and is the exact likeness of God's own being, sustaining the universe with his powerful word." Heb 1:3 GNB. If Jesus were to stop 'sustaining the universe' it would disappear like the picture from a TV screen vanishes when the electricity is turned off. So the whole of our lives take place within God's seamless continuing 'self-consistent creative act' [Ch 27].

This vision of God's creative act seems to me to throw light on all the Bible's references to God's: predestining, presence, speaking, walking with us, being near us, protection, answering prayer, and so on; meaning that God does not, as it were, zoom in on specific situations in our world and our lives and then retreats, but rather they take place within the whole creative act of God.

C.S.Lewis had a remarkable insight into this. In Mere Christianity he wrote: "Almost certainly God is not in time. His life does not consist of moments one following another...Ten-thirty-- and every other moment from the beginning of the world--is always Present for Him. If you like to put it this way, He has all eternity in which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames."

In other words, we can ask the question "how to hold God's predestining in the same thought stream as: his answering prayer, or how it is that we have free will and can choose to love?"

Then it may help to go back to ask whether we perceive God's creative act in a static way. When, from the Bible, it not only embraces his initially speaking the universe into being but also his upholding every detail of its subsequent existence by his sustaining word. The creative act seamlessly covers the lifespan of the universe which God sees in his 'unbounded Now'. By that token, it fully embraces the story of the universe from the atomic level to the broad span of cosmological time including everything in between such as human history. Thus the creative act includes all time and the reality that we inhabit as well as the eternal plan that conceived and executes it.

How great is our God!

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