Resisting the Prowling Lion – Day 28

Resisting the Prowling Lion – 40 Days with Screwtape

Day 28 – Saturday after 4th Sunday of Lent

To Read:

From The Screwtape Letters:

Screwtape, a senior demon, is offering advice to Wormwood his nephew, an apprentice demon.  The language he uses is ‘upside down’ referring to God as ‘the Enemy’ and the devil as ‘Our Father Below’.


I slipped by mere carelessness into saying that the Enemy really loves the humans.   That, of course, is an impossibility.  He is one being, they are distinct from Him.   Their good cannot be His.   All His talk about Love must be a disguise for something else – He must have some real motive for creating them and taking so much trouble about them.   The reason one comes to talk as if He really had this impossible Love is our utter failure to find out that real motive.   What does He stand to make out of them?   That is the insoluble question.   I do not see that it can do any harm to tell you that this very problem was a chief cause of Our Father’s quarrel with the Enemy.   When the creation of man was first mooted and when, even at that stage, the Enemy freely confessed that he foresaw a certain episode about a cross, Our Father very naturally sought an interview and asked for an explanation.   The Enemy gave no reply except to produce the cock-and-bull story about disinterested love which He has been circulating ever since.   This Our Father naturally could not accept.   He implored the Enemy to lay His cards on the table, and gave Him every opportunity.   He admitted that he felt a real anxiety to know the secret; the Enemy replied, ‘I wish with all my heart that you did’.   It was, I imagine, at this stage in the interview that Our Father’s disgust at such an unprovoked lack of confidence caused him to remove himself an infinite distance from the Presence with a suddenness which has given rise to the ridiculous enemy story that he was forcibly thrown out of Heaven.   Since then, we have begun to see why our Oppressor was so secretive.   His throne depends on the secret.   Members of His faction have frequently admitted that if ever we came to understand what He means by Love, the war would be over and we should re-enter Heaven.   And there lies the great task.   We know that He cannot really love: nobody can: it doesn’t make sense.   If we could only find out what He is really up to!

Your affectionate uncle


To Reflect:

Have you ever been involved in a strike, boycott, or other kind of Industrial action?  Sadly there are far too many around our nation this Lent.

When I lived in South Africa they happened very frequently and to this day, even though there is no reason to continue this habit, I find it difficult to NOT go to work on a Public Holiday.   As most of the Public Holidays in South Africa, unlike Bank Holidays in England, used to be commemorations of occasions when White people conquered Black people, community activists would refuse to take time off and give the day over to doing even more to try and rid the country of Apartheid.  Maybe that is one of the reasons why I remain a workaholic – but to be honest, that is, probably only a small part of the whole reason 

One strike in which I was involved was when as a student, I was part of a ‘closed shop’ set up by The Alliance of Black Reformed Evangelical Churchmen of South Africa.   An interesting idea, as I am neither Black, Reformed, Evangelical or South African.  I am however a man so at least that descriptor is correct!  There was a suspension of lectures as the Student Body downed pens and refused to attend classes because of the views of one of our lecturers.

Our Systematic Theology lecturer had the gall to suggest that, in the comprehensiveness of God’s love, even people such as the recently deceased Apartheid President BJ Vorster, could enter heaven.   We had a week off lectures and formal complaints to the Principal before we finally worked out that even anti-apartheid activists such as ourselves had to allow for the fact that we could not dictate to God who God was allowed to love!  Awkward lesson because it then comes to one of the hoary old theological chestnuts as to the place of Judas Iscariot in eternity, the Harrowing of Hell between Good Friday and Easter Day and, Screwtape’s fear that:

Members of His faction have frequently admitted that if ever we came to understand what He means by Love, the war would be over and we should re-enter Heaven.

Screwtape has the same problem as my fellow ABRECSA members, but from the other side of the argument.  He cannot understand that God does indeed ‘love the hairy bipeds’, all of them and not just the compliant caring ones.  If things go really badly for the hordes of hell they will, perish the thought, end up back in heaven!  His problem, like ours, is that sometimes we do not see ‘love’ as springing from an unselfish heart that desires only the good of the other but instead use love as a means to an end.  If we chose to love only when we have a reason to love it becomes a tool instead of a gift and a bribe instead of a pledge of devotion.  

That is not love it is lust masquerading as concern.  

Make love your aim’, St Paul commands us.  Unless we are profligate in giving ourselves away, despite all the spiritual gifts he speaks of in the latter chapters of 1 Corinthians, we are indeed nothing other than ’noisy gongs and clanging cymbals’.  When we use love as a bargaining chip for personal power we empty the cross of its power (1 Corinthians 1.17), make it harder to call others home, and find ourselves further away from the One who pours love out on us.

Foreseeing a certain episode about a cross’ God shows us the true meaning and path of disinterested love.  Love, to be truly love, can never be earned but only ever freely given.  And to give without promise or prospect of receiving in return, (save perhaps the scorn of those on whom our love has been bestowed) is to learn to die a little death daily.  But it is only as we learn to put ourselves to death that we are proved to be lovers, and only love lives forever.

To Do:

‘When Christ calls a man He bids him come and die’  – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

As Passiontide approaches chose a ‘little death’ to help you make love your aim for this Easter.

Read the following Psalm carefully and right to the end…

A Psalm To Ponder:


Refrain:        Alleluia!  We sing of your love, now and for ever!

We give you thanks, O God, for your goodness, 

for your mercies endure for ever.

By solemn promise you are bound to us, 

source of grace for ever and ever.     Refrain:

You are the God beyond gods, 

a mystery too profound for our thoughts.

In the shadows of the light we discern you, 

we are struck by your dazzling darkness.     Refrain:

You reveal the marvels of the universe 

to those who listen and patiently look 

– from atoms and genes hidden from our eyes 

to the shafts of light from long dead stars.     Refrain:  

For the beauty of forms ever-changing, 

for the slow turning of the sun and the seasons, 

for the miracle of the newly born child, 

for the rising of our daily bread.     Refrain:   

At the turning points of our lives you are with us, 

through times of bewildering change.

At the crossing of the boundaries of the known 

by strangers and dreams you encourage us.     Refrain:     

You rescue us from slavery and exile, 

you are with us on our desert journey, 

you give us a place we can cherish, 

where the vulnerable find their protection.     Refrain:      

You have given us our parts in the story, 

from our ancestors whose names are forgotten 

to our descendants whose names are not known, 

to each a new name in your presence.     Refrain:    

You gave of yourself in the one called Jeshua, 

showing us the way of dying to live; 

you renewed the gifts of your Spirit, 

your glory has shone through your saints.     Refrain:   


In you we are bound to one another, 

linked by threads seen and unseen, 

destined for love in eternity, 

when all that has decayed is restored.     Refrain:    

In contemplation, discernment, and endurance may we take into the presence of God all that is intractable and unresolved in the life of this planet and its peoples – and in our own lives – until the time comes when the Spirit of gratitude will spread over all things and for all that has been we shall indeed give our thanks, and to all that we shall sing our Yes. AMEN.     (Jim Cotter) 



Please Note:  These reflections are also published on my blog: on Twitter as @SuffolkVicar, and on my public Facebook page Rev Andrew Dotchin

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Quotes from The Screwtape Letters are copyright © 1942 C.S. Lewis Pte

Prayers from Psalms for a Pilgrim People are copyright © 1989, 1991, 1993 Jim Cotter

Scripture quotations are copyright © New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright 1989, 1995, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

These Reflections,  ‘Resisting the Prowling Lion’ are copyright © Andrew Dotchin 2023

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