The Withertongue Emails: Part 1

BY DONAVON RILEY

What you are about to read began as a conversation in the Spring of 2015. My friend, Chad Bird, and I talked about what it would be like if someone wrote an updated version of C.S. Lewis' "The ScrewTape Letters" from a Lutheran's perspective. But, at the time, both of us were busy with other projects so that's as far as we got. Then, almost five months later, Chad texted me: "You should write The ScrewTape Letters, and use C.F.W. Walther's 'Law and Gospel Lectures' as the outline." That was the little push I needed to fire my imagination. In less than one week the introduction, that you are about to read, was finished. 

One final note. I don't make any claims at originality. Not only did The ScrewTape Letters inspire this project, but I will use ideas and texts from both Lewis and Walther's outstanding works in these articles. It would be arrogant to imagine I can improve on either man's original efforts. Instead, what I've tried to do is honor two theologians who've exercised a profound influence on me. 

Thank you and I pray you enjoy these articles. If for nothing else, that they serve to help you mock the devil that he may flee from you.

In Christ,

Donavon Riley 

Fall 2015


My dear Filthpit,

I have read your reports. And despite your dedication to the subject, I believe you have so far failed to consider the best course of treatment for your patient. Yes, he is a young, immature pastor, but what kind of man is he? Most important, he is impatient. I note that you put great emphasis on pushing him into debates with his elders. That in this way you will cause him to fight his way free of the Enemy’s grasp. That may have worked in the past when humans regarded fellowship as a priority, when a man’s thoughts and actions were connected to how they effected others for good or bad. But today that is just not the case. The influence of technology and social media and other such weapons have changed how a man relates to his world. Now, it isn’t about fellowship or unity. It’s about how he chooses to define and present himself. Today’s man is edited, tweaked, and photoshopped. Human relationships don’t define him so much as he defines his relationships. He considers everything in terms of how it makes him feel. He is completely curved in on himself. 

Something else for you to consider then is that since he was a boy he has embraced five or six different theologies. They churn and bubble in his head to this day. He doesn’t think of doctrine as true or false, but as an academic exercise. He doesn’t think of the Enemy’s words as commands and promises, but whether the words are practical or useless, outdated or contemporary. Jargon, not argument, is the way to turn him into a Satanic pulpiteer. This is your best course of treatment. Don’t waste precious time trying to make him believe the Enemy’s words are untrue. Make him imagine he is in control of the words. He speaks for the Enemy. His words are the Enemy’s words, but only insofar as he makes them relevant, practical, and life-changing for his hearers. That’s the sort of stuff he cares about. 

Remember, he is immature. Persuade him that the Enemy’s commands can change his hearer’s hearts for the better, that they are reformed by it, improved by it, that the Enemy’s "Ten Commandments" are the very steps that lead up to heaven. Then show him that the gospel is inadequate by itself to change his hearers for the better, that those inclined to every kind of vice will easily take advantage of it. In no time the very word "gospel" will leave a bad taste in his mouth. In this way you will keep his mind occupied with self-importance and resentment. It will also make him feel that he is a fraud. His hearers are unfaithful, ungrateful, and impious. Then, his view of himself and them will become more and more distorted until, at the end, he will climb into the pulpit and, convinced he is doing the Enemy’s will, he will ravish his hearers with condemnations and ultimatums. He will spur them on with fearful warnings and encourage them to walk in joyful obedience down the gentle path to hell. If you follow this course of treatment, my dear Fithpit, you will win not just one soul for us, but hundreds!

That is enough for now. Re-focus your efforts. Your patient is a fool. Fix his attention on how he uses the Enemy’s words, how he effects change in his hearers, and you will have won him to our side in no time.

Your proud teacher, 

Withertongue

Donavon Riley is a Lutheran pastor, conference speaker, author, Online Content Director for Higher Things, a contributing writer at 1517 Legacy Project, Christ Hold Fast, and LOGIA. Pastor Riley co-hosts the podcast: 'The Higher Things Simul Cast'. He is pastor of Saint John Lutheran Church in Webster, MN. A graduate of Concordia Universities in St. Paul, Minnesota and Portland, Oregon, Pastor Riley received his seminary and post-graduate education at Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota. He colloquized into the LC-MS from the ELCA in 2008. He is married to Annie, and is the father of four children: Owen, Alma, Hoshea, and Hallel.
Twitter @DonavonRiley