The Withertongue Emails: Part XIII


My dear Filthpit,

I am still concerned about your mishandling of the client. Your last report demonstrated an alarming lack of resolution about your young pastor’s original condition. He has stopped issuing hyperbolic vows. He has rededicated himself to receiving, rather than earning, the so-called “grace” that streams from baptism and those other noxious “gifts” the Enemy likes to give his children. Your client has even experienced twinges of hope, as if an amputated limb has miraculously begun to grow back. What of the hourly and daily temptations you previously boasted about? What fruit have they produced? Nothing, that’s what. Nothing. This is very bad for you, Filthpit. 

There is only one thing to do then. Your young pastor has been humbled by his experience. The Enemy has drawn his attention away from himself, and focused it back onto what the Nazarene carpenter did for him. This is destructive for our cause beyond measuring. But, all is not lost. You must draw your client’s attention to this fact. I know, it sounds strange, even reckless, but that is where we find ourselves. As the man said, desperate times, and all that.

Focus your client’s attention on humility. Wait for him to become tired. Watch for him to struggle. Pay attention to when he doubts himself, then strike. Urge him to reflect on true humility. Praise him for his humility. Point out for him how much he has done for the congregation. Consider the time he has put into improving his preaching and teaching. Has he really stopped to realize how much time and energy he devotes to visiting shut-ins and those in the hospital and hospice? Why, he is as close to an example of, forgive me for this blasphemy, “Christ-like humility and service” as those people have ever witnessed. Set him on this course and immediately he will experience pride. He will be overwhelmed by pride about his humility. If he recognizes what has happened he will try to stamp out the pride, but that is good for us too. Then he will experience pride over catching and stomping out his pride. Then, no matter what he does, he will swell with pride that he overcame another obstacle to true humility.

However, if you play this game with him for too long, he may become overwhelmed by fear at the rising and falling of his emotions. But there are ways to bend this to our advantage too. Encourage him to focus his attention on the ups and downs of his emotions and soon enough he will suffer from self-loathing, then loathing of others, then he will sink into feelings of hopelessness, frustration, and even cruelty.

Whatever you do though, do not allow your client to see true humility in action. Do not let him understand self-forgetfulness. That is, keep his attention off the Enemy’s gift-giving attitude toward him and the congregation. Never let him ask, “What are the gifts?" Or, "How do they come to me?" Or, "Why are they freely given to others?” Instead, paint for him a picture of humility that depicts him trying to believe that his skills at delivering the “gifts” are as important as his ability to distinguish between those in church who ought to be rewarded with them and those who are unworthy. The point in all this is that he come to the conclusion that his belief is the thing.The truth is within him. He just has to locate it, understand it, and act on it. He must not be allowed to acknowledge that the truth might actually be a person, who lives outside his imagination and feelings. I’ve used this method myself, and have led thousands of people into hell as a consequence.

The best thing is that he will then teach this to the congregation. This level of dishonesty and make-believe faith cannot fail to keep their minds occupied with their own efforts instead of the Enemy’s gifts. The Enemy wants him and all those people, in the end, to rejoice in their freedom from useless opinions. He desires for all of them to receive everything from Him, whether it is the sunrise, screaming children, a duck, or daily bread and wine, even when he says, Dark Lord below save us, that it is his body and his blood for the forgiveness of all their “sins.”

All the while we work to recapture your client's attention and focus him on love of self, the Enemy works to turn him all the way toward Him. He will try to draw his attention toward selfless love, toward graciousness and generosity. It is disgusting, I tell you. Love your neighbor as yourself? Two thousand years and I still don't know what that means. Don’t forget, Filthpit, the Enemy really does love His hairless monkeys. He is always giving them double with His right hand what He took from them with His left.

The Enemy will also try to fill your young pastor’s mind with doctrine that he can confess, but has almost nothing to do with his personal feelings. It is a teaching your client did not invent for himself, and no one else concocted for him. That all his skills, abilities, and talents were given to him by the Enemy. That everything he does and says and believes is given by the Enemy for the simple fact that He loves him. How repellent is that! It upsets my stomach to even write these words. The Enemy does not even want your young pastor to fixate on his sins. Freed in this way from self-obsession, the client is repented, and he will soon enough turn his attention outward, to the Enemy and his gifts. Then the Enemy is delighted. 

Your proud teacher, 


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