This intercepted message exposes some of the unholy strategies being deployed to undermine the authority of the Bible in the contemporary Australian church. For those unfamiliar with similar documents secured by the late C.S. Lewis (and published as The Screwtape Letters), “patients” here means Christians (or church-goers), “the Enemy” is God, and “the Book” is the Bible.

Dear MuddyWater,

Curses in the name of Our Father Below. Headquarters is pleased with the progress that you and your team have been making in Australia. Key to our strategy is undermining the authority of the Enemy’s Book. We recommend you observe the following diabolical strategies to achieve our goals of drawing patients away from the Enemy and sowing confusion and doubt.

1. Sow doubt about the clarity of the Book

We know, of course, how important the Book is in the Enemy’s strategy. It’s the primary way that he communicates to his creatures, and he wants them to read it, believe it, obey it, and teach it. Our job is to work against this at every step. Our Propaganda Department has found the concept of “interpretation” to be a key strategy.

Cultivate the idea that a humble vagueness is a quality to which to aspire; that it is intolerant to impose your “interpretation” on anyone else

Everyone acknowledges that parts of the Book are hard to understand, confusing, uncomfortable, or boring. Even a long-term patient who is walking closely with the Enemy will find this. The patients who are most impervious to our tempting will openly acknowledge this, ask the Enemy for his help, not worry too much about the bits they don’t understand and cling ever more closely and gratefully to the bits they do. And, unfortunately for us, the important doctrines are very clear—including the Enemy’s design for marriage and sex and purity.

But we have recently made progress in undermining this. What you need to do is make patients aware that there are a bewildering number of different interpretations of the Book, especially when it comes to sexual ethics. Muddy the waters. Make them confused. Make them think that no ordinary person could really understand the Book. Make them think that it is, in fact, a sign of ungodly pride to express confidence and certainty in one’s reading of the Book. Cultivate the idea that a humble vagueness is a quality to which to aspire; that it is intolerant (what success we have had with that word!) to impose your “interpretation” on anyone else—particularly in a matter as emotional and personal as sexuality.

While devout patients would resist the suggestion that the Book itself is not actually authoritative, they are much more susceptible if we fragment the Book into a multiplicity of interpretations, which all have only human authority. We can then get them to reject “interpretations”, while still asserting that the Book is the Enemy’s inspired and authoritative word (but in a kind of abstract way that doesn’t have much to do with everyday life). By emphasising the ambiguity of “the text”, we end up making the Book so opaque as to be unknowable. In practice, what this means is that everyone is free to make up their own mind on the issues. If no one can really understand what the Enemy is saying, no one can obey it. And so the Book loses its relevance and authority as a guide to patients’ lives. Job done!

2. Emphasise the authority of “lived experience” over the authority of the Book

Secondly, the idea of “lived experience” has been very effective too. The creatures are physical and temporal, with bodies and feelings and petty little lives (that seem to matter so much to the Enemy). And the Enemy wants them to care for one another, to listen to one another, to respond with sympathy and compassion to the suffering of others. Their experiences matter to him.

But, of course, their feelings and experiences don’t always match what they believe, and here’s our chance. We have done well to elevate experience above truth, above even obvious facts (for example, Fluffmore has been commended for her work in the transgender movement). We’ve made them think that their individual experience of pleasure is the supreme good; that self-fulfilment (especially sexual fulfilment) is essential to a flourishing life; that delayed gratification, let alone denial, are almost unbearable evils. Notice how the words sacrifice, duty, self-control and obedience have faded from preachers’ vocabularies? They are almost as unlikely as we are to advocate “take up your cross daily …”

All this helps us get them away from the Book. But you will need to be vigilant here because our work can be quickly undone. A few moments’ reflection on the “lived experience” of Job, or Jeremiah, or Hosea, or the Enemy’s Twelve, and they will begin to see suffering and hardship in a very different light. They might even adopt the contemptible idea that the Enemy sometimes uses suffering for their own good.

Do everything you can to distract them from this—and especially from the Enemy’s promises of pleasures evermore after they die, which make what we offer in this life so pale and shallow in comparison.

3. Use Tradition and the Creeds against the Enemy

Thirdly, use the creeds against the Enemy. Yes, yes, I know—the Nicene and Apostles’ Creeds are the Enemy’s weapons, used to help unite his people across time and place; but there is a way of turning this weapon against them.

Because the Creeds don’t mention sexuality, get people to think that sexuality is not a core issue.

As you know, the Creeds don’t mention anything about sexuality. This is, of course, because they were written in response to specific historical circumstances, and sexuality wasn’t the battlefront at the time. Because they don’t mention sexuality, get people to think that sexuality is not a core issue; that the Creeds tell us the core truths that all Christians need to hold onto, but that the Enemy’s followers are free to disagree on other issues. The effect is that they think that they are still holding onto fundamental Christian truths while, in reality, believing less and less.

There are two dangers here that you must be careful to avoid, however.

You want them to be convinced that they respect tradition, but to be so dismissive of it that they can ignore what the Church has consistently taught about marriage and sexuality from its inception.

First, don’t let your patients recognise the obvious truth that the creeds are derived from the Book. We don’t want them to see how ridiculous it is to affirm the authority of the Creeds but downplay the authority of the Book on which they are based. The Creeds, of course, do not say everything that the Enemy wants his people to believe and to live by. This is why the Book—the whole Book—is so important to his acolytes. He wants his people to read and be shaped by what Paul (one of our most notable failures) calls “the whole counsel of God.”[1] You will, I know, recall one of the most basic lessons for any tempters: do all you can to stop your patients reading the Book for themselves.

Second, you will need to handle their attitude to tradition with some delicacy. You want them, on the one hand, to be convinced that they respect tradition (at least as set out in the Creeds) but, on the other hand, to be so dismissive of tradition that they can ignore what the Church has consistently and clearly taught about marriage and sexuality from its inception.

Hide from their own thinking the contradiction between their confidence that the Creeds are authoritative because of the weight of centuries of consensus—and their dismissal of what earlier Christians believed and taught about the issues now under dispute. Certainly don’t let them wonder what the writers of the Creeds would say about the current issues of sexuality!

Let them somehow think that it is they—21st Century western Christians—who have been granted insights that have been denied to faithful Christians in other times and other places. Don’t let them ponder the injustice of a deity who would let same-sex attracted people suffer in silence and exclusion and persecution for millennia, and only now reveal (to them) that a practising same-sex relationship can be just as holy as a marriage between a man and a woman.

Above all, keep on emphasising tolerance and inclusion and humility: Christians should allow fellow-Christians to live by sincerely-held views. Allowing for a diversity of views is, of course, the first step to saying that no one should enforce—and then, eventually, that no one should believe—traditional Christian teaching about marriage and sexuality.

Yours in the service of Our Father Below,


[1] Acts 20:27.