The Law of Undulation and the Pursuit of Novelty

As we read the letters written to Wormwood, we find Screwtape amazed at how little his nephew knows about tempting. Particularly shocking is an ignorance of the law of undulation and how best to make use of it when attempting to discourage people and encourage them to sin.

The only constant is change. And change is the principle that lies behind the law of undulation.

[people’s] bodies, passions, and imaginations are in continual change, for to be in time means to change. Their nearest approach to constancy, therefore, is undulation – the repeated return to a level from which repeatedly fall back, a series of troughs and peaks.

The word undulation describes a wave-like motion. When this idea is applied to people, as it is by Screwtape, it explains the following phenomenon.

to be in time means to chang

If you had watched your patient carefully you would have seen this undulation in every department of his life – his interest in his work, his affection for his friends, his physical appetites, all go up and down. As long as he lives on earth periods of emotional and bodily richness and liveliness will alternate with periods of numbness and poverty.

Wormwood is reminded that people can be as ignorant of this principle as he is, therefore one of his primary goals is to never let his patient “suspect the law of undulation”.

The challenge for the tempters is, working against this natural flow, to lead a person into thinking that permanence is the normal state of things. Once this is accomplished it works to their advantage in many ways. Continue reading

C.S. Lewis on Humility

I have been reading (actually listening on my commute) C.S. Lewis’ classic the Screwtape Letters. These letters are insightful and challenging looks at how to live out the Christian life.


They are written from the perspective of how demons might seek to tempt and pull us away from our relationship with God (known as the Enemy).

In letter #14 we find the master tempter Screwtape instructing his nephew, Wormwood, on how to deal with a problem. The person (aka the patient) that has been assigned to Wormwood, whom he is responsible for tempting and discouraging, is growing in his Christian walk.

Your patient has become humble

The first line of attack that Screwtape encourages his nephew to consider is to get his patient to focus on his humility. In this way they might attempt to draw out the vice pride as the man would suddenly start to think: I am being humble. Continue reading

7 Observations on Sharing the Gospel from 1 Thessalonians

PaulI’ve been reading through the letters to the Thessalonians. These letters were written by Paul while on his 2nd Missionary Journey, sometime between 50 and 52 AD. Most scholars assume that the first letter was written shortly after Paul arrived in Corinth, after Timothy rejoined him & Silas. The second is also assumed to have been written in Corinth during the 18 month stay (Acts 18:11).

Paul’s missionary outreach to the city is captured in Acts 17:1-9. The stay is rather brief. How brief is a matter of debate. The Jewish people in the city became jealous when many people started to follow Christ so they stirred up the crowds and incited a riot that forced Paul and Silas to leave.

In Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, we can learn seven things about sharing the Gospel. Continue reading