The following excerpt is from The Screwtape Letters. Remember it is Screwtape (a devil) who is writing his young apprentice devil, advising him how to tempt, muddle and discourage his “patient”, a recent convert to the Christian faith.
“All extremes except extreme devotion to the Enemy are to be encouraged. Not always, of course, but at this period. Some ages are lukewarm and complacent, and then it is our business to soothe them yet faster asleep. Other ages, of which the present is one, are unbalanced and prone to faction, and it is our business to inflame them. Any small coterie, bound together by some interest which other men dislike or ignore, tends to develop inside itself a hothouse mutual admiration, and towards the outer world, a great deal of pride and hatred which is entertained without shame because the “Cause” is its sponsor and it is thought to be impersonal. Even when the group exists originally for the Enemy’s own purposes, this remains true. We want the Church to be small not only that fewer men may know the Enemy but also that those who do may acquire the uneasy intensity and the defensive self-righteousness of a secret society or a clique. The Church herself is, of course, heavily defended, and we have never yet quite succeeded in giving her all the characteristics of a faction; but subordinate factions within her have often produced admirable results, from the parties of Paul and of Apollos at Corinth down to the High and Low parties in the Church of England.”
The Screwtape Letters
And in our own day, these words of wisdom apply in numerous ways: Some in our local context seize upon extremes, ideals, the “Cause”, banding together heaping mutual admiration upon one another, all the while sequestering themselves from the rest of the Church, the rest of humanity, the rest of God’s claims on their lives. In a broader light, these words apply to some of the controversies within the Reformed world in regard to justification, covenant theology, ordo salutis, etc. And the point isn’t just a plea for everyone to just get along. The point is that Lewis’s insight is on the demonic nature of factionalism and sectarianism and the motivations often involved.
But this cuts both ways: the individuals with martyr syndromes, who think they’ve been squished by the big kahunas at the top of the ecclesiastical dog pile are just as responsible for protecting the spirit of unity in the bond of peace as the gurus at the top. No one gets to ignore their own responsibilities just because some other party neglected theirs.