Warren Throckmorton Exploits C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters

Grove City College Professor Warren Throckmorton

Throckmorton asserts that proclamations of truth constitute a “considerable offense” [against people practicing homosexuality]. Someone should ask him if he thinks Paul’s “vilification” of homosexuality constitutes a “considerable offense.” — Laurie Higgins


By Laurie Higgins, for Americans For Truth

Grove City College professor Warren Throckmorton has written a self-serving and exploitative analysis of Letter # 7 in C.S. Lewis’ classic The Screwtape Letters, which Throckmorton correctly sees as a warning to Christians not to allow cultural issues to supplant the central message of the Gospel.

The problem is that Throckmorton uses Lewis’ prescient warning to chastise only those Christians who work tirelessly to counter the spate of lies spewed by the culture on the topic of homosexuality, lies which even our public schools have been recruited to disseminate.

Throckmorton writes as follows:

Screwtape encourages his apprentice to foster devotion to a cause. This then takes him further away from the real encounter with God and the faith relationship. Indeed, if Wormwood’s human “patient” can put movements and organizations and crusading ahead of all else then he is of no real threat to Screwtape.

I think this passage provides caution to those who believe fighting the culture war is Christian ministry. When fighting the culture war becomes more important than a witness to the gospel, then the mischief really begins. Specifically, in the past several years, I have seen people who are so concerned with the “gay agenda” that they overlook cult involvement in people because they are “ex-gay.” Some here in the US who are willing to tolerate the very unChristian stance of the Anti-Homosexuality Bill because, in Lou Engle’s words, ”Uganda has become ground zero” in the fight against the gay agenda.…

Some might argue that I am just as guilty because of my advocacy against the Uganda bill. And I would not take that criticism lightly. My view is that freedom of conscience is necessary for the Church to have the greatest impact. Advocacy for that position is important business but it is not the main business. I doubt that such advocacy will lead anyone away from the redemptive business of the church. On the other hand, my great concern is that culture warring lulls people into feeling that that the cause justifies the considerable offense that comes with vilifying those the church yearns to reach.

Dr. Throckmorton shrewdly pre-empts any challenge to his own complicity in the culture war, complicity which often seems to serve efforts to normalize homosexuality. Throckmorton proleptically introduces the challenge and responds to it by claiming meaninglessly that he wouldn’t take such a charge “lightly.” He attempts to efface the charge that he himself may be guilty of making “the world an end.”

Dr. Throckmorton asserts that “freedom of conscience is necessary for the Church to have the greatest impact. Advocacy for that position is important business but it is not the main business.” Huh?

What precisely is Dr. Throckmorton concealing here through his ambiguous rhetoric? Is he advocating for freedom of conscience regarding the morality of homosexuality? If so, who disagrees? Certainly the mere expression of theologically orthodox views about homosexuality does not diminish anyone’s “freedom of conscience.” Those who affirm homosexuality are as free to reject theologically orthodox moral propositions as the theologically orthodox are free to reject heresy.

Since this ambiguous phrase follows a reference to the Ugandan law, perhaps he actually thinks that what most alarms his critics is his obsession with it. Perhaps he is trying to divert attention from his ambiguous stance on the morality of homosexuality to the controversial Ugandan law, his opposition to which he may be mistaking for “Christian ministry.”

If so, Dr. Throckmorton needs to know that what most concerns his critics is that he may be on a crusade not merely to affirm that individuals should have the freedom to believe as they wish, but that he may also be on a crusade to affirm that homosexual practice is permissible for Christians, which would constitute a decidedly non-orthodox theological position.

Dr. Throckmorton continues: ”I doubt that such advocacy will lead anyone away from the redemptive business of the church.” In Dr. Throckmorton’s world, advocacy of “freedom of conscience” will not “lead anyone away from the redemptive business of the church,” but preaching the truth about homosexuality will.  Curiouser and curiouser.

It would be enormously helpful if Dr. Throckmorton would fight as tenaciously for the freedom and right of parents to protect their children from unbiblical ideas and images of homosexuality and Gender Identity Disorder in American public schools as he does to oppose laws in foreign countries.

Throckmorton further claims that “my great concern is that culture-warring lulls people into feeling that that the cause justifies the considerable offense that comes with vilifying those the church yearns to reach.”

There are a couple of points to be made in response to this stupefying statement.

  • First, this statement implies that those who affirm homosexual acts as moral are not engaging in the culture war.
  • Second, this statement employs the non-biblical, fallacious argument common among homosexualists that condemnation of volitional homosexual acts constitutes hatred or “vilification” of persons. One wonders how Dr. Throckmorton is able to expound any biblical truths regarding behavior if he believes that expressions of opprobrium constitute vilification of persons which, in turn, he believes impedes the redemptive business of the church.

Throckmorton asserts that proclamations of truth constitute a “considerable offense.” Someone should ask him if he thinks Paul’s “vilification” of homosexuality constitutes a “considerable offense.”

Does society’s “vilification” of pornography or pedophilia constitute a considerable offense against the porn-makers, porn-partakers, or pedophiles that the church hopes to reach?

Did Martin Luther King Jr.’s “culture-warring” against racism constitute a “vilification” and “considerable offense” against the racists that the he hoped to reach?  Did MLK Jr. mistakenly believe that fighting the “culture war” was a Christian ministry?

Of course, anyone who supplants the Gospel with philanthropic or political efforts is in error, but Throckmorton seems to suggest that those who oppose the homosexual agenda are somehow guiltier of this error than those who seek to normalize homosexuality.

The reality is that there are people whose work–their vocation–is to promote truth in the culture and to oppose the cultural and legal promotion of moral error. Some people are accountants, some veterinarians, some plumbers, some sales clerks, and some are “activists.” The fact that some men and women are called to activism for their vocation no more means they have lost sight of the most essential truth, which is the Gospel, than the fact that some are called to work as architects means that they’ve lost sight of the most essential fact of human existence: the Good News of Christ’s substitutionary work on the Cross.

In my estimation, there are far too few Christians who are willing to speak the truth in the public square. At different times in history, different biblical truths are attacked with particular ferocity. During the era of slavery and Jim Crow laws, biblical truth about the dignity and worth of African American women and men were attacked with special intensity. During those decades, an equally vigorous public response to the cultural lies that destroyed lives and families was necessary. Unfortunately, for far too many years, the white church failed to respond courageously.

Similarly, the church is failing now to respond with courage and vigor to the assault on  biblical truth about sexuality, marriage, and the family from the mainstream news media, Hollywood, Madison Avenue, the music industry, and public education. Throckmorton is right when he warns against mistaking bold proclamations about biblical morality for preaching the Gospel. He is wrong in trying to persuade Christians to remain silent in the face of perilous cultural lies.


Laurie Higgins is a writer and analyst for the Illinois Family Institute. To listen to the AFTAH Hour’s recent radio interview with Higgins, go HERE for Part One, and HERE for Part Two.

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