The Problem of Pain

The Problem of Pain

For centuries people have been tormented by one question above all: If God is good and all-powerful, why does he allow his creatures to suffer pain? And what of the suffering of animals, who neither deserve pain nor can be improved by it?The greatest Christian thinker of our time sets out to disentangle this knotty issue. With his signature wealth of compassion and insight...

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Title:The Problem of Pain
Author:C.S. Lewis
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Edition Language:English

The Problem of Pain Reviews

  • RC

    It says something that after so many years C. S. Lewis is still one of the foremost Christian apologists of our time. The Problem of Pain is a difficult question every religion has to deal with, and one which has been especially difficult for Christianity. Some religions have the luxury of explaining pain as something deserved - a result of bad behavior from a previous life, or perhaps pain and suffering are caused by a malevolent deity in opposition to a good and loving God. Christianity has no

    It says something that after so many years C. S. Lewis is still one of the foremost Christian apologists of our time. The Problem of Pain is a difficult question every religion has to deal with, and one which has been especially difficult for Christianity. Some religions have the luxury of explaining pain as something deserved - a result of bad behavior from a previous life, or perhaps pain and suffering are caused by a malevolent deity in opposition to a good and loving God. Christianity has no such option.

    “If God were good, he would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.”

    Lewis presents a very readable and widely accessible solution to this problem, covering the origins of human suffering, incurred in the fall, what divine omnipotence and goodness really mean, and why they allow for the existence of pain in creation, heaven and hell, and a topic not often treated but important - the existence of pain in animals who are in every sense innocent.

    Particularly useful is Lewis' distinction between kindness and love. Lewis reminds us that real love, a love that looks out for the best interests of the beloved, sometimes requires the inflicting of painful experience. From the perspective of the one undergoing the experience, this may not seem like love, but any parent, teacher, or anyone tasked with the guidance of the young will understand that this sort of “tough love” is often necessary if one does not want a spoiled child to grow into a spoiled adult.

  • Toe

    Apology for the existence of pain and suffering. Lewis's comfortable, easy style speaks to me in most all of his books. This is no exception.

    Memorable quotes:

    "Love, in its own nature, demands the perfecting of the beloved; that the mere 'kindness' which tolerates anything except suffering in its object is, in that respect, at the opposite pole from Love. When we fall in love with a woman, do we cease to care whether she is clean or dirty, fair or foul? Do we not rather then first begin to care?

    Apology for the existence of pain and suffering. Lewis's comfortable, easy style speaks to me in most all of his books. This is no exception.

    Memorable quotes:

    "Love, in its own nature, demands the perfecting of the beloved; that the mere 'kindness' which tolerates anything except suffering in its object is, in that respect, at the opposite pole from Love. When we fall in love with a woman, do we cease to care whether she is clean or dirty, fair or foul? Do we not rather then first begin to care? Does any woman regard it as a sign of love in a man that he neither knows nor cares how she is looking? Love may, indeed, love the beloved when her beauty is lost: but not because it is lost. Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal. Love is more sensitive than hatred itself to every blemish in the beloved..." - C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

    "Every race that comes into being in any part of the universe is doomed; for the universe, they tell us, is running down, and will sometime be a uniform infinity of homogeneous matter at low temperature. All stories will come to nothing: all life will turn out in the end to have been a transitory and senseless contortion upon the idiotic face of infinite matter." - C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain

  • Louize

    SPOILERS AHEAD

    Pain posted a serious objection to Christianity (and to Heavenly authority in general), aggravated by claiming that

    .

    focuses on one question, but thoroughly argues on every aspect.

    In other words,

    SPOILERS AHEAD

    Pain posted a serious objection to Christianity (and to Heavenly authority in general), aggravated by claiming that

    .

    focuses on one question, but thoroughly argues on every aspect.

    In other words,

    Firstly, Lewis set his arguments by identifying God, as conceivable as possible, and his purpose through the subject of

    . He argued that since we are beings of free souls and have the luxury of free will, we take advantage of the fixed laws of nature to hurt ourselves and one another. Yet, even though God is omnipotent and can do whatever he pleases, removing pain leads to a meaningless universe.

    God’s idea of good is unlike ours; His moral judgment must, therefore, differ from ours. Where

    , we only mean

    . But love is not mere kindness. Let us have a mental note how much confusion between love and kindness is related to our modern thinking.

    Recognizing the distinction between love and kindness illuminates what it means to be the object of God’s love. Because God loves us, he will not rest until we are purely lovable. To not want pain, therefore, is to not want His love.

    Next, he establishes his argument for the total corruption and the sin nature of man, as without a sin nature there is no reason to be corrected.

    The most obvious answer is that it did not: man, and the rest of creation, was initially good, but through the abuse of freedom, man made himself an abominable, wicked creature he is now.

    Pain, through trials and sacrifices, teaches us to rely on God, to act out of spiritual strength, to act for purely heavenly purpose and to accept our discipleship.

    If distressful feelings disguise itself as thought, all nonsense is possible- faith in God is challenged, we object to His goodness, and worse, we doubt His existence. All of those seemed valid to a suffering soul, due to the sway of unbearable pain.

    In conclusion then, pain is not a mere influence to make a creature's submission to the will of God easier. Remembering Prophet Isaiah’s words in the Bible, chapters 46-53, God has called him prior to his birth. He was molded and polished through physical pain, trials and humiliation to be equipped for God’s divine purpose.

    When I first considered reading this book, I asked myself if I am lucid enough to absorb Lewis’ arguments. I ended up quoting him and taking notes more than I usually do. But then, I realized that I am merely to review, not write an abridge version. The Problem of Pain is a difficult read; it is not for the casual reader and you should expect to be intellectually challenged. But the big difficulty is much smaller compared to the bigger lessons within.

  • Traveller

    <

    Personally, I lean more towards the latter camp. Lewis does at least make a good, solid, and sophisticated effort to address the problem of: "Why does God allow so much pain and suffering, if He is really a loving God, and if He really does exist?"; - which is why Lewis gets 3 stars, even if I don't completely agree.

    I remember quite liking his argument at the time I read it

    <

    Personally, I lean more towards the latter camp. Lewis does at least make a good, solid, and sophisticated effort to address the problem of: "Why does God allow so much pain and suffering, if He is really a loving God, and if He really does exist?"; - which is why Lewis gets 3 stars, even if I don't completely agree.

    I remember quite liking his argument at the time I read it, which was quite some time ago. He seemed to be saying that pain is sent to test a person, to make you stronger, to help you grow spiritually so that you could become a more spiritually evolved and aware person.

    But, I have in the meantime started wondering: on the other hand, what kind of cruel deity would devise such a system, that includes such horrible suffering as the world has seen? Even if it is to make them 'stronger', or cause them to grow spiritually.

    Lewis's argument, IMO, would hold water better if you reckoned re-incarnation into the system. Then it would make more sense to throw obstacles into the path of a soul in it's evolutionary journey towards Nirvana.

    ..but in the Christian world, where the most common doctrine I have heard, is that all you need to do is to proclaim Jesus as your savior to win an automatic seat in heaven, no need for you to grow spiritually, it doesn't seem to fit in quite 100%.

    I must admit that I do like the idea of spiritual growth, such as presented in this book, and in The Pilgrim's Progress, for instance.

    Unfortunately, now that I am older, wiser, and seen more suffering in both myself and others, I'm not quite as inured to Lewis's arguments, and not quite so eager to welcome pain and suffering.

    PS. After reading a bit of Thomas Aquinas, I realized that Lewis borrows a LOT from him.

  • Manny

    Well, it's not like I really disagree with C.S. Lewis's argument here. I just think that the essential points are summed up rather more succinctly in the first few minutes of Monty Python's "Happy Valley" sketch:

    Well, it's not like I really disagree with C.S. Lewis's argument here. I just think that the essential points are summed up rather more succinctly in the first few minutes of Monty Python's "Happy Valley" sketch:

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