The Problem of Pain (1940)

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Author: C.S. Lewis

Finished reading on 7/7/17

 

Although I have read surprisingly few of C.S. Lewis’s books, he is in fact my favorite Christian author. He is a bit unconventional, for instance in this book he takes an old earth creationist view, and he writes as a lay person. He was a professor of English at Oxford and this appeals strongly to my personal interests as well. Sadly, to date I have only read all of Narnia, Mere Christianity, Surprised by Joy, The Abolition of Man and this book. He is one of the authors though that whenever I can get my hands on his books I do so and I want to read all of his works or most of them before I die.

In this particular book, Lewis tackles the question of why God designed a world in which there is pain and hurt. The common question is presented as thus: if God were all good and all powerful then he his creatures would be happy. This is not the case and so God either doesn’t exist or his not all good or all powerful.

Here I will offer a brief paraphrase of Lewis’s answer in my own words. God in order to give humans free will designed a world in which pain had to be a possibility. Pain became a constant reality at the fall of Man because evil entered the world. Now it exists in the world the simple good which descends from God, the simple evil which exists due to sin and its consequences. God uses that evil for his redemptive purposes which produces a complex good in the lives of his creatures. God does because we have been corrupted by the sin nature and he wants to do what he can in this earthly life to return us to our original design. For in heaven we will continually be surrendering our self in love to God. We cannot be happy in this world because it is in our nature to choose our self over God. That in itself defeats our happiness. God uses pain to make us see that all is not right with the world or with ourselves. Furthermore, God loves us too much to leave us alone, to leave us as we are. In my view, it is the exact same argument as the argument spoiling a child. If you love a child and want what’s truly best for your child, you won’t and shouldn’t give him or her everything he or she wants and let he or she get away with everything. Do we really admire the people who have gotten everything they want in this life anyways? Do we actually think well of the people who have never developed character through hard times? No. Then we should expect such a thing for ourselves.

This book is short but it is dense. It’s more philosophical than theological in nature. It is intense and very thought provoking and not just in the general sense. The book inspires introspection. I found myself looking inward to see how much I want to protect my self from pain and how much I truly want to choose my self over God.

This is also a good book for those who are struggling with doubts over the goodness of God. Pick it up. You won’t regret it.

 

Quotes:

 

And it appears, from all the records, that though He has often rebuked us and condemned us, He has never regarded us with contempt. He has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, more tragic, most inexorable sense.

 

God is both further from us, and nearer to us, than any other being.

 

If the world exists not chiefly that we may love God but that God may love us, yet that very fact, on a deeper level, is so for our sakes.

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