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The Problem Of Pain [Paperback]

C S Lewis
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Jan. 25 2001 Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis
Why must humanity suffer?In this elegant and thoughtful work, C. S. Lewis questions the pain and suffering that occur everyday and how this contrasts with the notion of a God that is both omnipotent and good. An answer to this critical theological problem is found within these pages.

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The Problem of Pain answers the universal question, "Why would an all-loving, all-knowing God allow people to experience pain and suffering?" Master Christian apologist C.S. Lewis asserts that pain is a problem because our finite, human minds selfishly believe that pain-free lives would prove that God loves us. In truth, by asking for this, we want God to love us less, not more than he does. "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." In addressing "Divine Omnipotence," "Human Wickedness," "Human Pain," and "Heaven," Lewis succeeds in lifting the reader from his frame of reference by artfully capitulating these topics into a conversational tone, which makes his assertions easy to swallow and even easier to digest. Lewis is straightforward in aim as well as honest about his impediments, saying, "I am not arguing that pain is not painful. Pain hurts. I am only trying to show that the old Christian doctrine that being made perfect through suffering is not incredible. To prove it palatable is beyond my design." The mind is expanded, God is magnified, and the reader is reminded that he is not the center of the universe as Lewis carefully rolls through the dissertation that suffering is God's will in preparing the believer for heaven and for the full weight of glory that awaits him there. While many of us naively wish that God had designed a "less glorious and less arduous destiny" for his children, the fortune lies in Lewis's inclination to set us straight with his charming wit and pious mind. --Jill Heatherly


"I read Lewis for comfort and pleasure many years ago, and a glance into the books revives my old admiration." -- John Updike

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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly fascinating June 25 2004
By Jordan
When reading the works of C.S Lewis it is often hard not to stop reading for a second and ponder how someone can think at such a high level.
A word of warning, for probably any devout Christian, the thesis of this book,(If God is good and all-powerful, why does he allow his creatures to suffer pain?) will sound compelling and certainly invoke a desire to read this book. Just be forewarned, it's a complicated issue, and Mr. Lewis has a complicated solution. While this book is probably accessible for anybody, Be aware that this isn't light reading, it , as it says on the quote on the front, "demands the entire energy of the mind".
Over 159 pages, C.S Lewis builds a convincing case for why pain exists. His main(but certainly not his entire) argument for this is that our own ideas and presuppositions about "love" are not God's same ideas. Not that ours and God's are totally different, as black-and-white, but that ours is "like that of a three year old trying to draw his first wheel" in comparison to God's "perfect circle". Also key in Lewis's case are his ideas about free will and how that relates to suffering.

There are also chapters about Heaven and Hell. The chapter on Hell might have been the best chapter in the book and may even solitarily warrant a purchase. It was certainly the most convincing work I've ever read by a Christian apologist attempting to justify the existence of hell. In fact, after reading it you may find that the existence of hell is more just than if it did NOT exist. Very well done.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice try, but... Nov. 26 2001
By A Customer
Though Lewis's exposition of the problem of suffering is heartfelt, and he obviously gave it a good deal of thought, I find his account ultimately unconvincing. If we assume that suffering is deliberately designed to develop godly character leading to salvation, we are immediately faced with a vast number of devastating counterexamples. I want to mention just one that should cause even the most unfeeling and dogmatic to shudder. Consider the hymn-writer Thomas Cowper(Lewis mentions him in passing in "The Great Divorce"). Chances are at least a few of his hymns are in your hymnbook. This poor man wanted nothing more than to follow and love God, but he suffered from a manic-depressive psychosis. When he was manic, he wrote great hymns. When he was depressed, he believed (with a horrible fixitude incomprehensible to modern man) that he was damned for all eternity. Once, he had a dream during a time of deep depression that he had been saved and was in heaven, but when he awoke, he realized it was just a dream and he was damned after all. He called this one of God's cruelest arrows. How hard would it have been for God to reach out and heal this poor man's mind? How can anybody claim to have received "peace of mind" from a loving God and not mourn for poor Cowper?
We moderns have so many man-made conveniences that spare us from the suffering our anscestors had to endure. We take anaesthetics and good dental care for granted. We know much more about the mind and can heal mental diseases. Did God love the people whose teeth rotted away in their heads more than he loves us now? He sent them so much more suffering...
After years of mulling over the problem of evil, I think I have found an incomparably better answer in the writings of Benedict de Spinoza.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking, although not wholly satisfying March 16 2003
"The Problem of Pain," by C.S. Lewis, is a non-fiction work that looks at the title phenomenon in a Christian theological context. The chapters in the book look at human pain, animal pain, divine omnipotence, human wickedness, and other theological/philosophical concepts.
I found "Problem" to be a curious book. Some parts are well-written and thought-provoking, some parts are dull. Some parts just seem self-indulgent and even silly; at its worst the book reads like an eggheaded parody of theology. The chapter on hell is particularly unsatisfying; I found it to sound patronizing and frustratingly vague at times. But the book as a whole is thankfully enlivened by delightful flashes of wit.
Theologically, Lewis seems to be at odds with strict biblical literalism; in chapter 5 he appears to endorse the idea of biological evolution, for example. Despite my reservations, I feel that this is a worthwhile book for both Christians and those of other belief traditions.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Comforting and uplifting July 16 2006
This beautiful little book is on a par with the author's well-known classic Mere Christianity, as it addresses many profound questions that those in search of truth must have grappled with. Lewis was not an academic theologian so he writes for the ordinary person, which makes his words easy to understand.

The introduction deals with the 3 elements found in all developed religions: The experience of the Numinous (A sense of awe), the Sense of Morality, and the Numinous as the Guardian of Morality. Christianity contains a fourth element: A Redeemer who reconciles fallen mankind to the Righteous God.

The chapter Divine Omnipotence places the problem in context: God's goodness against the problem of suffering. How can a loving God allow this? Here Lewis discusses the implications of free will and co-existence in a common medium or external world. The next chapter, Divine Goodness, deals with the nature of divine love. Love is sterner and more splendid than mere kindness. Simple happiness in the here and now is not what God has in mind. Love may cause pain but only in order to alter and improve the object of love.

The chapter Human Wickedness looks at the state of the human psyche. Our character is, in its current state, not well. Lewis discusses our problems by examining a set of 8 very prevalent illusions. Following from this, The Fall Of Man investigates the abuse of free will while at the same time refuting Monism and Dualism. He suggests that the fall represented humanity's loss of status as a species, and that a new species had then willed itself into existence. But remedial or corrective good exists even in our present debased condition.

The next two chapters deal with Human Pain. When souls become wicked they will use free will to harm one another.
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Most recent customer reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Read this one several times and still can't make the ...
Read this one several times and still can't make the slightest sense of it. Perhaps a trained in psychiatrist would have some clue
Published 2 months ago by William A. Bolduc
5.0 out of 5 stars Painful Problem
The problem of evil – and the problem of human pain and suffering in particular – is one of the oldest and most persistent theological questions. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Dr. Bojan Tunguz
5.0 out of 5 stars The problem of pain
This book contains a lot of information, great inspiration. Used as reference for a research paper. Not complete but adequate.
Published 18 months ago by E Yao
5.0 out of 5 stars A tricky problem
C.S. Lewis was a rare individual. One of the few non-clerics to be recognised as a theologian by the Anglican church, he put forth the case for Christianity in general in ways that... Read more
Published on Dec 5 2005 by FrKurt Messick
5.0 out of 5 stars A tricky problem
C.S. Lewis was a rare individual. One of the few non-clerics to be recognised as a theologian by the Anglican church, he put forth the case for Christianity in general in ways that... Read more
Published on Dec 5 2005 by FrKurt Messick
5.0 out of 5 stars If you like C.S. Lewis . . .
. . . like I do, I strongly suggest We All Fall Down, by Brian Caldwell. Like Lewis, Caldwell takes an intellectual aproach to the concept of Christianity. Read more
Published on July 9 2004 by Mike
4.0 out of 5 stars Lewis in Essay Form
In the Problem of Pain Lewis tackles a question that has morally plagued society for centuries, "Why does bad things happen to good people? Read more
Published on Feb. 25 2004 by "xmaggie_mayx"
5.0 out of 5 stars The theoLOGICAL reason we suffer.
If God loves us, why do we suffer? Why is there pain? Why? Christian Apologist extraordinaire C.S. Lewis studies the possible answer to these questions. Read more
Published on Aug. 16 2003 by Chadwick H. Saxelid
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Christian Exposition - Proceed with Caution
A quick warning to those who have been pointed to this book but are not Christian: you are not the audience Lewis is speaking to. Read more
Published on July 6 2003 by Robert Aarhus
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Thought-provoking.
In "The Problem of Pain" Lewis deciphers a very trying question for the whole of Christianity - why must humanity suffer. Read more
Published on March 9 2003 by D. Bass
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