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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly fascinating
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...
Published on June 25 2004 by Jordan

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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice try, but...
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...
Published on Nov. 26 2001


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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Utterly fascinating, June 25 2004
This review is from: The Problem Of Pain (Paperback)
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.

The one thing that disturbed me about this book was the preface, in which Lewis states that because he wasn't allowed to write the book anonymously, he couldn't make statements of "apparent fortitude that would become ridiculous had people known who wrote them". I kind of feel cheated...does Lewis dummy down his real beliefs on the subject for this book? It is saddening to think so.
Other than that, I found this book excellent.
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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
This review is from: The Problem Of Pain (Paperback)
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. Spinoza thinks all forms of suffering are just plain bad. The happier we are, the more we live out the powers that lie within us, the greater we approach the divine nature. Why then do we suffer? Because the world was not made for our benefit. We are simply tiny creatures who live in an incomparably vast (indeed, infinite) universe. The universe is wonderful and an expression of divinity because it can support an amazing variety of life, but it is not "perfect" in the sense of beineg perfectly-adjusted for our happiness. God bears us no ill-will; the world is simply as it is, and our comfort is not its goal. To the extent Lewis adopts at least in part a similar view, that is the strongest reasoning in his book.
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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
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This review is from: The Problem Of Pain (Paperback)
"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
By 
Pieter Uys "Toypom" (Johannesburg) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 50 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Problem Of Pain (Paperback)
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. The human will becomes truly creative only when it aligns itself with the will of God. Christianity demands that we correct a misdirection of our nature. The author advances 6 propositions that are necessary to complete the understanding of human suffering.

The chapter titled Hell addresses the seemingly cruel doctrine of hell. Pain mostly leads to redemption but may unfortunately also lead to unrepentant rebellion. This means that some individuals will ultimately prefer darkness to light. The author also discusses the apparent disproportion between eternal damnation and transitory sin, pointing out that some souls do not want to be forgiven.

The chapter Animal Pain is speculation as Lewis admits, but such fascinating and plausible possibilities are presented here. If you love your pets and animals in general, be sure to read it! It will give you hope and peace of mind as to the mercy and justice of a righteous God.

The chapter titled Heaven contains more speculation but of a most awesome, gripping and mind expanding nature. Lewis explores the idea of an eternal special relationship of each individual soul with the Divine Majesty, an eternal dance of joy in splendid diversity. This is not the unconscious nirvana of Pantheism but a condition of maximum distinctiveness of the individual in a higher form reunited with God.

The Appendix is a note on the observed effects of mental and physical pain, supplied by R Havard, MD, from clinical experience. The Problem Of Pain is filled with compassion and illuminating insight. It is highly instructive and edifying, making a convincing case for the profound meaning of life. In addition, it is the perfect antidote for the hedonism and nihilism that are running rampant in the world today.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A tricky problem, Dec 5 2005
By 
FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Problem of Pain ~ Ppr (Paperback)
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 many Christians beyond the Anglican world can accept, and a clear description for non-Christians of what Christian faith and practice should be. Indeed, Lewis says in his introduction that this text (or indeed, hardly any other he produced) will help in deciding between Christian denominations. While he describes himself as a 'very ordinary layman' in the Church of England, he looks to the broader picture of Christianity, particularly for those who have little or no background. The discussion of division points rarely wins a convert, Lewis observed, and so he leaves the issues of ecclesiology and high theology differences to 'experts'. Lewis is of course selling himself short in this regard, but it helps to reinforce his point.
Lewis sees pain as an inevitable part of the human experience, given our condition of being estranged from God. He does not pain and suffering as being caused by God. 'The possibility of pain in inherent in the very existence of a world where souls can meet,' Lewis writes. 'When souls become wicked they will certainly use this possibility to hurt one another; and this, perhaps, accounts for four-fifths of the sufferings of men.' God has a role in that God is the creator of all things, and set things in motion, but God is not responsible in Lewis' view for the individual or corporate acts of humankind in contradiction of God's will. In this, Lewis does go against the Calvinist strain that goes through Anglican and other theologies.
Lewis highlights part of the problem with pain in that it cannot be easily ignored. 'We can rest contentedly in our sins and our stupidities; and anyone who has watched gluttons shovelling down the most exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eating, will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to.' Lewis admits that this is a 'terrible instrument' that God uses to draw people back to God's will, and that it isn't always successful. In addressing the doctrine and idea of Hell, Lewis admits that this too is a terrible idea (in fact, he states it is an 'intolerable' one), but also states that this is not meant to be an intellectually satisfying or comprehensible doctrine, but rather a moral one. Lewis does hasten to state that people often confuse the imagery of Hell for the doctrine of Hell - the ideas of Dante et al. are very pervasive, and our conceptions of what is meant by Hell usually owes more to such sources than the actual Biblical text.
Lewis also shows part of his method of biblical interpretation in different passages in this book. In the chapter on Animal Pain, he discusses the absence of statements in scripture about whether animals share in immortality. 'The complete silence of Scripture and Christian tradition on animal immortality is a more serious objection; but it would be fatal only if Christian revelation showed any signs of being intended as a "system de la nature" answering all questions. But it is nothing of the sort.'
Lewis explores the issues of divine omnipotence, divine omniscience, and divine goodness as possible contradictions and stumbling blocks to the way we see the world (or the way in which we can see a world with God operating in it, or responsible for it). Lewis comes to no definitive, systematic conclusions that will satisfy everyone. In the case of this particular text, Lewis is writing is a specifically Christian context, and readers from other backgrounds and adherents of other traditions may find less to connect with in this text.
This is a key piece in the overall structure of Lewis' theological construction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A tricky problem, Dec 5 2005
By 
FrKurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (Bloomington, IN USA) - See all my reviews
(HALL OF FAME)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: The Problem Of Pain (Paperback)
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 many Christians beyond the Anglican world can accept, and a clear description for non-Christians of what Christian faith and practice should be. Indeed, Lewis says in his introduction that this text (or indeed, hardly any other he produced) will help in deciding between Christian denominations. While he describes himself as a 'very ordinary layman' in the Church of England, he looks to the broader picture of Christianity, particularly for those who have little or no background. The discussion of division points rarely wins a convert, Lewis observed, and so he leaves the issues of ecclesiology and high theology differences to 'experts'. Lewis is of course selling himself short in this regard, but it helps to reinforce his point.
Lewis sees pain as an inevitable part of the human experience, given our condition of being estranged from God. He does not pain and suffering as being caused by God. 'The possibility of pain in inherent in the very existence of a world where souls can meet,' Lewis writes. 'When souls become wicked they will certainly use this possibility to hurt one another; and this, perhaps, accounts for four-fifths of the sufferings of men.' God has a role in that God is the creator of all things, and set things in motion, but God is not responsible in Lewis' view for the individual or corporate acts of humankind in contradiction of God's will. In this, Lewis does go against the Calvinist strain that goes through Anglican and other theologies.
Lewis highlights part of the problem with pain in that it cannot be easily ignored. 'We can rest contentedly in our sins and our stupidities; and anyone who has watched gluttons shovelling down the most exquisite foods as if they did not know what they were eating, will admit that we can ignore even pleasure. But pain insists upon being attended to.' Lewis admits that this is a 'terrible instrument' that God uses to draw people back to God's will, and that it isn't always successful. In addressing the doctrine and idea of Hell, Lewis admits that this too is a terrible idea (in fact, he states it is an 'intolerable' one), but also states that this is not meant to be an intellectually satisfying or comprehensible doctrine, but rather a moral one. Lewis does hasten to state that people often confuse the imagery of Hell for the doctrine of Hell - the ideas of Dante et al. are very pervasive, and our conceptions of what is meant by Hell usually owes more to such sources than the actual Biblical text.
Lewis also shows part of his method of biblical interpretation in different passages in this book. In the chapter on Animal Pain, he discusses the absence of statements in scripture about whether animals share in immortality. 'The complete silence of Scripture and Christian tradition on animal immortality is a more serious objection; but it would be fatal only if Christian revelation showed any signs of being intended as a "system de la nature" answering all questions. But it is nothing of the sort.'
Lewis explores the issues of divine omnipotence, divine omniscience, and divine goodness as possible contradictions and stumbling blocks to the way we see the world (or the way in which we can see a world with God operating in it, or responsible for it). Lewis comes to no definitive, systematic conclusions that will satisfy everyone. In the case of this particular text, Lewis is writing is a specifically Christian context, and readers from other backgrounds and adherents of other traditions may find less to connect with in this text.
This is a key piece in the overall structure of Lewis' theological construction.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Christian Exposition - Proceed with Caution, July 6 2003
By 
Robert Aarhus "ClosetOtaku" (Alexandria VA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Problem Of Pain (Paperback)
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. This book cannot be fully grasped in its original context without some degree of belief or acceptance of Christian doctrine. It is apologetics at its best, but cannot be considered in the "self-help" category like many contemporary titles are.
That said, this must be the finest treatise on the apparent contradiction between the existence of pain and the existence of a supposedly loving God that has been written.
Succint, well-organized, thorough, yet "The Problem of Pain" still reads like it was written by a human being rather than a scholar. Some chapters bring conviction. The chapter on Hell brings fear and dread, and respect for Him who can "destroy both body and soul in Hell". The chapter on Heaven, which Lewis admits is his own philosophical foray, no one else's -- brings hope and reassurance that Heaven is your true calling, your one True Home.
This is not light reading, at least not at first. This may not be a book to recommend to someone at the height of a crisis; Lewis taxes your attention and does not take any short cuts. A "Cliff Notes" version of this book would miss the point. Pain is one of the toughest theological problems a Christian can face, either in their lives or the life of another person they know -- and Lewis does not want you going in armed with half an argument or some "Precious Moments" sentiment.
From a non-Christian POV, I would be surprised if this book made much sense -- so many of the pillars are set on Christian theology, philosophy, and tradition. If you cannot (or will not) accept the possibility of the existence of Heaven, Hell, or God, this book will be just so much incomprehensible babble.
But, as I said, it is not written for that segment of the market. This book is best read by the thinking Christian who has reservations about aspects of Christianity that seem to gloss over, avoid, or ignore the issue of human suffering.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and Thought-provoking., March 9 2003
By 
D. Bass (North Carolina) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: The Problem Of Pain (Paperback)
In "The Problem of Pain" Lewis deciphers a very trying question for the whole of Christianity - why must humanity suffer. Many atheists argue that if God were both omnipotent and good, why does he allow such a world of pain to exist? Lewis answers this question and many others in a style that can easily be compared with a learned scholar, not a layman.
While I don't agree with all of Lewis's suppositions in "The Problem of Pain" (namely some of the statements found in the chapter "The Fall of Man" dealing with the origins of the human species), he still by and large offers up a very convincing case deeply rooted in the best Christian doctrine around - The Bible. The problem of pain for the Christian may be summed up rather simply: 1) Man, not God, was and is the creator and instigator of pain through Adam's sin. 2) Pain is a megaphone God uses to speak to us - sharply perhaps, uncomfortably, even unbearably - but if pain did not exist, would the joy and peace of God's love be the same? God uses pain to rouse a deaf world, to let us all know that something is wrong, that we need something beyond ourselves. 3) While life can be exceedingly painful at times, there is always the happiness, the sunrises and the mountain streams, for us to enjoy. Pain allows us see joy even more clearly. As Lewis himself writes, "Our Father refreshed us on the journey with some pleasant Inns, but will not encourage us to mistake them for home."
An interesting and thought-provoking read from the 20th century's greatest Christian theologian, apologist, and "layman".
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lewis tackles one of the chief objections to Christianity, March 6 2003
By 
This review is from: The Problem Of Pain (Paperback)
The Problem of Pain is the first of C.S. Lewis's apologetic works. Having been an athiest(or maybe just a skeptic?) ten years before, Lewis certainly had walked through this problem on his own and in 1940 wanted to help many of his fellow British skeptics through it, too.
The book starts, after a disclaimer on his lack of theological schooling, with an explaination of selves that are distinct from God and a description of the fall of man before tackling human pain. His basic argument is that, while human pain is a result of Adam's Fall, God uses it for our good to A)alert us that something is wrong with the universe and B)to refine Christians into better people. Lewis does admit that while pain can "rouse the bad man to a knowledge that all was not well" it can also "lead to final and unrepented rebellion". He finishes with a very good explaination of Hell,"the doors of hell are locked on the inside" and an equally good chapter on Heaven.
This is a book for those who are struggling with the "idea" of pain; in other words, "If God is so good why does allow people to be in pain and even send some of them to Hell?" But if your question is more concrete, like "Why did God allow my husband to die from a fatal illness?" you will probably find this book to be like salt in a wound. If that's you I would recomend Lewis's other book on pain, A Grief Observed, or Philip Yancy's Where is God when it Hurts. The Problem of Pain is certainly an excellent piece of apologetics, however, and I found it to be very helpful.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A simple, satisfying solution to a complex problem, Jan. 27 2003
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This review is from: The Problem Of Pain (Paperback)
CS Lewis was a master at making complicated theological questions make sense. In this short work, he tackles what is perhaps one of his most difficult subjects yet. Why does pain exist? If there is a God, and he is benevolent, why does he allow his creatures to feel both physical and mental anguish? The answer, as Lewis sees it, is simple, though the explanation for it may not be. Because he loves us.

In this book, Lewis shows how God molds us through our afflictions, and how he actually works toward our greater good by allowing us to experience pain and misfortune, that we may be more willing to give of our own free will back to him. It is through pain, says Lewis, that God can guide us back to Heaven.

Lewis continues the argument made in many others of his books: that no one goes to Heaven or Hell without choosing to. God guides us by allowing us to experience pain, but it is our choice whether we choose to submit to His will or not. And no one will go to Hell without having first refused the helping hand. As Lewis says, the gates of Hell will be locked from the inside.

This is some of the simplest, yet most beautiful theology around, expounded by a man who's humility made him always refer to himself as a 'layman.' If you're a fan of other Lewis works, pick this one up--you won't be disappointed. And if you're just looking for some good Christian reading material, with great insight, then you won't want to miss CS Lewis's the Problem of Pain.
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The Problem Of Pain by C S Lewis (Paperback - Jan. 25 2001)
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