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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 Thought-provoking, although not wholly satisfying
"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...
Published on March 16 2003 by Michael J. Mazza


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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 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
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Painful Problem, Jan. 28 2014
By 
Dr. Bojan Tunguz (Indiana, USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Problem Of Pain (Paperback)
The problem of evil – and the problem of human pain and suffering in particular – is one of the oldest and most persistent theological questions. Under its technical term “theodicy” theologians and philosophers have explored it at least since the eighteenth century. In “The Problem of Pain” C. S. Lewis, one of the best renowned twentieth century Christian apologists, uses his own considerable erudition and literary talent to explore this age-old issue.

From the very outset of this book Lewis makes it clear that he is no theologian or a philosopher, and makes an apology of sorts for his possibly naïve views of some of the deep and enduring intellectual questions that he tackles. Nonetheless, this book is anything but naïve and intellectually unsophisticated in its treatment of the problem of pain, and some of the treatment of these deep issues is on par or even well ahead of what I’ve read by some of the best and most erudite Christian theologians throughout the ages. Lewis is very probing and sophisticated in his insights, to the point that this book can be pretty challenging to read at times. This is a work of someone who is not satisfied with cheap and facile answers to the most difficult and challenging questions that can confront faith, and Christian faith in particular. His treatment is also very contemporary and addressed to the modern audience. So much so in fact, that it was hard for me to believe that this book was written over a century ago. Many of the problems and issues that Lewis had to contends with are still relevant, and, according to him, were well over a century old even at the time of the writing of this book. The biggest one, of course, is the notion that the modern world has not only the problem with accepting the solution for its many ills in Christian message, but it also lacks the sense that it’s ill, and very seriously at that. Christianity today must make the convincing case not only for the remedy, but for the existence of disease as well.

This book is a valuable read for all Christians who desire to grapple with their faith in an original and intellectually deep and honest way. It provides ample ammunition to Christian apologists as well, although it is my sense that this was not Lewis’s target audience. This book may not provide the definitive “solution” to the problem of pain, but in some sense it’s possible that no book ever will. Flannery O’Connor might have been onto something when she wrote that “evil is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be endured.”
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5.0 out of 5 stars The problem of pain, March 9 2013
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This review is from: The Problem Of Pain (Paperback)
This book contains a lot of information, great inspiration. Used as reference for a research paper. Not complete but adequate.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Christian Theology's Insoluble Problem, Jan. 3 2003
By 
Jonathan L. Widger (Ocean View, DE United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Problem Of Pain (Paperback)
C. S. Lewis, the late professor of Medieval and Renaissance literature at Cambridge University, was one of the most popular, thought-provoking Christian apologists of the Twentieth Century. In his book on the problem of pain, he acknowledges in his Introduction that Christianity actually "creates, rather than solves, the problem of pain, for pain would be no problem unless...we had received what we think a good assurance that ultimate reality is righteous and loving." On the other hand, as he also points out, merely discarding Christianity creates the problem of explaining why, if "the universe is so bad...humans ever came to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator?" He then follows this statement with a mini case for Christianity, discussing four religious elements.
The first three elements are: (1) experience of numinous awe, (2) consciousness of a moral law which we both approve and yet disobey, and (3) identification of the "Numinous Power of which we feel awe" as also being "the guardian of the morality to which [we] feel ablation." Lewis perhaps rightly contends that these experieces are neither "the result of an inference from the visible universe" nor a logical deduction "from the environment and [our] physical experiences." He then contends that our religious experience must be either "a mere twist in the human mind, corresponding to nothing objective and serving no bioligical function...or else it is a direct experience of the really supernatural." Religious experience and thought may indeed be a "twist in the human mind" that nevertheless has a useful function without necessarily being an actual experience of the supernatural. Anyone interested in finding out more about how religious thought may have developed without invoking the supernatural may consult Pascal Boyer's excellent book, Religion Explained: The Evolutionary Origins of Religious Thought (New York: Basic Books, 2001).
The fourth religious element Lewis discusses is the Incarnation as follows:
"Either he [Jesus Christ] was a raving lunatic of an unusually abominable type, or else he was, and is, precisely what He said. There is no middle way. If the records make the first hypothesis unacceptable, you must submit to the second."
Far from being cogent, this argument would make an excellent example of an either/or fallacy for textbooks on logic. It is also called the fallacy of "incomplete enumeration." Christ could have been mistaken about himself without necessarily having to be designated an "abominable lunatic," and he could be misrepresented in the Gospels. These rational alternatives show that the dilemma presented by Lewis for the unbeliever is false. Having introduced how Christianity causes the problem of pain, Lewis then proceeds to deal with it via the free-will defense.
In his chapter on "Divine Omnipotence," Lewis states the following:
"We can...conceive of a world in which God corrected the results of this abuse of free will...at every moment...But such a world would be one in which wrong actions were impossible, and in which, therefore, freedom of the will would be void."
However, the contention that free will necessarily includes the option to commit wrong actions is erroneous. Am I less morally free if I am only able to care lovingly for my little dog and incapable of choosing to abuse him? Is my moral freedom diminished in the least by my incapacity to terrorize mentally and abuse physically the woman I love? Are persons capable of choosing to do evil as morally free as those capable of only choosing good? Free will is always limited by the capacities and opportunities of any moral agent. Hence, there is no logical contradiction in conceiving of a limited moral freedom to choose only from among various good actions.
Furthermore, free will limited to choosing only good options need not diminish the total amount of free will. God creating greater capacities and opportunities for choosing good could replace the loss of the capacity to do evil. Consequently, since even Christian apologists acknowledge that free will is never absolutely free and since the option to do evil is unnecessary to possess limited free will, the free-will apologetic attempting to rationally explain evil in a world created by an omnipotent, loving God is fallacious. Another of the problems for Christian theology concerns a doctrine Lewis discusses in his chapter, "The Fall of Man."
Lewis says that, in the developed doctrine of the Fall, "Man, as God made him, was completely good and completely happy, but...he disobeyed God and became what we now see." This doctrine creates another problem, which Lewis states as follows:
"For the difficulty about the first sin is that it must be very heinous, or its consequences would not be so terrible, and yet it must be something which a being free from the temptations of fallen man could conceivably have committed."
The sin that Lewis suggests as being possible to someone completely good is "turning from God to self" or "self-idolatry." However, the notion that enyone completely good would commit "self-idolatry" or any other sin is self-contradictory. If turning to God and not to self is essential to being good, then a morally perfect agent ipso facto could never turn from God.
Near the close of his chapter, "The Fall of Man," Lewis suggests that "it would be futile to attempt to solve the problem of pain by producing another problem." However, this is just what Christian apologetics does with the problem of pain and evil. It introduces "solutions" that both fail as solutions and actually produce more problems--even when authored by C. S. Lewis.
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1 of 1 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
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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
(TOP 100 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
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 If you like C.S. Lewis . . ., July 9 2004
This review is from: The Problem Of Pain (Paperback)
. . . 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. His novel is very much in the vein of The Screwtape Letters and The Great divorce. I highly recomend it for discriminating Christian readers.
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The Problem Of Pain by C S Lewis (Paperback - Jan. 25 2001)
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