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The Problem of Pain (1940)

by C. S. Lewis

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7,27252921 (3.94)73
Why must humanity suffer? In this elegant and thoughtful work, C. S. Lewis questions the pain and suffering that occur everyday and how they contrast with the notion of a God that is both omnipotent and good'the answer to this critical theological problem is within these pages.

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» See also 73 mentions

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I literally finished this book a second time and picked it back up a week later and started reading it a third time. ( )
  Shockleyy | Jun 6, 2021 |
In this book, C.S. Lewis addresses the problem of evil: if God is good and all-powerful, why is there suffering? His answer to this is dense and philosophical. Before he starts his main argument however, he says that this “problem” is peculiar to Christianity - if you are an atheist, the “evil” you might see in the universe is really just an “is” which suggests no “ought.” So really, it’s only when you have already accepted the central tenets of Christianity that this even becomes a “problem” at all. (Interestingly, although not really its purpose, his discussion amounts to a rejection of the intelligent design argument. He does not think that anyone could look at the universe as it is, and infer a loving, good, all-powerful God from it.)

He begins his proper argument by asserting that a universe without suffering is a logical absurdity — you might as well ask if God could have made a universe in which squares were round. As far as I can understand, the idea is that in order for consciousnesses to interact with each other, there must be a neutral “field” in which this occurs — and its neutrality (i.e., not malleable to one’s every whim) necessitates the potential for pain. This is a weird argument, and I get the sense that Lewis feels awkward making it, but in the end it works, I think.

Next, he suggests that the mistake in the objection is that, when it comes to talking about God, we generally equate goodness with kindness — easing suffering. He argues, rather, that God’s love is such that requires pain on our part, and that this is ultimately a good thing, due to our fallen state. The first chapter called “Human Pain” is one of the clearest, most uncompromising and straightforward articulations of the Christian doctrine of man’s relationship to God that I’ve ever read. This is no namby-pamby feel-good Christian fluff, despite how Lewis’s books are marketed these days. This is hardcore.

He ends with a discussion about Hell, and here I think he slips a little bit on his conception of free will (which clashes somewhat with his discussion of man’s fallenness elsewhere, and I think is a sticky point for Lewis in general). His chapter on animal pain is interesting, in that even though he doesn’t see animals as conscious beings capable of “real” (i.e., human-like) suffering, he finds a place for our sympathy toward them and our desire that they would be in heaven.

Overall this book provides a lucid and striking discussion of ideas that would seem counterintuitive at first glance (and indeed have troubled philosophers throughout the ages). Lewis’s talent is in explaining them in such a way that they became so clear I wondered why I hadn’t thought of them myself already. ( )
  exhypothesi | Mar 7, 2021 |
I always enjoy reading CS Lewis, even if I'm not exactly the intended audience anymore. This is again, another good thesis/essay by Clive, but for some reason, this seems far more jargon-y and not really getting down to the "brass tax" of what its supposed to be about. Seems like he doesn't truly tackle and go on about the true "problem of pain" and its more or less a work-around to discuss what he wants to talk about with regards to Christianity and man's view and take on it.

The chapters are also broken down into weird ways and the long (3 page paragraphs!) paragraphs and writing style compared to some of his other essays makes this wordier and with much more filler than need be and previously done.

I have to say I wish there was a fair bit more 'meat' on it, and would also wish there was tackling of this from an atheistic perspective (obviously I know going in, I wouldn't be getting that perspective from Lewis). ( )
  BenKline | Jul 1, 2020 |
A deep philosophical attempt at explaining pain in the context of christian faith

CS Lewis is one of the great Christian philosophers and The Problem of Pain shows why. Lewis doesn’t try to convince his readers of illogical dogmas, but instead provides a philosophical look into the place of pain in the macro. He accepts his incapacity to deal with certain topics and that makes him more believable. He provides great insight into some of those questions that seem to generate conflicting thoughts in the inquiring minds of Bible readers. You don’t necessarily have to agree with his beliefs to appreciate what Lewis left us here. ( )
  Miguel.Arvelo | Jun 9, 2020 |
CS Lewis, a man I grew up being taught to virtually worship as THE Intellectual of the evangelical movement, has always struck me as an oddity. Obviously, he was intelligent to some degree, and creative at that. I've enjoyed several of his works, but all too often I've read and reread certain of his "classics," typically referred to and called upon by certain Christians when addressing others and wanting to throw some "intellectual" weight from the master behind their assertions, statements, judgments and what not. The problem is, I'm not the only one who has concluded that while Lewis did have some talent, intelligence, creativity going for him, his reputation as an Intellectual seems unwarranted, because quite often in some of his more "serious" works he resorts to using his brand of "logic" to persuade the poor simpletons who haven't seen the Light and come to the Lord like he did, but his logic is usually badly lacking, not remotely impressive, easily countered, overrated and in point of fact, if CS Lewis represents the best the evangelicals can produce in way of an "Intellectual" to do battle with the evil secularists -- and win -- they are in pretty bad shape because this boy was surpassed by tens of thousands of actual, true geniuses in all types of fields just during his own century alone and it would be embarrassing for him to go head to head against Russell, Sartre, Paine, Dawkins and thousands of others who could swat his sad arguments away while injecting true logic and reason with no effort whatsoever. I wish I had been alive during his career and could have had an opportunity to sit in on some of his lectures, possibly meet the man, and ideally engage in public debate because I think I would have found it enjoyable and probably a good bit easier to win than with some current evangelical "apologists," theologians and the like. His reputation is not merited and this book, as well as most of his "serious" works, is not recommended as it's largely a waste of time and largely worthless. ( )
1 vote scottcholstad | Jan 4, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
C. S. Lewisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Havard, R.Afterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pesonen, MarittaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Simmons, JamesReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Whitfield, RobertNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.'
— George MacDonald,
Unspoken Sermons, First Series
To The Inklings
First words
Not many years ago when I was an atheist, if anyone had asked me, "Why do you not believe in God?" my reply would have run something like this: "Look at the universe we live in.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Why must humanity suffer? In this elegant and thoughtful work, C. S. Lewis questions the pain and suffering that occur everyday and how they contrast with the notion of a God that is both omnipotent and good'the answer to this critical theological problem is within these pages.

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