The Problem o Pain, by C.S. Lewis


C.S. Lewis wrote “The Problem of Pain” as an attempt to explain why God would allow evil to exist. He asked how God, who was good, would allow his creations to not be happy. The idea of human pain, even animal pain, and of hell, were things he said bring unhappiness and his focus suggests that they are also evil.  The books goals are to reconcile a just, loving, and all-powerful God, with these human conditions.

Lewis’s own experiences, with the loss of his mother at a young age to the death of his wife Joy, were painful events that represented pain. His answer for why that pain came was the need for him to learn to have faith in God as the only way to pull himself out of the pain.

Lewis said that Christianity creates the problem of pain because it provides hope and that without hope the painful world would make sense.  He said, “If I knew any way of escape I would crawl through sewers to find it,” adding “I am not arguing that pain is not painful. Pain hurts. That is what the word means. I am only trying to show that the old Christian doctrine of being made “perfect through suffering” is not incredible. To prove it palatable is beyond my design.”

An explanation for this dilemma, Lewis says, is that we don’t understand our needs in the same way God does:  "if God is wiser than we, His judgments must differ from ours on many things, and not least on good and evil. What seems to us good may therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil.”

The book seems to confuse pain and evil mostly implying that they both come from the same source and are bad. Saying pain can lead to personal growth and build faith still leaves leaves pain and evil partners rather than occurring for different reasons. Lewis’s discussion of the Fall of Man, original sin, and pain also leaves some confusion as to what evil really is. 

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The Problem of Pain Quotes by C.S. Lewis

“A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.”

 “For you will certainly carry out God's purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John"

“Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will their removal.” 

“It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to.”