Problem of Pain

( 68 )

Overview

For centuries people have been tormented by one question above all: If God is good and all-powerful, why does he allow his creatures to suffer pain? And what of the suffering of animals, who neither deserve pain nor can be improved by it?

The greatest Christian thinker of our time sets out to disentangle this knotty issue. With his signature wealth of compassion and insight, C. S. Lewis offers answers to these crucial questions and shares his hope and wisdom to help heal a world...

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Overview

For centuries people have been tormented by one question above all: If God is good and all-powerful, why does he allow his creatures to suffer pain? And what of the suffering of animals, who neither deserve pain nor can be improved by it?

The greatest Christian thinker of our time sets out to disentangle this knotty issue. With his signature wealth of compassion and insight, C. S. Lewis offers answers to these crucial questions and shares his hope and wisdom to help heal a world hungry for a true understanding of human nature.

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Editorial Reviews

Guardian
“It is really a pleasure to be able to praise a book unreservedly, and that is just what I can do with The Problem of Pain .”
Guardian
“It is really a pleasure to be able to praise a book unreservedly, and that is just what I can do with The Problem of Pain .”
John Updike
I read Lewis for comfort and pleasure many years ago, and a glance into the books revives my old admiration.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060652968
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/28/2009
  • Series: C. S. Lewis Signature Classics
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 63,520
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.39 (d)

Meet the Author

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably one of the most influential writers of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English Literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. He wrote more than thirty books, allowing him to reach a vast audience, and his works continue to attract thousands of new readers every year. His most distinguished and popular accomplishments include Mere Christianity, Out of the Silent Planet, The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and the universally acknowledged classics The Chronicles of Narnia. To date, the Narnia books have sold over one hundred million copies and have been transformed into three major motion pictures.

Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963) fue uno de los intelectuales más importantes del siglo veinte y podría decirse que fue el escritor cristiano más influyente de su tiempo. Fue profesor particular de literatura inglesa y miembro de la junta de gobierno en la Universidad Oxford hasta 1954, cuando fue nombrado profesor de literatura medieval y renacentista en la Universidad Cambridge, cargo que desempeñó hasta que se jubiló. Sus contribuciones a la crítica literaria, literatura infantil, literatura fantástica y teología popular le trajeron fama y aclamación a nivel internacional. C. S. Lewis escribió más de treinta libros, lo cual le permitió alcanzar una enorme audiencia, y sus obras aún atraen a miles de nuevos lectores cada año. Sus más distinguidas y populares obras incluyen Las Crónicas de Narnia, Los Cuatro Amores, Cartas del Diablo a Su Sobrino y Mero Cristianismo.

Biography

C. S. Lewis was famous both as a fiction writer and as a Christian thinker, and his biographers and critics sometimes divide his personality in two: the storyteller and the moral educator, the "dreamer" and the "mentor." Yet a large part of Lewis's appeal, for both his audiences, lay in his ability to fuse imagination with instruction. "Let the pictures tell you their own moral," he once advised writers of children's stories. "But if they don't show you any moral, don't put one in. ... The only moral that is of any value is that which arises inevitably from the whole cast of the author's mind."

Storytelling came naturally to Lewis, who spent the rainy days of his childhood in Ireland writing about an imaginary world he called Boxen. His first published novel, Out of the Silent Planet, tells the story of a journey to Mars; its hero was loosely modeled on his friend and fellow Cambridge scholar J.R.R. Tolkien. Lewis enjoyed some popularity for his Space Trilogy (which continues in Perelandra and That Hideous Strength), but nothing compared to that which greeted his next imaginative journey, to an invented world of fauns, dwarfs, and talking animals -- a world now familiar to millions of readers as Narnia.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first book of the seven-volume Chronicles of Narnia, began as "a picture of a Faun carrying an umbrella and parcels in a snowy wood," according to Lewis. Years after that image first formed in his mind, others bubbled up to join it, producing what Kate Jackson, writing in Salon, called "a fascinating attempt to compress an almost druidic reverence for wild nature, Arthurian romance, Germanic folklore, the courtly poetry of Renaissance England and the fantastic beasts of Greek and Norse mythology into an entirely reimagined version of what's tritely called 'the greatest story ever told.'"

The Chronicles of Narnia was for decades the world's bestselling fantasy series for children. Although it was eventually superseded by Harry Potter, the series still holds a firm place in children's literature and the culture at large. (Narnia even crops up as a motif in Jonathan Franzen's 2001 novel The Corrections). Its last volume appeared in 1955; in that same year, Lewis published a personal account of his religious conversion in Surprised by Joy. The autobiography joined his other nonfiction books, including Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Great Divorce, as an exploration of faith, joy and the meaning of human existence.

Lewis's final work of fiction, Till We Have Faces, came out in 1956. Its chilly critical reception and poor early sales disappointed Lewis, but the book's reputation has slowly grown; Lionel Adey called it the "wisest and best" of Lewis's stories for adults. Lewis continued to write about Christianity, as well as literature and literary criticism, for several more years. After his death in 1963, The New Yorker opined, "If wit and wisdom, style and scholarship are requisites to passage through the pearly gates, Mr. Lewis will be among the angels."

Good To Know

The imposing wardrobe Lewis and his brother played in as children is now in Wheaton, Illinois, at the Wade Center of Wheaton College, which also houses the world's largest collection of Lewis-related documents, according to The Christian Science Monitor.

The 1994 movie, Shadowlands, based on the play of the same name, cast Anthony Hopkins as Lewis. It tells the story of his friendship with, and then marriage to, an American divorcee named Joy Davidman (played by Debra Winger), who died of cancer four years after their marriage. Lewis's own book about coping with that loss, A Grief Observed, was initially published under the pseudonym N. W. Clerk.

Several poems, stories, and a novel fragment published after Lewis's death have come under scrutiny as possible forgeries. On one side of the controversy is Walter Hooper, a trustee of Lewis's estate and editor of most of his posthumous works; on the other is Kathryn Lindskoog, a Lewis scholar who began publicizing her suspicions in 1988. Scandal or kooky conspiracy theory? The verdict's still out among readers.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Clive Staples Lewis (real name); Clive Hamilton, N.W. Clerk, Nat Whilk; called "Jack" by his friends
    1. Date of Birth:
      November 29, 1898
    2. Place of Birth:
      Belfast, Nothern Ireland
    1. Date of Death:
      November 22, 1963
    2. Place of Death:
      Headington, England

Read an Excerpt

The Problem of Pain

Chapter One

Introductory

I wonder at the hardihood with which such
persons undertake to talk about God. In a treatise
addressed to infidels they begin with a chapter
proving the existence of God from the works of
Nature...this only gives their readers grounds
for thinking that the proofs of our religion are
very weak.... It is a remarkable fact that no
canonical writer has ever used Nature to prove God.

Pascal, Pensées, IV, 242, 243

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. By far the greatest part of it consists of empty space, completely dark and unimaginably cold. The bodies which move in this space are so few and so small in comparison with the space itself that even if every one of them were known to be crowded as full as it could hold with perfectly happy creatures, it would still be difficult to believe that life and happiness were more than a byproduct to the power that made the universe. As it is, however, the scientists think it likely that very few of the suns of space — perhaps none of them except our own — have any planets; and in our own system it is improbable that any planet except the Earth sustains life. And Earth herself existed without life for millions of years and may exist for millions more when life has left her. And what is it like while it lasts? It is so arranged that all the forms of it can live only by preying upon one another. In the lower forms this process entails only death, butin the higher there appears a new quality called consciousness which enables it to be attended with pain. The creatures cause pain by being born, and live by inflicting pain, and in pain they mostly die. In the most complex of all the creatures, Man, yet another quality appears, which we call reason, whereby he is enabled to foresee his own pain which henceforth is preceded with acute mental suffering, and to foresee his own death while keenly desiring permanence. It also enables men by a hundred ingenious contrivances to inflict a great deal more pain than they otherwise could have done on one another and on the irrational creatures. This power they have exploited to the full. Their history is largely a record of crime, war, disease, and terror, with just sufficient happiness interposed to give them, while it lasts, an agonised apprehension of losing it, and, when it is lost, the poignant misery of remembering. Every now and then they improve their condition a little and what we call a civilisation appears. But all civilisations pass away and, even while they remain, inflict peculiar sufferings of their own probably sufficient to outweigh what alleviations they may have brought to the normal pains of man. That our own civilisation has done so, no one will dispute; that it will pass away like all its predecessors is surely probable. Even if it should not, what then? The race is doomed. Every race that comes into being in any part of the universe is doomed; for the universe, they tell us, is running down, and will sometime be a uniform infinity of homogeneous matter at a low temperature. All stories will come to nothing: all life will turn out in the end to have been a transitory and senseless contortion upon the idiotic face of infinite matter. If you ask me to believe that this is the work of a benevolent and omnipotent spirit, I reply that all the evidence points in the opposite direction. Either there is no spirit behind the universe, or else a spirit indifferent to good and evil, or else an evil spirit.'

There was one question which I never dreamed of raising. I never noticed that the very strength and facility of the pessimists' case at once poses us a problem. If the universe is so bad, or even half so bad, how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator? Men are fools, perhaps; but hardly so foolish as that. The direct inference from black to white, from evil flower to virtuous root, from senseless work to a workman infinitely wise, staggers belief. The spectacle of the universe as revealed by experience can never have been the ground of religion: it must always have been something in spite of which religion, acquired from a different source, was held.

It would be an error to reply that our ancestors were ignorant and therefore entertained pleasing illusions about nature which the progress of science has since dispelled. For centuries, during which all men believed, the nightmare size and emptiness of the universe was already known. You will read in some books that the men of the Middle Ages thought the Earth flat and the stars near, but that is a lie. Ptolemy had told them that the Earth was a mathematical point without size in relation to the distance of the fixed stars — a distance which one medieval popular text estimates as a hundred and seventeen million miles. And in times yet earlier, even from the beginnings, men must have got the same sense of hostile immensity from a more obvious source. To prehistoric man the neighbouring forest must have been infinite enough, and the utterly alien and infest which we have to fetch from the thought of cosmic rays and cooling suns, came snuffing and howling nightly to his very doors. Certainly at all periods the pain and waste of human life was equally obvious. Our own religion begins among the Jews, a people squeezed between great warlike empires, continually defeated and led captive, familiar as Poland or Armenia with the tragic story of the conquered. . .

The Problem of Pain. Copyright (c) by C. Lewis . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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Table of Contents

Preface 9
1. Introductory 11
2. Divine Omnipotence 23
3. Divine Goodness 33
4. Human Wickedness 49
5. The Fall of Man 61
6. Human Pain 79
7. Human Pain, continued 98
8. Hell 105
9. Animal Pain 115
10. Heaven 129
Appendix 139
Index 143
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 68 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 69 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 6, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    Simply Amazing!

    I am inbetween college semesters and on my seventh book of this break, which is Alister McGrath's Twilight of Atheism: The Rise and Fall of Disbelief in the Modern World. My sixth book was C.S. Lewis' The Problem of Pain. To put it bluntly, this book is simply amazing! The other books I've read this break have been good and great, but C.S. Lewis just blows my mind. I have read C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters, The Abolition of Man, and Mere Christianity, and while I cannot say this book is better than Mere Christianity, both books are on my top ten books list. There is no question that the problem of pain and suffering is one of the biggest challenges to Christianity. Not too long ago, Dinesh D'Souza debated Bart Ehrman on this topic at the University of North Carolina, and it is an important philosophical and theological question for both intellectual and emotional reasons. This book gives the most intellectually satisfying answers to the problems of pain that I have ever heard. Highly recommended to the Christian and skeptic alike!

    14 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 7, 2007

    perfect,almost

    If there could ever be a perfect book written about why their is pain in the world if there is a good God,this is it.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 3, 2010

    c.s. lewis says it best

    The Problem of Pain by Christian Apologist and Author C.S. Lewis is an exploration of pain and how is raises so many theological and intellectual problems. It focuses on one question, but explores every aspect of the debate thoroughly. Why would an all-loving, all-knowing God allow people to experience pain and suffering? Reading this great book is not for the casual reader and you should expect to be intellectually challenged. The Problem of Pain is a very difficult read, but it brings up ideas and concepts that most writers ever attempt to bring up, but as long as you can get past all of the big words, the lessons to be learned are much bigger.

    Mainly, we tend to believe that an all powerful God who loves us would allow us to live without the smallest amount of pain. C.S. Lewis argues that instead of wanting God to love us more, we want him to love us less. To not want pain is to not want his love. The nature of love is that the beloved is to be perfected as to be able to love them more. Each chapter of the book then goes on to expound on various arguments against pain. He makes a great argument for pain in that any possible universe in that freedom and the self are included there must be pain. Next he establishes his argument for the total corruption and the sin nature of man, as without a sin nature there is no reason to be corrected. Then it is shown, in Lewis' understanding of creation, a very peculiar vision of the fall of man into sin. His storytelling ability shows through as he describes the fall of man and also how he compares man and the correction sent by God to a man and his dog. The next section of the book goes deep into the implications of pain itself and how it is to be understood. Lewis is also honest in his work as he does admit the difficulties in his arguments. He concludes his work with sections on Heaven, Hell, and the very interesting question of why do animals experience pain and what does that imply?

    Certainly, if you would like your mind to be stimulated in a new and exciting way, this is the book for you. I say new, though this amazing read has been around for many years. However, it introduces new concepts to many Christians today in a world filled with many questions and criticisms of our faith. These concepts would certainly enlighten many Christian readers to the truths of why there is pain in our lives and the lives of others. Lewis is incredibly knowledgeable about all things spiritual and it would help many christians to read this great book!

    I would recommend buying The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis for yourself as we all could stand to learn from this book. Check it out at Amazon.com or Christianbook.com or any other bookseller!

    Clive Staples Lewis (1898-1963), known as Jack to his friends, was one of the intellectual giants of the twentieth century and arguably the most influential Christian writer of his day. He was a Fellow and Tutor in English literature at Oxford University until 1954, when he was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance English at Cambridge University, a position he held until his retirement. His major contributions in literary criticism, children's literature, fantasy literature, and popular theology brought him international renown and acclaim.

    read this and other reviews of mine at http://fablefreak.wordpress.com

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 9, 2012

    Refreshing treatment of an old question - a must read!

    I couldn't put down Lewis' stunning treatment of the age old question, "can a good God and evil coexist?" He explains in sparkling clarity from first principles and everyday analogies, and he brings a down to earth perspective that stands out like a diamond from modern approaches to the question. He writes for both believers and skeptics, and expands our understanding of reality and God through his absolute integrity in his questions for truth. A must read!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 12, 2011

    Excellent on most points

    C.S. Lewis is absolutely amazing in tthis book! His insight into God's use of pain and suffering in the life of the believer is phoenominal. On top of that, I learned a LOT of new words. I only had two issues with the book: his treatment of the Fall and Hell. It's clear that he doesnt take some scriptures seriously. Other than that, it's an awesome book.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2003

    Wonderful piece of work...

    This book was a fantastic read.Even though sometimes Lewis' intellect outruns mine and I have to back up and reread a few paragraphs,I found this book to be invaluable in equipping one to answer the question of pain and a loving God.The tone of the book,while very intelligent,never comes across condescendingly,and maintains a humility throughout.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2013

    Christians aren't immune to pain, but can grow from it.

    A Navy SEAL saying (probably also other Special Forces) is that pain is just weakness leaving the body. It's a nice platitude, but doesn't help understand it when one is in the midst of it.

    C.S. Lewis, one of the preeminent Christian writers of the 20th century, experienced pain, both physical and emotional. He lived through two World Wars and observed the pain that resulted. He loved and lost (to cancer) when he expected to be single all his life.

    His exposition of the conflict between God's will for good for his creation, and the effects of the free will with which we are gifted, is important. He addresses fear, in both the "I'm terrified of something" and the Biblical meaning of awe and overwhelmed respect.

    This is an important book in trying to see God's hand in dire circumstances, and in understanding that through free will, God allows things to happen the He would never make happen (short of a miracle, which Lewis discusses). To me, this is one of three essential books to understand much of what's happened over six decades on this planet. The other two are "A Grief Observed" (his journal of the emotional pain of losing his wife), and "The Great Divorce" (an exposition on the choices we make that lead us to heaven or hell).

    I have friends who love "The Screwtape Letters" or "Mere Christianity," and they are good books. But I've been personally affected by pain and loss, and found the works I've mentioned to be helpful in those settings.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    In C. S. Lewis' The Problem of Pain , the author deals wi

    In C. S. Lewis' <i>The Problem of Pain</i>
    , the author deals with how Christians confront the issues of suffering and pain. This is important, because, as Randy Alcorn points out in his recent book, <i>If God is Good: Faith in the Midst of Suffering and Evil</i>
    (which is very much in the same vein of logic and theology as Lewis in <i>Problem</i>
    ), this issue is the one that challenges many people, and causes them to doubt God's existence, goodness, or power. I can see why, and if we are honest, we all can.

    You see, how do we maintain belief in a good God when the universe is so evil? Or how can we believe a good God is omniscient and omnipotent in this life that is at times so terrible? Lewis attempts to answer this problem.

    He starts in a simple direction, as in all of his writings, by beginning with simple concepts of pain, justice, our understanding of these and other factors. He then expands on his thesis until he gets to the meat and bones of how the Bible addresses this issue.

    The only area I have problems with his arguments is on the issue of animals. Animals do not have souls in the ways we do, but they do have some type of soul. Some type of internal life granted them by the Divine will. The Bible is clear on this, and states that they will be in Heaven, are in Heaven right now, in fact. Maybe it won't be the same animal we knew, maybe it will be.

    We can eat animals, and we can have them to experiment on, humanely, of course. That is not the issue. The issue is that they are still loved and valued by God, so while we rule over them, we must do so humanely.

    This was a really nice treatment of the topic, though I admit that I prefer Randy Alcorn's book earlier described. It is more complete and thorough, but for a quicker and less time-consuming handling of the topic, <i>The Problem of Pain</i>
    works great.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2001

    A Brilliant Book in a Time of Chrisi

    It addresses the problem of pain wonderfully. He logically and thoroughly describes why there must be pain in this world and why God lets it. It is an amazingly up lifting book, especially, in a time when many people are asking 'If there is a God, why is there so much pain and suffering in this world?'

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 18, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2012

    Excellent Read

    As always, C. S. Lewis delivers! This book asks and answers questions I never even cosidered. An excellent spiritual journey for believers and skeptics alike.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2012

    Courtyard

    Step through the door of the White Witch's castle & you will find a courtyard full of stone statues. These are people who stood up to the White Witch. The other evil ones have scribbled all over these statues. Every now & then she adds a new statue to her collection.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 5, 2011

    Amazing as usual

    Cs lewis does not dissapoint. Hes just as mindblowingly brilliant as ever. Constantly making the reader think like they never have before. Im only on pg 26 but loving it already.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2006

    Wonderful book by a fabulous author

    CS Lewis is essential for anyone interested in Christology, Theology, and humanity in general. This particular piece is great for that person struggling with one of the most difficult problems of Christian thought- suffering.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 23, 2005

    No pain no gain

    Lewis deepens his thoughts and hunkers us down to try to find answers to why we hurt, and why God let's us.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 9, 2002

    Answering The Unanswered Questions

    Reading anything by C.S. Lewis is an uplifting experience because it gives one a chance to witness a great intellect at work. But as much as I appreciate the literary gifts of Lewis, in this book he is answering questions about which I have little interest.

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted January 1, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted January 5, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted January 28, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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