Lewis, C. S. The Problem of Pain.
- the author humbly states that he writes the book as a mere layman of the Church of England
- the book purports to tackle the intellectual problem of suffering
- before his conversion, one of the author's reasons for not believing in God was the fact that all forms on the Earth live only by preying upon one another
- the historical development of religions includes the following elements:
(1) the "numinous experience" (p. 5) - a special kind of awe incited not by external facts but by revelation
(2) the "moral experience" (p. 10) - the thou shalt and thou shalt nots
(3) the relation of the numinous and the moral (p. 11) - man was endowed with the consciousness of the moral by him whom man awes, i.e. the morality is not man's invention
(4) the birth of Christ - the inciter of the numinous and the giver of the moral
- in accepting Christianity, we come to face the problem of pain
- divine omnipotence - God can do everything that is possible, but cannot do things that are "intrinsically impossible" (p. 18) because intrinsically impossible things are nonsense, they do not exist
- if God intervened whenever an evil thought occurred, man would be deprived of his free will to choose between good or evil
- divine goodness - God is loving, kind, and well-meaning
- God's love is comparable to parental love - parents, by their superior wisdom, lead their child so as they know that it will be best for the child at the end, even if this is incompatible with what the child momentarily thinks it wants
- God created man so that He could love his creation, man has no other option than to love God, while God Himself has no needs
- God pays us the "intolerable compliment" (p. 33) of loving us unconditionally, yet He wishes man's improvement in order to make man more loveable so that He may love him even more
- each man is inherently bad, despite that he may think himself otherwise
- some arguments suggesting each man's inevitable wickedness:
(1) men are being deceived by external appearances
(2) men share the "corporate guilt" (p. 54)
(3) time does not cancel our past sins
(4) the fact that you are just one of many sinners does not lessen your sins
- the author however rejects the doctrine of "Total Depravity" (p. 61) and suggests that man is not bad completely and incorrigibly
"The Fall of Man"
- the doctrine of the Fall - the first man was not created as bad, but made himself bad by misuse of his free will
- the original sin and the Fall consist in that man chose to direct his life at himself rather than at God
- man's everyday sin is "the journey homeward to habitual self", that is falling away from God and choosing one's own self instead (p. 71)
- as a result of the creation's attempt to become independent from its creator, man as a species is now spoilt
- four fifths of suffering is produced by man, not by God (poverty, overwork, slavery etc.)
- pain is seen as "God's megaphone" (p. 93), that is God's instrument to make man notice that he is being evil - pain, unlike pleasure, cannot be ignored
- misfortunes befall happy people so that they could realize how fleeting their worldly happiness is
"Human Pain, Continued"
- suffering in itself is not good, what is good is the result achieved through suffering
- there are following differences:
(1) the "simple good" - comes from God
(2) the "simple evil" - comes from the rebelling man
(3) the complex evil - suffering used by God as a means to man's improvement
(4) the "complex good" (all p. 111) - achieved through suffering
- justifies the doctrine of hell - a man who by his free will refuses to recognize and repent his sins cannot be accepted to heaven and so end up in the same way as those who do repent
- the doctrine of hell does not conflict with God's mercy - emphasizes the reciprocity necessary for redemption: "a man who admits no guilt can accept no forgiveness" (p. 124)
- animal pain differs from human pain in that animals are neither good nor evil, therefore the corrective function of suffering does not come in question
- distinguishes between "sentience" in animals and "consciousness" in human (p. 134), the former standing on a lower level than the latter - animals do not have souls or selves as humans do
- suggests the possibility of a Satanic corruption of animals preceding the Satanic corruption of man and causing the suffering of animals
- defines the beast through the man, similarly as the man is defined as a derivation from God
- each man was created with the same desire to achieve the heavenly state but everyone’s visions of heaven will differ
- each individual was created to fit in an unique place in God's heavenly design: not two same but two different things can be united, each individual is different from the other and from God, so at the end each individual will achieve a unique secret union with God known only to himself and God alone
AuthorLewis, Clive Staples. (1898 - 1963).
Full TitleThe Problem of Pain.
First PublishedLondon: Centenary Press, 1940.
Lewis, C. S. The Problem of Pain. (1940). NY: Harpercollins, 2001.