The Problem of Pain –review


Written in September 2012 when I was 17

As is often the case with C. S. Lewis, some chapters deserve a five star rating, while others a perplexing “1”.

In “The Problem of Pain” C.S. Lewis addresses primarily the purpose of pain and suffering and identifies it as God’s means of getting our attention. When everything is going our way why would we have any reason to believe there was anything wrong? Pain and suffering reveals to us our own weakness and need for God. This is love-that God does not allow us to remain in our self-reliant state but gradually removes those things on which we lean until we lean only on him. So what we really desire is “less love, not more” C.S. Lewis says. We don’t understand suffering because we don’t understand love. What we call love is merely kindness and “kindness, merely as such, cares not whether its object becomes good or bad, provided only that it escapes suffering…it is for people whom we care nothing about that we demand happiness on any terms…Love may, indeed, love the beloved when her beauty is lost; but not because it is lost. Love may forgive all infirmities and love still in spite of them: but Love cannot cease to will thier removal…[God] has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us.” God is love. The problem with this statement is NOT that we isolate an attribute of God from all the rest but that we don’t understand what love is. Judgement is loving because it’s the only way mortals will see their need for Christ. As Christians, “whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we think we now think we want. Once more, we are embarassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little…You asked for a loving God: you have one.”

C.S. Lewis goes on to speak of the absolute necessity of a recovery of the right view of sin. This is ironic considering all the stuff he goes on to say about Adam. In one sense he denies Original Sin on the grounds that we could not be punished for another’s (Adam’s) sin but he tries to reconcile this view with what he beleives from the New Testament about sin by saying that Adam set in motion a pattern of sin, an inclination for sin but that it’s still our own sin that we’re punished for. This is really a fundamental misunderstanding of headship. What I saw in the chapters on the fall was a former atheist still wrestling with his former beliefs. I see that most clearly in the section on “Paradisal Man”. I remember in Mere Christianity that C.S. Lewis made a logical arguement against Theistic Evolution so I suspect that his view on Creation has changed over time. It would be interesting to research.

3 thoughts on “The Problem of Pain –review

  1. Pingback: Six Month Anniversary | Living In Heavens shadow

  2. For a brief but firm first post (mind when you were 17 as well), your exploration on the mind and theology of C.S. Lewis is quite a boggling place. Did you ever delve into and find anything more on this book and his psyche?

    Liked by 1 person

    • What can I say, I was a “precocious” 17 year old. 😄😜 (But oh gosh, I’d forgotten what a struggle spelling ie/ei words used to be for me. 😳)

      Hm, well, his autobiography “Surprised by Joy,” is still on my reading list three+ years later which would really help. 😛

      I haven’t found a clear answer on his view of Creation. 4 years after the publication of TPOP (while he was broadcasting the lectures that would become Mere Christianity) he wrote in a letter to a friend who was violently opposed to evolution, that his belief that Man is made in the image of God does not oblige or qualify him to have an opinion on Man’s prehistory. So it appears that later in his life, C. S. Lewis did not hold as tenaciously to the same theory of Creation as expressed in TPOP–but nor did he renounce it entirely when he had opportunity

      “A Grief Observed” which I reviewed right at a year ago ( provides some interesting parallels with “The Problem of Pain” because it’s an intensely personal wrestling with and application of the theology he so carefully articulated 20 years prior as a scholar.

      But “A Grief Observed” had even stranger and less orthodox oddities of its own mixed in with solid theological reflections–and it was the last comprehensive work C. S. Lewis published.

      Your question pinged my curiosity as to whether C. S. Lewis could be considered to have been confessional. In his published works he did doggedly avoid denominational distinctions. I did some binge reading this afternoon and discovered that he was a committed Anglican, definately not in favor of ecumenicalism. C. S. Lewis was a man with a deep and profound appreciation for history and for the written word.

      It /could/ be that on the occasions when C. S. Lewis veers off into his strange conjectures (usually to do with the supernatural and/or afterlife) that he is reflecting the mysticism of his church tradition or, it could be that at those points he is actually departing from his own church tradition–those “Guardians of Reputation,” eh? I would have to understand Anglican doctrine better to answer that question further.

      (Btw, this wasn’t my first post?)


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