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The Problem of Pain Paperback – March 3, 2009


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Product Details

  • Series: Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 1 edition (March 3, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060652969
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060652968
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.3 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (218 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Problem of Pain answers the universal question, "Why would an all-loving, all-knowing God allow people to experience pain and suffering?" Master Christian apologist C.S. Lewis asserts that pain is a problem because our finite, human minds selfishly believe that pain-free lives would prove that God loves us. In truth, by asking for this, we want God to love us less, not more than he does. "Love, in its own nature, demands the perfecting of the beloved; that the mere 'kindness' which tolerates anything except suffering in its object is, in that respect at the opposite pole from Love." In addressing "Divine Omnipotence," "Human Wickedness," "Human Pain," and "Heaven," Lewis succeeds in lifting the reader from his frame of reference by artfully capitulating these topics into a conversational tone, which makes his assertions easy to swallow and even easier to digest. Lewis is straightforward in aim as well as honest about his impediments, saying, "I am not arguing that pain is not painful. Pain hurts. I am only trying to show that the old Christian doctrine that being made perfect through suffering is not incredible. To prove it palatable is beyond my design." The mind is expanded, God is magnified, and the reader is reminded that he is not the center of the universe as Lewis carefully rolls through the dissertation that suffering is God's will in preparing the believer for heaven and for the full weight of glory that awaits him there. While many of us naively wish that God had designed a "less glorious and less arduous destiny" for his children, the fortune lies in Lewis's inclination to set us straight with his charming wit and pious mind. --Jill Heatherly

Review

“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)

More About 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 100 million copies and been transformed into three major motion pictures.

Customer Reviews

C.S. Lewis was a facinating writer.
Andrew J. Fultz
From a non-Christian POV, I would be surprised if this book made much sense -- so many of the pillars are set on Christian theology, philosophy, and tradition.
Robert Aarhus
In the Problem of Pain, Lewis deals with the difficulty of suffering in a world created by a good and all powerful God.
john

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

404 of 426 people found the following review helpful By Robert Aarhus on July 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
A quick warning to those who have been pointed to this book but are not Christian: you are not the audience Lewis is speaking to. This book cannot be fully grasped in its original context without some degree of belief or acceptance of Christian doctrine. It is apologetics at its best, but cannot be considered in the "self-help" category like many contemporary titles are.
That said, this must be the finest treatise on the apparent contradiction between the existence of pain and the existence of a supposedly loving God that has been written.
Succint, well-organized, thorough, yet "The Problem of Pain" still reads like it was written by a human being rather than a scholar. Some chapters bring conviction. The chapter on Hell brings fear and dread, and respect for Him who can "destroy both body and soul in Hell". The chapter on Heaven, which Lewis admits is his own philosophical foray, no one else's -- brings hope and reassurance that Heaven is your true calling, your one True Home.
This is not light reading, at least not at first. This may not be a book to recommend to someone at the height of a crisis; Lewis taxes your attention and does not take any short cuts. A "Cliff Notes" version of this book would miss the point. Pain is one of the toughest theological problems a Christian can face, either in their lives or the life of another person they know -- and Lewis does not want you going in armed with half an argument or some "Precious Moments" sentiment.
From a non-Christian POV, I would be surprised if this book made much sense -- so many of the pillars are set on Christian theology, philosophy, and tradition. If you cannot (or will not) accept the possibility of the existence of Heaven, Hell, or God, this book will be just so much incomprehensible babble.
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115 of 123 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
Lewis analyzes the fundamental question, or problem, of pain: how can God be omnipotent and yet allow pain (war, injury, cruelty, etc.)? Lewis's answer has many levels. Foremost, is that nature had to be created with certain unchangeable properties. For example, the same hardness which allows wood to serve as a beam in my house allows it to serve as an instrument of potential injury, as when that beam collapses and hits my head.
The world also had to be created neutral so that humans could interact equally with one another, i.e., those same, unchanging properties of wood allow it to be manipulated similarly by anyone. But, obviously a neutral world contains the potential for good or evil. Wood can be used to build a home, which is good, or to create a weapon, which is evil. But, this is what makes us human. We have free will.
If I choose evil, God could not intervene. For to intervene some times but not others would be unjust and illogical (this is why miracles, if you believe in them, are extraordinarily rare). And to intervene once is to intervene always. Imagine if God intervened each time one person was going to cause another, or himself, pain. If he did, we all would be puppets, not humans.
Another interesting idea in this book is that of Original Sin. According to Lewis, we have not inherited Adam's sin, as is commonly believed, but instead everyday face Adam's identical choice, perhaps thousands of times a day. For Adam's sin was not disobedience in eating the apple, but in choosing himself over God. Adam had the opportunity to see himself either as a creation or an individual self existing apart from God. Thus, according to Lewis, a final reason for pain, is that it is God's wake-up call that we have, in constantly choosing ourselves, chosen the wrong thing.
This is a profound and provocative book.
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151 of 164 people found the following review helpful By Eric Meyer on December 2, 1999
Format: Paperback
This book clarified many issues in my life and turned my God from One that was a bit of a stretch to fit into my everyday world, into a God which makes himself evident in every aspect of the earth, evil and pain included. I think this book frankly is a better apology for Christianity than Mere Christianity. Definitely a good introduction to the problem of pain, and the clearest exposition of the free-will defense I have read. C.S. Lewis deals with a concept lofty and philosophical in a manner that grips my attention and bolsters my faith. I recommend this book first above all Lewis' other books on theology.
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63 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Michael Kear VINE VOICE on May 25, 2005
Format: Paperback
I'm a blogger. Blogging makes me read. It makes me turn off the television and read. This is very good. What I have been reading lately is C. S. Lewis. Particularly, I've been re-reading The Chronicles of Narnia. After reading through The Magician's Nephew and The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, I decided to shift gears and read one of Lewis's theological works before resuming the Chronicles.

All I can say is, "Wow!" The Problem of Pain is not what I expected. I'm not sure what it was that I did expect. Perhaps something more along the line of a good evangelical book - you know, shallow, but with lots of Bible verses. Pain is exactly the opposite. Deep and with very little use of prooftexting. How the Church of the twenty-first century needs more minds like C. S. Lewis! We have been drowning in the fluff of "make-me-feel-good-like-Jabez-bless-me-bless-me" Christian publishing for years. It is very difficult to find a Christian book store that sells theology anymore (perhaps because Christians don't think or read anymore). I bought this copy of Pain from Amazon.

Lewis is surprising because he doesn't go where you anticipate he will. He tackles the issue of pain from a very human angle. He asks the right questions and doesn't always give us the answers we want. Lewis is often held up by evangelical Christianity as a beacon of evangelical thought. I wonder if those evangelicals have even read him lately? Lewis disagrees with the doctrine of total depravity, questions original sin, weaves a parable of the fall which includes evolution, and leaves the door wide open for something other than an ever-burning hell.

The answer to the problem of pain is that we are works in progress, being made lovable by a God who loves us even when we are not yet lovable.
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