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The Problem of Pain Paperback – April 28, 2015
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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
“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)
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[Update: As an aftereffect of replying to comments on the original review, I'd like to make the following clarification: Lewis would seem to deal with the issue of why moral innocents suffer by declaring that there are no moral innocents, in that even children daily commit a sin due to their "choosing" of self over God. Only an apologist desperate to pull together the incompatible strands of his theology could claim that infants are capable of making that sort of freely willed moral choice.]
I am not an atheist, but this book is mistitled. Not only did he not answer my existential question, he made no attempt whatsoever.
What a letdown! He could have said "Christ wore a crown of thorns", but he did not. He could have spoke more about the cross and how it makes Christianity unique, but he did not.
Instead, there was a short appendix that he did not even reference or seem to write. Probably, it was added by the embarrassed publisher. As I recall, it had some doctor saying old ladies with rheumatoid arthritis are happier than those without it. Personally, I find this to be incredibly specious.
This is not a fable, or a layman's book. The title here is the "Problem of Pain." Any rational being would expect a direct discussion on that subject. This book is less Christianity or religion than it is meaningless intellectualism. Eclectic opinions on unimportant matters that he put together because he thought they were too cute by half and wanted to use big words that he had learned specifically to impress people. It has about as much value as intellectualism in any field. Architecture or fashion, for instance. Basically, I would call it pure dreck.
DO NOT PICK UP THIS BOOK, if you are a young person with an autoimmune disease that no one else can see and makes everyone think that you are lazy BECAUSE you will not find your answer here. IF YOU DO READ IT, you will only suffer more because you will be bored to tears.
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.
But, as I said, it is not written for that segment of the market. This book is best read by the thinking Christian who has reservations about aspects of Christianity that seem to gloss over, avoid, or ignore the issue of human suffering.
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