The Problem of Pain

The Problem of Pain

by C. S. Lewis

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In The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis, one of the most renowned Christian authors and thinkers, examines a universally applicable question within the human condition: “If God is good and all-powerful, why does he allow his creatures to suffer pain?” 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 hungering for a true understanding of human nature.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061947643
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/02/2009
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 176
Sales rank: 52,112
File size: 1 MB

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 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 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.

Date of Birth:

November 29, 1898

Date of Death:

November 22, 1963

Place of Birth:

Belfast, Nothern Ireland

Place of Death:

Headington, England


Oxford University 1917-1923; Elected fellow of Magdalen College, Oxford in 1925

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Problem of Pain 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 84 reviews.
Ezekiel12224 More than 1 year ago
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!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
puppetmaster More than 1 year ago
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 or 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
Matthew000 More than 1 year ago
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!
Lawrence Shamley More than 1 year ago
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.
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
MereChristian More than 1 year ago
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.
allenkeith on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Excellent book to understand life and pain. Peter Kreeft, Boston College Professor, says this is the best book on the topic. He, I am sure is nore knowledgeable than I. My impression is that one has to read and re-read to get it - what Lewis is saying. He is orthodox in his Chritian view; so, obviously this is his perspecive. Since this is mine also, I found the book fasinating. CSL is not offering a perspective but what he views a TRUTH. I love the book and read it three times and will likely read it again.
edwinbcn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The problem of pain is C.S. Lewis first book about Christianity. Many readers are disappointed that the book is not about "pain," as they might be looking for solace. In C.S. Lewis' book pain is a problem, because it seemingly denies the existence of God.In The problem of pain Lewis is still a hesitant apologist. His main thesis is born out of a negation. In the first chapter he refers to the time he was an atheist as "not many years ago" (which was in fact nearly a decade), posing that if anyone had asked him then why he were not a Christian, his answer would refer to the coldness and suffering in the world. Had God designed the world, it would not be a world so frail and faulty as we see. (Lucretius in On the Nature of ThingsC.S. Lewis had been an atheist since his early teenage years. The foundation for his atheism seems rather weak. After a Christian upbringing he "abandoned" the faith for Nordic mythology and the occult. It seems Lewis built a personal cult around his professed atheism, which was more like a cloak, a screen behind which he made up his mind about the existence of God.Although Lewis remained an atheist until at least 1929, when he embraced theism, before his Christian conversion in 1931. The problem of pain seems born out of his youthful "{anger} with God for not existing" and the horrors Lewis had witnessed during the trench war of the Great War in France. His poetry of that period Spirits in bondage. A cycle of lyrics seems to carry the seeds of a return to Christianity, with its focus on evil, pain and suffering.A peculiar aspect of the publication history is that Lewis originally hoped to publish The problem of pain as shame and inexperience (as a layman) made him want to hide in anonymity. It hints at a certain uncertainty and discomfort at making bold statements, which he however not shuns, and which make this and later books so unpalatable to readers. Unlike many of his later works, which are outspoken apologetic, The problem of pain is written as a theodicy, an attempt at reconciliation.Superficially, The problem of pain seems a very readable book. At a glance, many sentences are captivating and invite to further reading. However, as in other, later works, Lewis has a very dogmatic style, which leaves the reader no space to make up their own mind. There is no residual trace of doubt in Lewis' mind, but denying readers to retrace their own steps, makes his books unreadable, to all those readers who are less convinced.Lewis' Christian works are likely enjoyable to Christian readers. But what is the point of writing apologetic works for your own congregation?
afderrick on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I found the book a very difficult book to get into. The idea of the book was the problem of pain that we see in society. Why does pain exist in society and why is it such a problem for us? This is the problem that this book seeks to explain. A good book to read but it took me about the third chapter before I really started to understand and get into a groove of reading this book.
nesum on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I don't think I've read quite as convincing of an argument for the importance and necessity for pain in our lives than this from C. S. Lewis. He takes on this very delicate subject (which we most often, unfortunately, wrestle with in the very moments that we shouldn't be debating heavy theological questions in our hearts) with logic and faith.The chapter on animal pain can almost be skipped, since it all rests on an assumption that evolution did indeed happen, while the theory has weakened quite a bit since 1940. I frankly find the older, God-based discussions of the topic more helpful. But that is one chapter, and the others, focused on what God wishes to do with us, are wonderfully helpful.This is not the book to read when you are broken and needing encouragement. Lewis' A Grief Observed is better for that. But if you want a theological discussion of pain, this is a great one.
tjsjohanna on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
While this slim book deals effectively with how pain fits into the larger picture of a world created by God, it is even more effective in explaining the role of agency in that world. I especially enjoyed Mr. Lewis' chapters on "Human Pain" and "Hell" and "Heaven". If one is looking for something beyond a simplistic picture of Christianity, Mr. Lewis is a fine choice for readability and for thoughtfulness.
fingerpost on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed with "The Problem of Pain". I went into the book hoping for an exploration into the eternal question: Why do bad things happen to good people? or Where was God when....? Lewis' book posits the divinity of Jesus, the redemption of sins through Jesus' death on the cross, and the existence of hell. As a reader looking at the book from a Jewish perspective, every argument he makes falls flat. This is a book very specifically for Christians (and if you are a Christian, you will certainly find the book more worthwhile than I did.) It becomes hard to concentrate on a book when one is at odds with assumed premises, and the fact that it is written in a rather academic style made it even more tedious reading.
letseatgrandpa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is definitely not a book for people currently going through pain. It is weighty and theological and not very compassionate. This is CS Lewis the theologian at his best, however, working through complex ideas with grace and deep thought and a keen eye toward heaven. Tough to follow, but worth it if you¿re willing to give it a shot.
atimco on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
C. S. Lewis¿ The Problem of Pain is a layman¿s look at how Christians reconcile the existence of pain with the belief in God¿s goodness. How can a good God allow His creatures to suffer? I have several issues with Lewis¿ theology and presuppositions. I¿m going to outline these before discussing the parts of the book that I thought were excellent. One of the big things wrong with this book is Lewis¿ too-ready acceptance of evolution and all the necessary adjustments it requires in the story of the Fall, etc. Lewis makes up his own projected creation/evolution myth, and traces the Fall from it instead of from the biblical account. Making up creation myths is fine, but not in a nonfiction book. His explanation of the Fall and the resulting sin and suffering is rather convoluted and complicated because it tries to reconcile everything, when really there is no need to reconcile incorrect views with correct ones. The second problem I have with Lewis¿ theology is his strongly Arminian position. I believe in sovereign grace, and our starting points are so different. Because of this, I find that I strongly disagree with several of Lewis¿ logical conclusions, and I believe they proceed from faulty premises. One such passage is found in chapter three, where he writes:The doctrine of Total Depravity ¿ when the consequence is drawn that, since we are totally depraved, our idea of good is worth simply nothing ¿ may thus turn Christianity into a form of devil worship.If Lewis can be that harsh on an opposing belief, so can I. He oversimplifies Total Depravity and completely misses its point. It is not that human beings have no sense of right and wrong, but that every part of us is tainted to some extent by the Fall. There is no island of goodness and purity in me; sin has touched every part. That does not mean that I am as bad as I could be. It simply means that though I may have a faint inkling of what is right, my view is never fully clear until the Spirit opens my eyes. Another reviewer has mentioned Lewis' annihilistic tendencies, and I agree they are problematic in light of Scripture. He doesn't commit himself completely to the notion that the damned will cease to be, but you can tell he wishes it were so, and would like to find a way to logically prove it. Now for the good points. Lewis made a casual reference to ¿officious vicarious indignation¿ on the part of a friend that can hamper the development of patience and grace in a sufferer. I found that very convicting! I tend to be very protective of the people I love, and when a person I care about is wronged and suffers as a result, my righteous indignation is certainly expressed. How new a thought to me that my indignation could actually be impairing what God is working in that life. I was also very impressed by his reasoning on the need for the self to be conscious of the other in order to have any kind of awareness of self. Lewis writes that this might at first seem to present a problem to theists; how could God know He had a Self if there was nothing and no one else, no other? But the fact of the Trinity explains how God could be self-aware before He created the universe. I appreciate his explanation of the logical impossibility of doing two opposite things at the same time. God cannot give us freedom without giving us freedom to experience the consequences of our choices. This is not something that limits God or encroaches on His omnipotence. I thought the chapter on animal pain was also very good ¿ although I¿m sure many animal-rights activists would not agree. I think Lewis is right that we project human-like qualities on to animals that they simply don¿t have. Can an animal be aware of (and possess) a selfhood? Lewis argues it cannot, and his arguments are convincing. And how can something that is not aware of itself as a self suffer pain? Pain can take place in that body, certainly, but can it be processed and understood as pain by the animal¿s mind? Lewis does
cmbohn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have read and loved C S Lewis in the past, but this was not quite what I was hoping for. He spend a lot of time focusing on one aspect of suffering, threw in a whole chapter about whether animals suffer and if so why, and then wrapped it up. A lot in here that I didn't agree with, and then some that didn't apply at all. Still worth reading, but I'm glad I didn't buy a paper copy to keep on my shelf as I don't think I will refer back to it very often.
tymfos on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I decided to read this (it may be a re-read from many years ago) because a number of people in my life are dealing with issues of pain. Lewis deals with all manner of suffering -- physical, emotional, mental -- in this work. I did not find this book terribly helpful. Perhaps it is simply that, as he stated in his preface, he was not claiming to say anything original except in the last two chapters, but simply to articulate traditional teachings of the faith, and I've read enough theology for his points to be familiar. Of those last two chapters, where he admittedly indulged in some speculation, the one on animal pain was not at all akin to my views -- I feel he does not fully appreciate the intelligence and nobility of some of God's created creatures. The one about heaven was interesting.
rdyornot on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It says something that after so many years C. S. Lewis is still one of the foremost Christian apologists of our time. The Problem of Pain is a difficult question every religion has to deal with, and one which has been especially difficult for Christianity. Some religions have the luxury of explaining pain as something deserved - a result of bad behavior from a previous live, or perhaps pain and suffering are caused by a malevolent deity in opposition to a good and loving God. Christianity as no such option. ¿If God we good, e would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God were almighty He would be able to do what He wished. But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks either goodness, or power, or both.¿ Lewis presents a very readable and widely accessible solution to this problem, covering the origins of human suffering, incurred in the fall, what divine omnipotence and goodness really mean, and why they allow for the existence of pain in creation, heaven and hell, and a topic not often treated but important - the existence of pain in animals who are in every sense innocent. Particularly useful is Lewis' distinction between kindness and love. Lewis reminds us that real love, a love that looks out for the best interests of the beloved, sometimes requires the inflicting of painful experience. From the perspective of the one undergoing the experience, this may not seem like love, but any parent, teacher, or anyone tasked with the guidance of the young will understand that this sort of ¿tough love¿ is often necessary if one does not want a spoiled child to grow into a spoiled adult.
temsmail on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lewis' "Pain" and "Grief" should be read together. Pain is Lewis' intellectual approach to the idea of evil in the world, experienced as pain; "Grief" was his personal experience of it.
Piperling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not Lewis' best work. His remarks become more metaphysical as the book progresses as he dabbles in speculative theology. The chapter on animal suffering is irrelevant and much of his conclusions throughout are questionable because he begins with a premise of theistic evolution.Unfortunately, he spends so much time in speculative goose-chases that he gives little attention to his real premise--that human suffering has a redemptive quality.As always, however, Lewis has something worthwhile to say. Best quote of the book:'God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain.' p. 91
MarieFriesen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
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."
AlexTheHunn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Lewis tackles the problem of why an omniscient, omnipotent god would allow pain, suffering, and tragedy to occur. His ultimate answer is that free will would be compromised if god did not allow his creation to suffer.
BrianIndianFan More than 1 year ago
No one is immune to the pains of life. It is part of being human. It is how we respond to and overcome that pain that will determine how much our life can impact others. Seeking to understand the pain in my life, I came to C.S. Lewis tome in search of answers. Lewis starts at the beginning, with God. Or, to be more general, the recognition humans have for the supernatural and a sense of morality. Naturally, the apologist goes directly from there to a discussion of God. God is the guardian of morality and He needs to have THE historical event - Jesus' death and resurrection in order to reconcile humanity to Himself. Even though God is omniscient, He assumes great risk in creating creatures with free will. God must know that - as much as He loves His creations - some of them will not love Him in return. Further, free will allows for both courtesy and competition; humans who think of themselves will be inclined to compete with his fellow man and (most likely) injure them. Lewis goes through an apologetic detailing the fall of man and his wickedness, a deep discussion of human pain, as well as heaven and hell. The book seemingly gets off course towards the end with a discussion of animal pain. However, this is a minor quibble. The book is deep and ponderous; it is a book best read at a slower pace in order to understand the deep truths encountered within. BOTTOM LINE: A helpful book for those looking to understand the pain they feel.
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