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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"The Problem of Pain" by C.S. Lewis (part 1)

[This is will not be a book review per se, but more of a lengthy interaction and summation, spread out over a number of posts--bite-size and eaily digestable portions of this challenging book.]

Lewis explains the purpose of his book, The Problem of Pain, as being a solution to “the intellectual problem raised by suffering.” Lewis expresses his personal feeling in the preface that he has nothing to offer his readers “except my conviction that when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.” This is perhaps the best summary of the book, humbly presenting both problem and solution with such little complexity.

Lewis dedicates the introductory matter of the first chapter to building the framework concerning the rationale of religion (“awe,” generally speaking) through four elements: existence of Presence (the “numenous”) which through the fear of uncertainty builds in man the fear of inadequacy; morality (“ought” and “ought not”) and man’s failure to obey even his own code of ethics; objectivity of The Presence that guards morality, holding men accountable as “The Righteous Lord” (thus the contrary viewpoints of paganism and pantheism through non-moral religion or non-religious morality); and finally, Jesus, “the Something which is at once the awful haunter of nature and the giver of the moral law,” whose death affected our relationship with “the ‘awful’ and ‘righteous Lord,’ and a change in our favor.”

The Meaning of “The Problem of Pain”:

The meaning of the title, “The Problem of Pain,” is found in the situation that Christianity does not solve the pain (otherwise, pain would be no problem for the Christian); rather, Christianity creates the problem of pain because we must experience the righteousness of Christ in the context of the world. Lewis explains the logical conclusion of the world as those who reject God, who must separate from the poets, prophets and philosophers, even “with his own childhood, with the richness and depth of uninhibited experience.” The rejection of moral law calls for a separation from humanity, leading to barbarianism. Rejection of the Incarnation requires a separation from the assurance of history, reason and reality, “not made by us, or, indeed, for us, but hitting us in the face.”

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