Wednesday, October 13, 2010

"The Problem of Pain" by C.S. Lewis (part 2)

[continuing my interaction with "The Problem of Pain," by C.S. Lewis]

Life sans Pain Is Lifeless:

Chapter 2, “Divine Omnipotence” is thoughtful consideration of the power of God and what man expects of Him. For example, there today is heard the so-called objection to God through the question, “Can God make a rock so big He cannot lift it?” The question demands to know if God exists based on a demonstration of power, which only proves the question is not a good question. Lewis answers: “[M]eaningless combinations of words do not suddenly acquire meaning because we prefix to them the two other words, ‘God can.’ It remains true that all things are possible with God: the intrinsic impossibilities are not things but nonentities . . . not because His power meets an obstacle but because nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.” If power were proof of existence, then what would be the outcome if you were challenged to arm-wrestle yourself? Impossibilities are safe for man, for here God displays His incredible power. In other words, pain is not evil when He allows it through His omniscient omnipotence as a danger signal in order that we avoid evil. Pain prevents us from making idols, a god of our own understanding.

Goodness without Pain Exists In a Universe Uncreated

Chapter 3, “Divine Goodness,” helps us understand how suffering assures us of God’s goodness. Man’s backward and worldly thinking (that what is “good” is “bad,” so what is “bad” must be “good”) concludes that the Omnipotent Fiend who is out to destroy what we deem good is the one demanding our love. Divine goodness is a new standard that reverses this backward thinking (we fear the destruction of goodness which instead God transforms). The call to repent is an appeal to existing moral judgment, putting God Himself “at the bar before His own creatures. [Luke 12:57]”

What does the goodness of God mean? “Whatever makes you happy,” is self-serving for the individual and has nothing to do with God or His goodness. Kindness can be separated from love resulting in a love and a kindness that means nothing to those to whom they are applied. The goodness of God is bound in the intimacy of relationship, the deepest expression of love that transforms inferiority at the expense of pain. Concern for man’s welfare is one expression of God’s love by virtue of His creative activity, but it is not the deep goodness that moves man from his backward thinking.

“The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a God who loves, is only insoluble so long as we attach a trivial meaning to the world ‘love,’ and look on things as if man were the centre of them . . . . To ask that God’s love should be content with us as we are is to ask that God should cease to be God: because He is what He is, His love must, in the nature of things, be impeded and repelled by certain stains in our present character, and because He already loves us He must labour to make us lovable.”

The love of God is distinguished from “selfish love” (the kind of love that many objectors raise in their defiance to be embraced by His love): first, God’s love is without competition; second, as the interests of a child do not define a father’s love for that child, so God as a separate being loves His creation separately.

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