Monday, October 18, 2010

"The Problem of Pain" by C.S. Lewis (part 4)

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

Human Pain

Chapters 6 and 7 of C.S. Lewis’ book concentrate on the topic of “Human Pain,” which Lewis divides into two categories: “A. A particular kind of sensation, probably conveyed by specialized nerve fibers, and recognizable [sic] by the patient as that kind of sensation whether he dislikes it nor not . . . B. Any experience whether physical or mental, which the patient dislikes.” Immediately, Lewis expounds the pain of human autonomy; that is, the rejection of all that intended good that accompanies submission to God. One may choose the pain of self-surrender out of love for God and gain all the blessings that come with a restored relationship; or, one may instead choose suffer the pain of evil bound up in rebellion against Him.

Pain is an illusion-breaker, snapping us out of the delusion that all is well and that all the resources of the world are ours for the taking. We are not self-sufficient. When all is well, we cannot focus on God. Through pain, God makes life less sweet in order to empty our hands, that He may give all the good He intends. Pain causes us to choose that we may understand our free will in His sovereignty. Lewis makes six more observations regarding pain:

1. “There is a paradox about tribulation in Christianity.” Pain helps us understand the goodness of God, the evil of rebellious creatures, the exploitation of evil for God’s redemptive purposes and the good that “accepted suffering and repented sin contribute.”

2. “If tribulation is a necessary element in redemption, we must anticipate that it will never cease till God sees the world to be either redeemed or no further redeemable.” Simple reform is not enough; that is, saying I’m sorry is not enough. Man must know his misery for true repentance.

3. The relationship between Creator and creature is unique.

4. The Christian doctrine of pain explains the world in which we live. We crave happiness and security but can only find it in the soul-rest found in reconciliation with the Father.

5. The problem of pain is not to be confused with all human misery.

6. Pain is disinfected evil because “the natural sequel is joy.”

Animal Pain

Skipping over to Chapter 9, we read, “so far as we know beasts are incapable either of sin or virtue: therefore they can neither deserve pain nor be improved by it. At the same time we must never allow the problem of animal suffering to become the centre of the problem of human pain . . . is it outside the range of our knowledge.” This just may be the key to understanding Narnia. We understand our own suffering because we stand on this side of our own experience.

“’Life’ in the biological sense has nothing to do with good an evil until sentience appears.”  R.C. Sproul writes in his book, “The Holiness of God: “The earth is an obedient creature.  It does what God tells it to do.  It brings forth its yield in its season.  It obeys the laws of nature that God established.  When the temperature falls to a certain point, the ground freezes.  Water is added to the dust, it becomes mud, just as God designed it.  The ground doesn’t commit cosmic treason.  There is nothing polluted about the ground.”
Lewis presupposes three questions, the first being, “what do animals suffer?” We can only speculate; but what is meant by “animals?” How does the question apply to the ape and the earthworm?

The second question, “how did disease and pain enter the animal world?” could be traced to the Fall of man; but, what did carnivorous activity bring before the fall of man? Lewis imaginatively wonders that man may not have been the first creature to rebel against the creator. His imagination could here be rejected on the grounds that God humbled Himself to become man, not a serpent or any other beast.

Finally, there is the question of justice: “how can animal suffering be reconciled with the justice of God?” Again Lewis entertains imaginative ideas that belong in his mythologies, for they provide no answers here. Scriptures explain that all creation is groaning for redemption, anticipating the glorification of man in Christ. The only coherent principle he offers is that “man is to be understood only in his relation to God.

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