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The Problem of Pain

4.10  ·  Rating details ·  48,730 ratings  ·  1,892 reviews
For centuries people have been tormented by one question above all: If God is good and all-powerful, why does he allow his creatures to suffer pain? And what of the suffering of animals, who neither deserve pain nor can be improved by it?

The greatest Christian thinker of our time sets out to disentangle this knotty issue. With his signature wealth of compassion and insight
Paperback, 176 pages
Published by HarperOne (first published 1940)
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Quentin Paquette I did. It’s much more than a discussion about pain, it’s also about love, and what we are to each other. Every 5-10 pages I came across a sentence tha…moreI did. It’s much more than a discussion about pain, it’s also about love, and what we are to each other. Every 5-10 pages I came across a sentence that pulled together in a net so many flitting thoughts and observations I’ve experienced.(less)
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Sheila Myers From my understanding after reading the book, I believe Lewis is talking mostly about the mental aspect although I'm fairly certain he's including all…moreFrom my understanding after reading the book, I believe Lewis is talking mostly about the mental aspect although I'm fairly certain he's including all forms of pain. Other readers may have opinions that differ from my own.(less)

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Mar 27, 2019 rated it liked it
“’Where will you put all the mosquitoes?’-a question to be answered on its own level by pointing out that, if worst came to worst, a heaven for mosquitoes and a hell for men could very conveniently be combined.”

This is not your Chronicles of Narnia C.S. Lewis. This is Professor Lewis teaching a theology course. The material is interesting and thought provoking, but the delivery can be a bit dry and heavy at times. Throughout, though, there are little gems like the quote above to make you smile.

Mar 02, 2009 rated it it was ok
Well, it's not like I really disagree with C.S. Lewis's argument here. I just think that the essential points are summed up rather more succinctly in the first few minutes of Monty Python's "Happy Valley" sketch:
STORYTELLER: Once upon a time, long, long ago, there lay in a valley far, far away in the mountains the most contented kingdom the world has ever known. It was called Happy Valley, and it was ruled over by a wise old king called Otto. And all his subjects flourished and were happy, and t
Jan 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

Pain posted a serious objection to Christianity (and to Heavenly authority in general), aggravated by claiming that Love is the essence of God. The Problem of Pain focuses on one question, but thoroughly argues on every aspect.
"If God were good, He would make His creatures perfectly happy, and if He 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."

In other words, why would an all-knowi
Mar 14, 2012 rated it liked it
< -<-<- < -<-<- This or.... This or...this->->-->->-

Personally, I lean more towards the latter camp. Lewis does at least make a good, solid, and sophisticated effort to address the problem of: "Why does God allow so much pain and suffering, if He is really a loving God, and if He really does exist?"; - which is why Lewis gets 3 stars, even if I don't completely agree.

I remember quite liking his argument at the time I read it, which was quite some time ag
Winston Jen
May 23, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: apologetics
CS Lewis is held by many to be the premier Christian apologist of the 20th century. Unless one is morbidly naive, or has yet to encounter the counterarguments to Christianity in particular and theism in general, I honestly cannot see where his appeal lies.

How CS Lewis should have died.

The Problem of Evil is an insurmountable one for Christians (and all other theists who believe in a perfectly loving, all-powerful and all-knowing god). There have been inten
May 16, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 life, or perhaps pain and suffering are caused by a malevolent deity in opposition to a good and loving God. Christianity has no ...more
Nov 16, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Apology for the existence of pain and suffering. Lewis's comfortable, easy style speaks to me in most all of his books. This is no exception.

Memorable quotes:

"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. When we fall in love with a woman, do we cease to care whether she is clean or dirty, fair or foul? Do we not rather then first begin to care?
Addy S.
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: christian
This was a beautiful, beautiful book. C.S. Lewis really dives into the topic of pain and suffering with Biblical focus. Highly recommend to those questioning, ‘Why must we suffer?’

five stars
Nov 27, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
I absolutely loved this book. I laughed, I blurted out loud "HA!"s between classes and generally forgot about time and place. It's very, VERY good book. My only concern with this review is on my side; I had a goal to get through it in three days, which I did. Thus, there were some parts I read through without the attention I probably should have devoted to it. I don't usually like writing reviews where the fault is with me; but alas, here I am.

As for content, CS Lewis has, as always, very well t
May 12, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: c-s-lewis
This book was a really interesting and poignant analysis of pain and the Christian response to it. I read it alongside A Grief Observed because I wanted to know if Lewis's "intellectual" answers stood alongside his "emotional" ones. (That is one of the greatest oversimplifications of either book I could possibly make but that is how I started out.) I quickly realized the two are almost incomparable. They aren't intended to be comparable. While A Grief Observed was a heart-wrenching and
Amelia, free market Puritan
*Just* as good as Mere Christianity, but not quite as easy to understand. I would say that this book is probably more relevant in our culture now than when it was first published.
I would recommend this book to absolutely everyone, because it seeks to give answers to questions that everybody asks at some point.

The idea behind this book is "why do we have pain in our life?" or more specifically, "If God is supposed to be good, and powerful, and "in charge," why does He allow suffering?" If you'r
Jon Nakapalau
Nov 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What is the purpose of pain? C.S. Lewis examines this question and gives his interpretation of what pain tries to teach us.
Nov 11, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: reviewed
Review was first posted on Booklikes:

I first read The Problem of Pain when I was an impressionable teenager in search of the meaning of life. How I got to C.S. Lewis, however, is a long story that I'll reserve for another post/review.

Anyway, I loved the The Problem of Pain when I first read it. I couldn't put it down.

When I started clearing my bookshelves last year in attempt to de-clutter, I came across my old and dusty copy of the book again and start
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is very thought provoking and I got a lot out of it. Some parts were a little difficult for me to grasp so I believe I will want to buy my own copy to refer back to and reread in the future. This is the first I have read by C. S. Lewis and I hope to read more by him.
Allison Tebo
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
We’ve probably all wondered this or asked the question at least once in our lives. Why does pain exist? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why would a loving God allow us to experience pain in any capacity?

By the end of this book, any who read it ought to be not only enlightenment but, more importantly, humbled.

If, by some chance, this book doesn’t answer the question sufficiently for you, it should encourage you to surrender our questions, release our puffed up assumptions, and hand over
J.Aleksandr Wootton
I wasn't much for reading nonfiction voluntarily in my youth. The Problem of Pain was the second installment of Lewis' nonfiction I chose of my own free will (after The Abolition of Man, only because of the preface to That Hideous Strength) and my first propositional apologetics book by any author. It therefore probably wields outsized influence on my opinions, being formative; but I still think The Problem of Pain is Lewis' best propositional apologetics book (I think his essays are generally s ...more
Mar 20, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
4.5 stars. Nearly perfect.

One of my favorite quotes (not from the chapter "Heaven", in case you were wondering.)

"One can imagine a sentient picture, after being rubbed and scraped and re-commenced for the tenth time, wishing that it were only a thumb-nail sketch whose making was over in a minute. In the same way, it is natural for us to wish that God had designed for us a less glorious and less arduous destiny; but then we are wishing not for more love but for less.”

I started reading this on
Great discussion, but still so many unanswered questions. Reread in April 2015. Reread again June 2016.

You can tell this is one of Lewis's early books. Written in 1940, I could feel that he hadn't worked out a few of the specifics within his beliefs on Christianity yet. And some of his other ideas I flat-out disagree with (so sad to me whenever I see him trying to cram in Darwinian macro-evolution and discredit the creation story).

I can see why many feel inevitably dissatisfied with this read. B
Grace Crandall
Feb 16, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
There's something incredibly comforting about C.S. Lewis's writing style. He explains things well and clearly, but on the points he's unsure about he's honest. (Actually he's always honest, blazingly so, in a way that's doubly endearing and challenging, but perhaps that's beside the point).

Though it's technically a point-by-point defense of Christianity against the 'pain and suffering in the world proves the absence of a good god' argument, The Problem of Pain never seems like just a bit of apo
Sep 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've struggled for weeks to try to write an overview of this complex book. Lewis does much more than try to explain human suffering. In fact, my most important takeaways had to do with what it means to be human and how human flourishing is impossible without a right relationship to our Creator.

Just as the members of the Trinity live in perfect, mutual, self-giving love, so mankind can only find real joy when living in selfless unity with God. Rejection of God's sovereign authority over His creat
Emily Gayle
Sep 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
In this book C S Lewis does an excellent job of describing pain and human suffering in the midst of trying to understand how God, Heaven and Hell fit into the picture. “But pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a dead world.” Taken from Chapter 6.
Definitely read this book for a deeper understanding of Divine Omnipotence and human pain. I rate it five stars, but I also recognize I h
Kells Next Read
My continue exploration of this prolific and articulate author. So many gems in this one.
Chad Warner
Lewis addresses the problem of pain, which he describes in this way: "If God were good, He would make His creatures perfectly happy, and if He 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."

As a Christian, I've often wondered about this issue, especially when friends are diagnosed with cancer or the country suffers terrorist attacks. It's a difficult question, and although I accept the explanation thr
First read September 12-14, 2001. The problem of pain is that it isn't a problem in the way we think it is when we first begin to look at the entire subject. The book reminded me of looking at the negative image of a familiar picture.

If I thought to read about pain to seek its alleviation, I might have saved myself the trouble. In my second reading of The Problem of Pain I was again surprised and impressed by Lewis. I could highlight most of the text. He pulls no punches, cuts me no slack. I lik
The words go deep, on an intellectual level. I had to slow down, and sometimes read sentences a couple times. Every effort paid off.

Lewis has a way of taking Christian topics and making them pleasurable. I feel as if I'm reading fiction. I enjoy his work in the same way.

I found great comfort in Lewis's words through this present crisis. I needed it in a bad way.

Anything by this author blesses me and brings me great pleasure.

An interesting correlation: his exposition on pain in this, and his ex
Jun 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This was my 50th read of the year, and it should have been my first. Well, I also read Mere Christianity this year, so perhaps this should have been my second. At any rate, wow. I was reading someone else's reviews (of a different book -- I don't remember which) where they stated that they only give 5 stars to "life changing" books. That is indeed what I am doing in this case, or at least, what I hope I am doing since only time will tell if my life has really been changed.

My wife has a chronic i
Oct 14, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Of the fourteen Lewis books that I've read (the others being The Chronicles of Narnia series, The Space Trilogy, Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, and The Great Divorce), this is definitely the one of which I hold the most conflicted opinion. So much of what he said about the way the Lord uses difficulties in the lives of men to produce good in and for them, and about how dying to self is the only path to genuine life, was so true, and so well and beautifully expressed -- but I have huge ...more
Pamela Shropshire
Of all the philosophical arguments about the existence of God, this is probably the one most frequently raised. I mean, it’s obvious, right? Everyone has experienced pain at some time, or has witnessed a loved one in pain, or at least has looked around and seen the poverty and suffering in the world around them, and being human, asked why. Why - if God exists, and if he is a loving God as Christianity claims - why would he give us bodies that develop illnesses and grow old and eventually die?

Mar 06, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: christian-living
I can add no further review to any works of C. S. Lewis than other far more intelligent minds have already said but as for my personal response, I found it very thought-provoking, in such a way that I will have to read it again to really understand the depth of everything he has to say. The issue is so deep and all-consuming for humanity and Lewis' approach so detailed that I cannot possibly take it in all at once. He unabashedly asks tough questions and explains logically his positions so that ...more
Mike (the Paladin)
One of the questions many Christians hear often is, "If there is a good and omnipotent God how can He allow pain and suffering?"

Here C.S.Lewis gives a cogent discussion of this "problem". While it will not satisfy all I suppose (especially in cases where the questioner doesn't wish to be satisfied) I believe for the thinking reader there will be some insight.

I know that for most Christian believers there is a great deal of insight and and some discussion of questions that most of us have run u
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Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Clive Staples Lewis 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. He was unanimously elected to the Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Literature at Cambridge

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“A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.” 4224 likes
“Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also more hard to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.” 2450 likes
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