Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Problem of Pain: Chapter 6 - Human Pain

For anyone new here, I am doing a series of "book club" posts going through "The Problem of Pain" by CS Lewis. The format I post in is similar to my bible posts, section headings in bold, summary in regular text, my comments in italics. The only difference here is there are no section headings in the book so I make them up.


As was argued in previous chapters, any place where souls meet there will be the possibility that they will hurt one another, this perhaps accounts for four-fifths of suffering. The obvious question is why does God allow the worst of men to torture others.

A very good question, the central question of the book in fact.


There are 2 different ways in which we can use the word pain, one is restricted to physical types of pain, while the other also includes mental pain such as anguish. From now on, we will consider the more broad definition which includes both mental and physical pain.

Anyone who has been following my blog for long knows I am always happen to be clear and explicit with definitions.

Submit to Your Creator

It is a proper good for any creature to submit to its creator.

I think the problem here is that Lewis is thinking about God but he is trying to argue in a more general fashion and it doesn't work. Is he really trying to say that any creature who has a creator should submit to it's creator. What if the creator is evil. What if a demon created a bunch of people for the purpose of hunting them? Is it good for them to submit? What if someone created a bunch of sentient beings for the purpose of making them slaves? Is it good for them to submit?

By submitting to the creator, we often cause pain to ourselves because it goes against our own desires. This is why it is a good idea to break a child's will when they are young so the transformation will be easier. In a sense we die daily when we do this.

This seems a bit crazy to me. It also makes me wonder what heaven will be like. If simply following God's will in place of our own causes us pain, is heaven supposed to be pain free? Am I still me in heaven?

Pain is God's Megaphone

We won't surrender ourselves as long as we are comfortable. Error and sin are masked evil, but pain is unmasked. God can whisper to us in pleasure and conscience but he shouts at us in pain. 

I suppose there is some logic to that.

Retribution is Not Necessarily Evil

When people do us wrong, it is natural that we want the same or a similar fate to befall them. This is not necessarily a bad thing, retribution can be a good thing. This is true for us and when God seeks vengeance upon us. Our pain from such vengeance is God's way of showing us we should change.

Before the argument was that pain is just a necessity, which seems to make enough sense. But now he is trying to say pain is a tool that God uses on us, which seems pretty bad to me.

It Is Hard to be Good When Comfortable

When we are comfortable it is easy to view God as a parachute, nice to have but we hope we never need him. On the other hand, when people are down and out, it is easy to ask why God is punishing them, but it is easier for them to accept God so it is actually a blessing.

Sounds like a rationalization from a rich person to me.

Work for Self or God?

When our desires line up with God's do we serve him or ourselves when we do those things? If we are not putting effort into it does it count?

I would think that having your desires lining up with God's would be a good thing, he seems to question it.

Fear and Pity

Even if pain had no good effects for us, it is necessary for fear and pity. So if fear and pity are worthwhile, pain would be necessary. And it is, for example because of pity we love people we otherwise might not. Furthermore, fear is used to remind us that everything we have here on earth is not simply playthings for us to use. Once the fear is removed, it is natural to go back to thinking of things as toys.

This seems to me to just be a reflection of Lewis' issues. He seems to be writing as if everyone is going to identify with what he is saying, but for myself, I identify with very little of it.


Lewis rambled on for a while there. I tried to capture the interesting bits of it, but I may have missed some things. If anyone reading along found something interesting that I completely skipped over please speak up :)

Next week: Chapter 7 - Human pain continued

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