Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Problem of Pain: Chapter 8 - Hell

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.


Hell, a Detestable Doctrine

God gave us free will and to be saved we must surrender willingly to God. Some people will refuse to do this and hell becomes necessary. This is unfortunate but necessary. Hell is one of the big targets that opponents of Christianity use against it, hell is attacked as barbarous, a detestable doctrine. Lewis himself detests it. We are told the tragedies which have come from believing in it, we are told less of the tragedies that come from not believing in it.

I agree, it is detestable. I'm guessing the tragedy from not believing in it is people going to hell? Let's see where he goes with this.

The problem is not simply that god is consigning some creatures to hell, it is more complicated than that. God has so much mercy that he becomes human and dies from torture to help people avert hell, yet he can't or won't just remove hell all together. The doctrine is not tolerable, but I will try to prove it is moral.

I don't really see why it is so complicated, but let's see what he has to say. Also, I doubt he can possibly convince me that it is moral to torture someone for eternity. But still, let's see

Now Lewis will address common objections to the doctrine of hell.

Retributive Punishment is Bad

Basically, if there is a chance to correct the behavior, punishment is ok, but if the only reason to punish is because you want retribution that is a bad thing. In hell there is no correction so it is all retribution.

Sounds like a good argument against hell to me.

Lewis then describes a guy who is incredibly evil, who likes being evil, and who isn't regretful at all. Then he basically says that since this person is so evil isn't hell an ok place for him to be. At least he will know he is evil.

Garbage. He says that simple retributive justice is a bad then, then he creates a situation in which he thinks it is ok.

A man cannot be forgiven if he is not accepting of the fact that he did something wrong.

Assume this is correct, still, why does hell have to be forever? Why doesn't God just convince him that what he has done is wrong and then forgive him?

Eternal Damnation for Transitory Sin

Some complain that there is infinite punishment for finite crime. We visualize time as a line, and with this visualization this complaint seems valid. But we should visualize it as a plane or a solid.

I read this a few times, I honestly have no clue what he is talking about.

Hell Might Not be as Bad as You Think

We often think of Dante's picture of hell, but this is artistic and not from the Bible. What is in the Bible is not as bad.

Granted, but what is in the Bible is still pretty bad.

How Can You Enjoy Heaven Knowing There is a Hell?

We cannot say for sure that heaven and hell happen at the same time. They might not be parallel so it is not the same as how the US and England go along together. "That the lost soul is eternally fixed in its diabolical attitude we cannot doubt; but whether this eternal fixity implies endless duration - or duration at all - we cannot say.

What does that even mean? It's nonsense! Either hell is eternal or it isn't. If you want to claim hell is not eternal (it doesn't really seem he does) then we can have that conversation, but in that case, we are not talking about the same hell everyone else seems to be talking about.

The Loss of a Soul Defeats Omnipotence

This is something that is accepted as a possibility when free will is given.

I'm not sure I follow the argument or the refutation that well. It doesn't seem that interesting to me honestly.


I imagine it is clear I was a bit frustrated with CS Lewis in this chapter. Too many of the arguments were complete garbage. I don't think he had fully formed ideas when he wrote it.

Next week Chapter 9 - Animal Pain


  1. I idea of hell is what first moved me away from religious belief. Especially the "Eternal Damnation for Transitory Sin."

    I thought C.S. Lewis was smarter then this, but then I never really read his stuff outside Narnia.

  2. The idea of hell was the hardest thing for me to get past. I wonder if Lewis was dealing with something like this when he was writing this chapter. In my opinion this chapter was the worst yet and I wonder if he was struggling with it.


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