Book Review: The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis

I had never heard of this book until I stumbled upon it a few years ago at the Goodwill (my number one place for buying books). Being a massive fan of Lewis since childhood (due entirely to The Chronicles of Narnia), I snatched it up quicker than a fox chases a hare (that got dark quick…)

Anyway, this is a philosophy book examining the subject of pain, similar to other philosopher’s examination of topics like love, war, etc. It is also written with a Christian perspective, as Lewis himself was an avid follower of Christ, though the book itself does not merely give arguments based purely on religion.

Release: 1940

Synopsis: (How does one go about summarizing a book of philosophy? Thus, I bow to Goodreads.) “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, C. S. Lewis offers answers to these crucial questions and shares his hope and wisdom to help heal a world hungry for a true understanding of human nature.”

Review

This is the third adult book I have read by Lewis (discounting The Chronicles of Narnia, which are written in an entirely different vein than his adult books). I read The Screwtape Letters in high school and then delved into The Great Divorce in college, both of which give an actual narrative, whereas this book is more an examination of ideas. It is in this that I struggled through this book, for my average brain seemed unable to comprehend the depth that Lewis was trying to convey. Saying that, this book is still a fascinating read, even for a lay reader as I who can claim to be no expert in philosophy or this particular topic.

Out of the three of these books, this one is by far my least favorites, mostly because it has no cohesive organization and instead is merely a collection of ideas. Lewis answers questions of where pain comes from, how we as humans deal with pain, and both the benefits and negatives of pain. I will not bore you with all his explanations, as they are complex and numerous. Many of them are based on Christian theology (both from the Bible and tradition). However, he also delves into what is discernable to the human eye, both by offering examples and anecdotes.

I feel as if this book is not one I can judge as I would most of the books I review. There is no plot, no characters, and no descriptions to critique. I cannot say I agree entirely with Lewis’s thoughts, but for the most part he is a very compelling thinker.

When it comes to philosophy, I see a great importance with the exchange of ideas, even where agreement cannot be reached. One of my favorite books of all time is The Prince by Niccolò Machiavelli, though I can safely say I disagree with the majority of opinions he gives.

Thus, with this book I might easily (or quick difficultly) go through each of Lewis’s thoughts about this horror of pain that inflicts us all. But then I would be writing a book, not a book review. As it is, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone who would like to challenge their thinking on the topic of pain.

However, to be honest, I am more likely to recommend you read both The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce before reading this one.

What books have you read by C.S. Lewis? Do you read any philosophy books? Perhaps this is a random question, but who is your favorite philosopher? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more madness and, as always,

Best wishes in your life full of adventure,

Madame Writer

5 thoughts on “Book Review: The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis

  1. I can’t say Lewis is among my go-to authors, but the subject matter, esp. as it relates to God and being a Christian, is compelling. So… I might consider picking up a copy. Thanks. 🙂

    Besides Narnia, I think the only other C.S. Lewis book under my belt is Out of the Silent Planet. Wasn’t too hot, but of interest if one is into vintage sci-fi, Christian agendas, or just, y’know, Lewis. 😀 But of philosophers, out of the few I’ve read, Marcus Aurelius stands at the top. His “Meditations” is helpful to a practising Christian, too, though you prob wouldn’t believe it based on Marcus’s track record. 😀

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    1. Out of the Silent Planet…I’ve never heard of that book. Interesting! I’ve been wanting to read Marcus Aurelius. He’s been on my TBR since college, but I haven’t gotten around to reading him. Thanks for the recommendations!

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