The Problem of Pain

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The Problem of Pain
First edition
AuthorC. S. Lewis
CountryUnited Kingdom
PublisherThe Centenary Press
Media typeprint
Current edition published by HarperCollins

The Problem of Pain is a 1940 book on the problem of evil by C. S. Lewis, in which Lewis argues that human pain, animal pain, and hell are not sufficient reasons to reject belief in a good and powerful God.

Lewis summarizes the problem of evil like this: "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."[1] His partial theodicy addresses human suffering and sinfulness, animal suffering, and the problem of hell, and seeks to reconcile these with the Christian belief in a just, loving, and all-powerful God.


Lewis does not claim to offer a complete "solution" to the problem of evil. In fact, he argues that we should not expect a full understanding of why God permits evil. As humans, he notes, we cannot possibly see "the big picture" that God does. As finite, temporal creatures, we cannot truly grasp how "the sufferings of this present time are not to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us" (Rom. 8:18).

However, Lewis suggests that the problem runs even deeper: "if God is wiser than we, his judgments must differ from ours on many things, and not least on good and evil. What seems to us good may therefore not be good in His eyes, and what seems to us evil may not be evil"[2]. That does not mean that what we consider good could be completely different from what God considers good. That would make it empty to speak of God as "good" and it would take away all moral reasons for loving and obeying Him.[3] Still, like Job, we should humbly acknowledge the limits of human wisdom and not presume to fully fathom why God permits suffering and evil. With that important caveat, Lewis proceeds to suggest some reasons why a good and all-powerful God might allow evil. Lewis also addresses issues in The Problem of Pain on the Fall of Man, original sin, Hell, animal pain, and heaven.

Relation to other works[edit]

Lewis' philosophical approach in Problem of Pain bears some similarity to his later, more personal, approach to the problem of evil in A Grief Observed, a reflection on his own experiences of grief and anguish after the death of his wife.[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001, p. 16
  2. ^ Lewis, The Problem of Pain, p. 28.
  3. ^ Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pp. 28-29.
  4. ^ Bacz, Jacek. "C.S. Lewis: The Problem of Pain". Catholic Education Resource Center. Retrieved 2019-10-29.

Further reading[edit]

  • John Beversluis, C. S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion, rev. ed. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2007. (Chapter 9 contains a detailed critical examination of Lewis's views on the problem of evil.)
  • Walter Hooper, C. S. Lewis: Companion and Guide. New York: HarperCollins, 1996: 293-302.
  • Michael L. Peterson, "C. S. Lewis on the Necessity of Gratuitous Evil," in David Baggett, Gary R. Habermas, and Jerry L. Walls, eds., C. S. Lewis as Philosopher: Truth, Goodness and Beauty. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2008: 175-92.
  • Arend Smilde, "Something tremendously real: How C. S. Lewis solved "the intellectual problem raised by suffering'",
  • Michael Ward, "On Suffering," in Robert MacSwain and Michael Ward, eds., The Cambridge Companion to C. S. Lewis. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010: 2013-210.
  • Erik J. Wielenberg, God and the Reach of Reason. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008.

External links[edit]