Lewis on Pain and Tragedy (Colorado Shooting)
July 21, 2012
When people woke up yesterday they were shocked by the terrible news of what happen in Aurora, Colorado. A gunman opened fire in a packed movie theater at a midnight showing of the new “Batman” film. How could such a senseless tragedy occur?
Trying to answer such a question brings in the issues of pain, suffering and evil. It also puts under the microscope the belief that if God is all good, all powerful and all loving why didn’t He prevent this? C.S. Lewis dealt with such issues in his writings. The most common places were in the books The Problem of Pain from 1940 and A Grief Observed, a book dealing with Lewis’s grief after the death of his wife, Joy.
The purpose of this brief post prompted by current events is not to try to address this specific tragedy, but to highlight a few points of how Lewis addressed this general issue.
As already noted, Lewis faced personal tragedy when Joy, his wife died (after only a few years of marriage). But that wasn’t the only death he faced. As a young child his mother died and he served in WWI and many of his friends died there.
In The Problem of Pain Lewis admits:
“In a sense, (Christianity) creates, rather than solves, the problem of pain.”
“If God were good, He would make His creatures perfectly happy…But the creatures are not happy. Therefore God lacks goodness, or power, or both.”
So Lewis doesn’t dodge the hard issues in his book.
In the book (and if you haven’t read it you will want to get a copy), he goes on to note that only by believing in God can you truly understand evil. If you believe there is evil in the world, then you need to have an objective standard to measure it and thus you have to have an objective standard of good. Unless God exists there is no objective evil and good. Therefore, in an ironic twist, to say there is suffering in this world and to use it as proof against God is illogical. This book was Lewis’s first best seller when it came out in October, 1940.
Just over twenty years later A Grief Observed was published in 1961. It is a very transparent look at some of the grieving process Lewis himself went through after his wife died. Unlike the previous book, which looked at pain from an intellectual standpoint, this is a deeply personal work. So personal that it was not until after he died that it was published under his name (it was first credited to “N.W. Clerk”). Thus, his honest struggles with what happen to him is revealed as well as how he rose from those dark hours of grief. This book (which is very short) is also a must read if you haven’t undertaken it yet.
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For Further Understanding:
C.S. Lewis: The Problem of Pain – This article by Jacek Bacz provides a nice summary to the book.
The Problem of Evil: How Can You Believe in God when There is So Much Evil & Suffering in the World? by – Not an article, but something you can listen to online or download. This audio by Art Lindsley of the C.S. Lewis Institute is part of a series on defending your faith, but it is a good standalone piece dealing with evil and suffering.
Do you have any reflections/thoughts or questions about the problem of pain and/or evil in this world? Tell me about it with a comment below!