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Kiss It and Make It Well

Posted Monday, June 27, 2011, at 9:37 AM

If your given Christian name was Clive Staples, you, too, might have been inclined to shorten it to C. S. Lewis, become a professor Medieval and Renaissance literature at Cambridge University and write voluminously in a range of genres from fiction, such as "The Chronicles of Narnia" and "Space Trilogy," to theological-philosophical works, such a Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters, using involved and entwined compound, complex sentences; sentences such as this one you've just now endured.

Because of a reference in something unrelated, I undertook to read C. S. Lewis' "The Problem of Pain." Overall I would not suggest any of his philosophical works to one without some prior readings in theology and/or philosophy. In my case, I've just enough prior inoculation to only be confused by his sentences about half the time.

I'd read it before, but didn't quite remember if he had come to some useful answer to said Problem. If he did, I for one didn't find such an answer in the current reading.

The problem of pain, it turns out, is only a problem for the professed Christian. Pain is not a problem for the atheist or agnostic, who is as free to doubt the existence of pain as he is free to doubt the existence of God -- with equal impact on both God and pain.

As Lewis elucidates the Christian's problem:

"'If God were good He would wish to make His creations 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.' This is the problem of pain in its simplest form." (Page 26)

If it ever becomes incumbent on me to solve absolutely or to find one book which solves this problem absolutely, where do I enlist in the local branch of Agnostics Anonymous?

As it is my place merely to observe and not resolve, I propose some minor observations of positions seemingly tenable for a professing Christian who from time-to-time has been called upon to "rate your pain on a scale of 1 to 10."

Observed, I'll let God defend Himself. Pain, suffering, tribulation exist. And, no Christian need defend God by saying this is the best of all possible, or even the only possible world. As the succinct Ziva David puts it, "It is what it is." And, very early on, "God saw all that He had made, and it was very good" (Genesis 1.31, NIV).

Observed, all us Christians live in His world. God does deliver, heal, and restore; and we are entreated to so pray. However, the written record and historical experience indicate He does not often interfere in the life of men. In this writer's observations, God more often takes His time (of which He possesses plenty) rather than act instantaneously. Lewis points out, "That God can and does, on occasions, modify the behavior of matter and produce what we call miracles, is part of the Christian faith; but the very conception of a common, and therefore, stable, world, demands that these occasions should be extremely rare" (page 34).

Observed, we Christians need grow up. Lewis points out that we'd prefer a loving heavenly grandfather to a Father that disciples, disciplines, and determines what is in our long-term best interest. While He encourages us to seek deliverance from evil, the goal is always to do and be what most clearly glorifies Him. In the words of the most overwhelming theological statement I've ever come across, "It's not about you."

My copy of "The Problem of Pain" was retrieved from the library in Monon, Ind. Purchased in 1995 for $4.95, it appears I am the first to request it. If you'd like to try your mind at something higher than "Space Trilogy," my guess is that many of the works of Clive Staples are readily available.

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