The Son of God suffered unto the death, not that men might not suffer, but that their sufferings might be like His.
George Macdonald. Unspoken Sermons. First Series.
Over the course of the next week or so I will be critiquing a book by one of my favorite authors and contemporary theologians – C.S. Lewis. You may know him by his famous work for children – The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. I am fairly new to the works of C.S. Lewis, but I knew his implications well enough. He lived a life of war, writing, skepticism, and as a layman. He would have seen the tortures that humanity could produce as he was alive to witness the horrific nature of both World War I and World War II. The Problem of Pain is an apologetic book written to answer the skeptic of Christianity who questions, “Why would an all-good God allow suffering and pain in this world?” This is a highly complex question with an even more complex answer as we will uncover as we dive deeper into this book. However, let me introduce how I view the problem of pain in my point of view and my history of pain.
While I was in the fourth grade I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, ADHD for short. I was no longer considered “normal” by society’s standard and I would have a long journey ahead. The school recommended to my parents that I be put into ESE classes and be separated into a room of people who also had mental disability. I lived a life far from normal. There were times where I struggled with my own identity and questioned why I was dealt this hand. I was raised in church and was raised to believe that God had a reason for everything. But as time progressed, the pain felt worse and worst of all – I refused to believe in a God that would let someone suffer to even worse degrees than I.
I wouldn’t have called myself an atheist per-say. I would’ve fit better into the agnostic label. I believed that there may be a higher being, but one that was not worthy of my worship. Long story short (I will save my salvation story for another time), I eventually came back to Christ and became a born-again believer. However, I would search for the answers to my childhood questions of God. One of these questions would be why would an all-good and all-powerful God allow people to suffer? It’s a demanding question that I struggled with many years. There are many ways to explain it, as I learned in my theology class in university. One that I will cover here is called the calculation, or calibration, of negation.
The idea behind the calculation of negation is fairly simple. In order to understand an act, we must understand the effect of the absence of that act. Here’s an example. When I was in the tenth grade, my family went on a road trip to Arizona. We were on our way back to Florida when my dad had a seizure while driving. It was a horrible situation. We were supposed to be home, instead we were three hours away in a hotel room as I watched my father, the man I admired as the strongest, at his weakest moments – helpless, scared, and physically weak. My dad never lost his humor though, and for that I was thankful for. Eventually, the doctors found that his major coronary artery was clogged at an alarmingly high percentage. They installed a stint and thus extended his life.
To fully understand why God allowed this terrible event to occur, we must understand what would happen if it didn’t occur. Let’s say, hypothetically, that my father never had that seizure. Well, according to the doctors, he would have likely died of a heart attack. Because of his seizure, they found the clogged artery and performed a life-saving operation. In the end, sometimes pain occurs because it will eventually show us something we didn’t know before.
Now, let’s look to the preface. One thing I love about C.S. Lewis is that he’s humble. He consistently humbles himself by stating that he is no special theologian and is simply a “layman and an amateur.” He goes on to explain that he is not worthy to explain how to get through pain and get through tough times. His sole purpose is the address the problem of pain from an intellectual point of view. He goes on about his convictions.
… nor have I anything to offer my readers except my conviction that when pain is to be borne, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage, and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.
C.S. Lewis. The Problem of Pain. Preface.
As we dive deeper into this book, we will then discuss more into detail the reason of suffering and the problem of pain. I am looking forward to delving deeper into this theological issue that I am sure many people have struggled through.
May God grant you wisdom everywhere you go and in everything you do. Amen.