Chapters 4 & 5
Chapters 4 & 5 E-mail

The Problem of Pain

Chapters 4 & 5



Chapter 4 - Human Wickedness

1. Christianity must now preach the diagnosis (i.e. that people are sinners) before it can win a hearing for the cure. To what does Lewis attribute this development? According to Lewis, what happens when people attempt to be Christians without an awareness of sin? Consider 1 John 1:8-10.

2. Lewis makes eight observations as to why the modern day illusion of innocence is just that - an illusion. We'll take a closer look at some of them.

     a.  What happens when we look on the outside of things?  Consider
1 Samuel 16:7 and
2 Corinthians 10:12.

     b.  What danger did Lewis see in the "re-awakening of the social conscience"?

     c.  How does Lewis handle the argument that there is "safety in numbers"?

     d.  Do you think the level of morality in society today is better than our ancestors?

     e.  Twice in this chapter Lewis cautions against an overemphasis on one virtue.  He believes "kindness" was the exalted virtue of his day.  Do you consider one virtue to be higher than others?  If so, which one?  Does the Bible identify a highest virtue?  Consider Matthew 22:35-40 and 1 Corinthians 13:13.  If you have access to it, read the first few paragraphs of Lewis's sermon "The Weight of Glory."

     f.  As genetic science develops and finds biological explanations for some behaviors (e.g. a propensity for violence), how does this fit in with Lewis's eighth observation about shifting responsibility back to the Creator?

3. What was Lewis's position on total depravity?

Chapter 5 - The Fall of Man

Depending on your church and/or theological background, some of Lewis's statements in this chapter may be unsettling.  (For example, in the second paragraph, he refers to "myths in Holy Scripture" or midway through Lewis says, "for long centuries God perfected the animal form.")  The topic for today is the Fall-not inerrancy of Scripture or what part, if any, evolution may have played in creation.  Lewis has given in depth treatment to these issues elsewhere.  Since they are tangential to the problem of pain, see what benefit or insights you can draw from this chapter despite other disagreements that may (or may not) exist.

4.  What is the sole function of the Fall according to Lewis?

5.  Do you think God should have simply erased the results of the first sin and given humanity a second chance?  How does Lewis work through that proposition?

6.  What was the root of humanity's first sin?  (In Mere Christianity, Lewis called it "the great sin.")  Why does Lewis believe this is the only sin that could conceivably be the Fall?

7.  In what ways do postlapsarian human beings differ from prelapsarian, according to Lewis's speculations?

8.  Lewis contends that the Fall did not take God by surprise, nor did God plan the whole thing.  Instead, Lewis describes the world as a dance.  What "steps" make up that dance?  (He will develop this concept more in Chapter 7.)


Total depravity
: Theological teaching that the Fall affected every part of human intellect, feeling, heart and will.  Christians may differ in their views of just how "total" total depravity is, but they agree that human beings cannot save themselves.

Original sin: Refers to the sin of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3, the effects of which were passed on to their descendants (Romans 5:12, 19). 

Pons asinorum:  Latin for "bridge of asses"; refers to the fifth proposition in Book One of Euclid's Elements which holds that angles opposite the same length sides of an isosceles triangle are equal.  Metaphorically it means a problem that tests the ability of the inexperienced.

Gautama (563-483 BCE):  the spiritual leader on whose teachings Buddhism is based.

Zarathustra aka Zoroaster:  Persian founder of Zoroastrianism

Marcus Aurelius (121-180):  Stoic philosopher and Roman emperor who wrote Meditations.

William Law (1686-1761):  Anglican clergyman and devotional writer.  In 1729, he wrote A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, which argued that Christianity affects every area of life, including business and leisure as well as devotional practices.  This book was a favorite of John Wesley.  In 1731, he wrote The Case of Reason, which contended that as important as reason is, it alone cannot grasp the mysteries of God without the aid of divine revelation.

N. P. Williams (1883-1943):  professor of divinity and editor of Theology, which represented liberal Catholicism.

Yogi:  one who practices the mental, physical and spiritual discipline of yoga

Meum:  Latin for "mine"

Richard Hooker (1554-1600):  Oxford-educated minister in the Church of England.  His best-known work is Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity published in eight volumes-the last three posthumously.  The series is both a response to Puritan doctrine and a guide for church governance.  Considered one of the best examples of Elizabethan literature, the work influenced political theory and English prose, as well as theology.

© 2012 by Allyson Wieland