Chapter 6
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The Problem of Pain

Chapter 6 - Human Pain

Note:  Lewis identifies two senses in which the world "pain" may be used--(1) a sensation, usually neurological; and (2) an unpleasant experience, whether physical or mental.  This chapter and the rest of the book deal with the second type of pain.

1. Lewis speculates that 80% of suffering is the result of human wickedness. Do you agree with his estimate? Would it be larger or smaller today?

2.  a. What is the proper good of a creature?

     b.  What stands in the way of following this pattern?

     c.  What is the remedy?  (See Galatians 2:20, 1 Corinthians 15:31)

3.  Why is self-improvement not enough?  Practically speaking, what does it look like to "lay down our arms"?

4.  List the three ways Lewis claims the presence of pain will facilitate the process of surrender to God.

5.  Does suffering or prosperity draw us closer to God?  Why might a prostitute find it easier to turn to God than a well-educated, successful businesswoman? 

6.   According to Lewis, how are we made "perfect through suffering"?  Do you agree/disagree?

7.   How might this world be a "vale of soul-making"?  Consider: 1 Peter 1:6-7; 1 Peter 5:7-10; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10; 2 Corinthians 1:3-9.

8.  What about when the pain is disproportional to the benefit that comes out of it?  Or when the person dies quickly before they can grow spiritually from the experience?


John Henry Newman (1801-1890):  Anglican who converted to Roman Catholicism in 1845.  Known for his spiritual autobiography Apologia pro Vita Sua (1864); a leader of the Oxford or Tractarian movement in 1833; made a cardinal at the age of 74.

Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679):  English political philosopher and author of Leviathan, which introduced the social contract theory.

Thomas Hardy (1840-1928):  English novelist of the naturalism movement.  Raised Anglican, the seeming unfairness and struggles of life caused Hardy to question the Christian view of God.  A clergyman asked him how to reconcile the human experience of pain with the goodness of God.  Hardy wrote back:

Mr. Hardy regrets that he is unable to offer any hypothesis which would reconcile the existence of such evils as Dr. Grosart describes with the idea of omnipotent goodness.  Perhaps Dr. Grosart might be helped to a provisional view of the universe by the recently published Life of Darwin and the works of Herbert Spencer and other agnostics.

Alfred Edward Housman (1859-1936):  English classicist and poet, best known for a cycle of poems called
A Shropshire Lad.

Aldous Huxley (1894-1963):  English writer best known for Brave New World.  Lewis's reference to "non-attachment" in chapter six, refers to Huxley's book Ends and Means, wherein Huxley writes, "The ideal man is the non-attached man . . . non-attached to wealth, fame, social position.  Non-attached even to science, art speculation and philosophy."  Lewis, Huxley, and John F. Kennedy all died on the same day-November 22, 1963.

William Paley (1743-1805):  a Christian philosopher and apologist best known for his "watchmaker analogy" regarding the existence of God, as set forth in his book Natural Theology.  He had some political views that were out of step with his generation, such as the right of the poor to steal if in need of food, a graduated income tax, and a woman's right to pursue a career rather than be dependent upon male relatives.  These views are believed to have kept him from advancing in church hierarchy.

C. C. S.:  stands for Casualty Clearing Station -small mobile hospitals used during WWI.  If sepsis and gangrene were treated within 36 hours, survival rates improved.

William Cowper (1731-1800):  English hymn writer and poet.  He was a friend of John Newton (who wrote "Amazing Grace") and contributed to the hymnal Newton was compiling.  Cowper suffered from depression throughout his life, including several suicide attempts.  Inkling member Lord David Cecil wrote a biography of Cowper titled The Stricken Deer (1929), which is still in print.

© 2012 by Allyson Wieland