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C.S. Lewis on Suffering and Pain in the Christian Life

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LIBERTY UNIVERSITY BAPTIST THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY

C.S. Lewis on Suffering and Pain in the Christian Life

Submitted to Dr. Rodney Anderson, in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the completion

SEMI 500-B28 LUO
Introduction to Seminary Studies

by

Abigail Strain
September 28, 2014

Contents

Introduction 1

What were the influential experiences of C. S. Lewis on the topic of pain and suffering? 3 A Heartbreaking foundation 3 C. S. Lewis Atheistic View 4 C. S. Lewis’ Conversion Experience 4 Theodicy 5 C. S. Lewis’ Views on Theodicy and Faith Theology 5 C. S. Lewis Theological views on Pain and Suffering and the Christian Life 6 Evangelizing the lost as seen through eyes of C.S. Lewis 6 Why Evangelize ? 6 Reaching the Lost in the Midst of Pain and Suffering 7 Conclusion 8 Bibliography 10

Introduction This paper will give the readers an understanding of C.S. Lewis’ views on pain and suffering. C.S Lewis’ works emphasize the quandary of theodicy, how pain and suffering originated and how it serves to mold and strengthen our life theology thus creating harmony within our souls (mind), The soul being your mind will and emotions (Deut 6:5), when these arise. C. S. Lewis was a complex individual who demonstrated his courage and shared his faith theology in the midst of his pain and suffering by writing the struggles he went through. Following his concepts on pain and suffering I will delineate the difference between theodicy as defined by Merriam-Webster, defense of God's goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil, and how faith theology helps us to unmask the fallacies of diverse world views that hinder the evangelism of nonbelievers due to the abstract concept of evil and the unbelief of his omni-benevolence. C.S. Lewis contends that “Christianity has to preach the diagnosis—in itself very bad news –before it can win a hearing for the cure.” So in order to be effective in evangelizing (preaching the good news) for those in pain and suffering, we must first bring a diagnosis (of the heart). If the non- believer is mortal, in order to achieve immortality (pain and suffering free) the non-believer must accept Salvation. Once this step is taken the prognosis is great (eternal life); this will be achieved once the now believer reaches heaven; a pain free immensity. Another point Lewis’ comments on is heaven; “There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven; but more often I find myself wondering (believers and non-believers alike) whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.” We will consider that humanity wants to avoid pain and suffering, so if they do not want eternal pain and suffering, they must want Salvation. Consequently, the question: If pain and suffering is not a theodicy issue, then how can a Christian explain God’s benevolence to an unsaved person whose life has been riddled with pain and suffering? What were the influential experiences of C. S. Lewis on the topic of pain and suffering? C. S. Lewis’ writings have touched and changed many lives, though he did not stop people on the street and express his conversion experience with them he did so through his talent: his writings. He encouraged, challenged and even instigated people to “know” his magnificent savior. Lewis lived a very accomplished life, but he was not immune to the pain and suffering of this world; at an early life he experienced the death of his beloved mother and the rejection of his father as he was sent off to boarding school. Heartbreaking Foundation Lewis’ first major encounter with pain and suffering came at the early age of nine when his grandfather who lived with the Lewis’ family suddenly died of a stroke, four months later his “mamy” as he referred to his mother, Florence Lewis died of cancer. This experience left a feeling of displeasure and antagonism towards Christianity and Lewis turned to atheism as a source to hide his pain and suffering. He later was sent to boarding school and then enlisted in the army where he lost his roommate Paddy Moore. Later as an adult he suffers the loss of a close friend and member of the “Inklings” (a literary group of academic scholars) Charles Williams in 1945. Though Lewis suffered many losses throughout his life none was more devastating than the loss of his beloved Joy. Joy Davidman and Lewis had only been married a mere three years when she died of cancer. His grief was so great his health failed and only lived another three years before he died of heart issues. He articulates his grief stricken life in A Grief Observed. All of these experiences served to shape and cement Lewis’ belief in Christianity. Even though he was an atheist for many years, his conversion experience served as a catapult for his evangelistically charged writings that have not only helped many decipher their metaphysical quests, but have brought many to Salvation. C. S. Lewis’ Atheistic View Lewis found atheism appealing after death of his mother; he had prayed to a God to heal his mother and his prayers went unanswered; his atheistic view was further cemented when he was sent to a boarding school he hated because of its mundane religious traditions. He also experienced pain and sufferings during his stint at war, where he lost comrades. Lewis articulates his disdain towards God in Mere Christianity when he states: “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust?” C. S. Lewis’ Conversion Experienced Lewis conversion experience is described in his autobiography Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life as a chess game. After a series of moves he came to the realization that indeed God was drawing him. He resisted no more and in 1929 he gave in, he “knelt and prayed: perhaps the most reluctant convert in all England.” He now believed there was a God, he later tells of his Christian conversion; “I know very well when, but hardly how, the final step was taken. …when we set out I did not believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I was”. His conversion was a most unremarkable experience, but a sure one. “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Theodicy Theodicy is an argument for the justification of God, concerned with reconciling God's goodness and justice with the observable facts of evil and suffering in the world. Many non-believers have an issue with God’s fairness or his “goodness”. One would ask; how fair is it for innocent children to die of starvation or suffer untold misfortunes. Is God blind? Does he not see the sufferings going on in the world? Lewis’ Views on Theodicy and Faith Theology Lewis’ Views on Theodicy and Faith Theology are observed in the Problem of Pain where Lewis’ contends:
If God were good, He would wish to make His creatures perfectly happy, and if God 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. The possibility of answering it depends on showing that the terms 'good' and 'almighty', and perhaps also the term 'happy', are equivocal: for it must be admitted from the outset that if the popular meanings attached to these words are the best, or only possible, meanings, then the argument is unanswerable. Lewis’ argument in The Problem of Pain is in knowing the correct context of these words will give perspective to the how we view God’s divinity. God is more than just “good”, or “almighty”, He’s just. That is why he gave us “free will” (the ability to choose for self). … “the freedom of a creature must mean freedom to choose: and choice implies the existence of things to choose between.” For God to impose his divine will upon your choice, (or anyone else’s choice), is to deny the believer or non-believer of free will and that is contrary to His divine nature. God is a divine being, and he created us to live with Him forever in a pain free environment. He, more than any human being, understands suffering and pain having come to the earth clothed in an earth suit, suffered and died as indicated in Phil. 2:5-8, “Who [Jesus], being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross”! But he has a plan, a master plan, which will combat all pain and suffering once and for all. We just have to trust and believe that, “He [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” (Rv. 21:4, NIV), and we will be immortal:
For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”... But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain. (1 Cr. 15:53, 54, 57, 58, NIV). God’s omnipotence is not to harm us in tragic ways but to show how his power can work in us even in the mist of such horrific tragedies and his omni-benevolence is to show us how much he loves us even when we turn our backs on the one who gave us life. Though Lewis never claims to understand others pain and suffering, he writes from a position of authority. He was not immune to the vulnerabilities of life, but yet He brings a hope that transcends all pain and suffering, and offers Jesus— a new life.
All pains and pleasures we have known on earth are early initiations in the movements of that dance: but the dance itself is strictly incomparable with the sufferings of this present time. As we draw near to its uncreated rhythm, pain and pleasure sink almost out of sight. There is joy in the dance, but it does not exist for the sake of joy. It does not even exist for the sake of good, or of love. It is Love Himself, Good Himself, and therefore happy. Evangelizing the Lost as Seen Through the Eyes of C. S. Lewis Lewis was a believer in evangelizing, (evangelize merely signifies to advocate for a cause), and he did just that through his writings. Lewis related to the masses by writing in a form that appealed to believers and non-believers alike. Besides writing scholarly books he also wrote fantasy novels. His novels were interlaced with religious thought and his protagonists often depicted the characters in the bible, as we see in The Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan typifies Jesus. Lewis’ way of presenting Christ was so simplistic that non-believers even today can pick up one of his books and have a significant encounter with Jesus such as Charles Colson, who read Mere Christianity and had a conversion experience. Why Evangelize? Lewis believed “The salvation of a single soul is more important than the production or preservation of all the epics and tragedies in the world.” He became a champion of Christianity and a strong promoter of Jesus. His works have been published in many different languages and have reached many lives for Christ; his evangelism still reaches out beyond the grave. C. S. Lewis used his God given talents to draw non-believers to Christ through his remarkable and compelling works.
Reaching the Lost in the Midst of their Pain and Suffering Lewis’ lived through tragedy and thus became an authority on the topic by virtue of his experience. The diagnosis of the non-believer is indeed very dire one, but there is a hope. Lewis is aptly qualified to answer, how can a Christian explain God’s benevolence to an unsaved person whose life has been riddled with pain and suffering? Lewis out of his own misery accused God of being unjust and he posits:
“A man does not call a line crooked unless he [she] has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing universe with when I called it unjust? If the whole show was bad and senseless from A to Z, so to speak, why did I, who was supposed to be part of the show, find myself in such violent reaction against it? …of course I could give up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too—for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist —in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless—I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality—namely my idea of justice—was full of sense.” Lewis realized that God does exist, but his problem with pain and suffering still existed. He even admitted he was a coward when it came to pain and suffering and he starts off A Grief Observed with this statement: “No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” But he also stated,
“Neither pain nor pleasure as such has the last word. Even if it were possible that the experience (if it can be called experience) of the lost contained no pain and much pleasure, still, that black pleasure would be such as to send any soul, not already damned, flying to its prayers in nightmare terror: even if there were pains in heaven, all who understand would desire them.”

So, even the worst pain and suffering is more desirable than hell. Yes, fear can grip us and keep us from the most precious gift—salvation, but understanding that all fear, all hurt all pain will be erased when we reach heaven is tantamount to a splendid cure, in other words, the prognosis is life—everlasting life.
Conclusion

In sum, we found that Salvation being the gift of life can transform the non-believer full of pain and suffering giving them the hope of a pain free life in the hereafter. Evangelizing a non-believer that is full of pain and suffering can be achieved by offering “hope” of a pain and suffering free life and expectantly reuniting them with whom they have lost here on earth, (Th. 4:13-14, NIV), “Now we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve like the rest who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, so also we believe that God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep as Christians.” The non-believer’s whose life is riddled with pain and suffering can rest assured in the hope. Pain provides an opportunity for heroism; the opportunity is seized with surprising frequency.

Bibliography Aitken, Jonathan. “Remembering Charles Colson, a Man Transformed,” Christianity Today, April 21, 2012, Accessed September 23, 2014. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/april-webonly/charles-colson-aitken.html Lewis, C. S. In The Complete C. S. Lewis Signature Classics, New York: HarperCollins, 2007. –––. A Grief Observed. New York: Harper Collins, 2007. –––. Mere Christianity. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. ––– . The Problem of Pain. New York: Harper Collins, 2007. Lewis, C. S. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. New York: HarperCollins, 2007. Kindle. Lewis, C. S.. Christian Reflections. Edited by Walter Hooper (New York: HarperOne, 2002) Lewis, C.S. Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (Orlando: Harcourt Inc., 1955. Kindle Wilson, A. N. C. S. Lewis: A Biography, New York: WW. Norton,1990. Kindle.

--------------------------------------------
[ 1 ]. Deuteronomy 6: 5, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength
[ 2 ]. Merriam-Webster.com. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 14 Sept. 2014. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theodicy.
[ 3 ]. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 579.
[ 4 ]. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 639.
[ 5 ]. C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of my Early Life (Orlando: Harcourt Inc., 1955).
[ 6 ]. A. N. Wilson, C. S. Lewis a Biography (Sydney: HarperCollins, 2000).
[ 7 ]. A. N. Wilson, C. S. Lewis: A Biography, New York: W.W. Norton, 1990, Kindle,
[ 8 ]. A. N. Wilson, C. S. Lewis: A Biography, New York: W.W. Norton, 1990, Kindle.
[ 9 ]. Lewis, A Grief Observed, 651-688. New York: Harper Collins, 2007
[ 10 ]. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 41
[ 11 ]. C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, The Shape of My Early Life (New York: HarperCollins, 2007) Kindle
[ 12 ]. Lewis, Surprised by Joy, (New York: Harcourt Ins., 1955) Kindle.
[ 13 ]. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 11th ed., n.d. “Theodicy,” accessed September 23, 2014 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/theodicy.
[ 14 ]. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 560.
[ 15 ]. Lewis, The Problem of Pain., 562.
[ 16 ]. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, pg 644 That dance refers to the eternal dance
[ 17 ]. Ibid., Pg 644
[ 18 ]. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 11th ed., n.d. “evangelize,” accessed September 25, 2014 http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/evangelize
[ 19 ]. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, HarperCollins, 2002, Kindle
[ 20 ]. Jonathan Aitken, “Remembering Charles Colson, a Man Transformed,” Christianity Today, April 21, 2012, Accessed September 23, 2014. http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/april-webonly
[ 21 ]. C. S. Lewis, Christian Reflections, ed. Walter Hooper (New York: HarperOne, 2002) 12
[ 22 ]. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 41
[ 23 ]. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 611
[ 24 ]. Lewis, A Grief Observed, 657
[ 25 ]. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 625
[ 26 ]. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, 646.

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...Click Here For Current Affair News For UPSC,IAS,SSC, Govt. Exams http://upscportal.com/civilservices/current-affairs Free Guide for SSC General Knowledge TABLE OF CONTENTS 1. History of India and The World 2. Indian Polity and Governance 3. Geography of India and The World 4. Economy 5. General Science 6. Organisations 7. General Knowledge HISTORY OF INDIA AND THE WORLD GOVERNOR-GENERALS OF INDIA (1833–58) Lord W. Bentick (1833–35): First Governor-General of India. Macaulay’s minutes on education were accepted declaring that English should be the official language of India; Abolished provincial courts of appeal and circuit set up by Cornwallis, appointment of Commissioners of revenue and circuit. • Wars: Annexed Coorg (1834), Central Cachar (1834) on the plea of misgovernment. Sir Charles Metcalfe (1835–1836): Passed the famous Press Law, which liberated the press in India (called Liberator the Press). Lord Auckland (1836–42): 1st Anglo-Afghan War (1836–42)—great blow to the prestige of the British in India. Lord Ellenborough (1842–44): Brought an end to the Afghan War. Annexation of Sindh (1843); War with Gwalior (1843). Lord Hardings I (1844–48): 1st Anglo-Sikh war (1845–46) and the Treaty of Lahore 1846 (marked the end of Sikh sovereighty in India); Gave preference to English education in employment. Lord Dalhousie (1848–56): Abolished Titles and Pensions, Widow Remarriage Act (1856). Made Shimla the summer capital. • Administrative......

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