God and suffering

In the May 4th BMJ (subscription required), Dalrymple discussed CS Lewis’s views on suffering:
In The Problem of Pain, Lewis tackles the reasons for human suffering and whether it is evidence against the goodness of God. Suffering does not seem to be allocated in proportion to desert, and when tragedy strikes even the irreligious are inclined to ask, “Why me?” They expect the universe to dish out rewards and punishments according to merit, the latter being conceived of as a moderate diet and plenty of exercise. Memoirists of illness are inclined to express surprise, tinged with fury, that their illness should have affected them, of all people, when they have assiduously followed the latest advice about healthy living.
How does Lewis then explain, or explain away, human suffering—of which illness is so large a part—and make it compatible with the goodness of God? He tells us that free beings can be free only if they are able to choose the wrong path: something that public health doctors and health educationists might be rather reluctant to accept. And, according to Lewis, suffering is necessary to make us aware of our incompleteness and lack of self sufficiency.
But the problem for most people is not suffering in general but suffering in particular, in the here and now. The idea that suffering is an inescapable part of human existence, necessary and even salutary, might help people to endure, but falls short of a full explanation of any particular instance.

7 thoughts on “God and suffering

  1. Other Jackson

    Not surprisingly it would appear that I’m not the only one using the name Jackson… I think I’ll use a different, more distinctive name, to avoid confusion (even more confusion).. not sure what at this point

  2. Luke Lea

    Haven’t died yet so I’m not sure about this, but I wonder if pleasures and pains are somehow correlative, like the opposite sides of a coin, in such a way that the two just balance out in the end? You know, like a symmetry in nature? You gotta admit it would not be unjust.

  3. Flossie

    Agreed, Ned! It’s terribly frustrating to be unable to read these BMJ posts. Offer it up, I guess.


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