C.S. Lewis on why God allows suffering

C.S. Lewis on why God allows suffering

Suffering Servant. Pic by Rennett Stowe

“Why does an all-good and all-powerful god allow so much suffering?”

I realize that many times the popular authors in a discipline don’t necessarily represent the mainstream in that discipline. I’m sure there are weightier theologians than Scott Hahn. Lord knows there are better economists than Paul Krugman. I sure hope that Peter Kreeft is the exception to the rule in philosophy. I always find him both insightful and engrossing.

I’m currently reading his work on Tolkien, in which he quotes (p.126-7) a long passage from C.S. Lewis’ essay “On Obstinacy in Belief.” Lewis describes how, when we come to the aid of someone in trouble, our efforts often initially appear to the victim to make the situation worse. Thus the biggest obstacle to our helping them is their distrust. Think of the quick but painful remedy for a dislocated finger or shoulder. The doctor always knows that temporary pain will bring permanent relief to the patient; Lewis says this is the way it is with God:

If human life is in fact ordered by a beneficient being, whose knowledge of our real needs and of the way in which they can be satisfied infinitely exceeds our own, we must expect a priori that His operations will often appear to us far from being beneficient and far from wise…
You are no longer faced with an argument which demands your assent, but with a Person who demands your confidence.

Not God's doing. Photo by SteveMcN.

We certainly can’t discount the role of sin in suffering. If you have a hangover it may have less to do with God trying to conform your soul more perfectly to His crucified Son and more to do with you not getting wasted; but this perspective on redemptive suffering is a (hidden?) gem of our faith.

(Yeah, I know Lewis wasn’t a member of “our” Catholic faith. He is now.)