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“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 that suffering and evil pose, in simple form.”*
The logic of the argument above is based upon the assumption that we actually know what an almighty and good God should do and that God’s purposes are the same as our own.C. S. Lewis (author of the Chronicles of Narnia and Mere Christianity) challenges these assumptions and our concepts of omnipotence and divine goodness in his book The Problem of Pain.He argues that a world with fixed, physical laws (such as gravity and the properties of matter) and also the expression of the free will of its creatures simply cannot exist without the possibility of suffering.“If souls are free, they cannot be prevented from dealing with a problem by competition instead of courtesy.And once they have advanced to actual hostility, they can exploit the fixed nature of matter to hurt one another.The permanent nature of wood which enables us to use it as a beam also enables us to use it for hitting our neighbor”.
Addressing the assumption that a good God’s purposes should align with our own in granting that creatures not suffer, Lewis draws an important distinction between what he calls “mere kindness” and love.He argues that when we think of divine goodness we almost always mean kindness, that is, the desire to see others happy. Some conceptions of divine goodness, however, are open to criticism. “While kindness can be fundamentally indifferent to its object so long as it doesn’t allow suffering, love is something more.”Love cares what its object becomes.
Lewis argues that love is more than the seeking of its object’s happiness by the examples of the love of the artist for an artifact, the love of a man for a beast, a father’s love for his son and a man’s love for a woman.
Certainly, our loving God enjoys seeing His children happy but what is ultimately important to our God is what it is that we are becoming. The problem of reconciling human suffering with the existence of a loving God is only insoluble so long as we apply a trivial meaning to the word love.This neither does justice to human love nor recognizes the consuming and provident love of God we have learned by the life of our Lord Jesus Christ. (*All quotes in this article are from The Problem of Pain by C.S. Lewis, Touchstone Books, Rockefeller Center, New York, 1962).