Eschatological Solution to the Problem of Pain and Suffering

Pain Pauls blog

The problem of pain and suffering is without doubt the most troubling paradox for Christians. How could a loving, maximally powerful and caring God allow his children to go through extreme and seemly meaningless pain and suffering? In times of suffering many Christians do, and correctly so I may add, find it difficult to imagine that God cares about their struggles. God appears to be as cold as ice itself and far from them as east is to the west. At those moments they rightly identify with Ivan Karamazov’s cry: “It’s not that I don’t accept God, you must understand, it’s the world created by Him I don’t and cannot accept”, in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s fictional novel, The Brothers Karamazov (Dostoevsky 2007, 257)

Early Christians underwent various trials and persecutions. Many paid their faithfulness with their own blood. What was it that made them stand tall and proud through such hard times? What was it that made them triumphantly walk into the valley of death without doubting the sovereignty of their loving God? As I explored their writings, I discovered one of their reasons. Their eschatological hope was what keep them going. It was their hope for the future glory at the second advent of their Lord and God. Their understanding of this future glory brought them hope. They considered all their present suffering not worthy compared to the joy and glory prepared for them (Rom. 8:18). Continue reading

C. S. Lewis & The Problem of Evil


The existence of pain and suffering in mankind’s world is self-evident. In De Rerum Natura Epicurean poet Lucretius powerfully captured mankind’s “well befitting” cry “for whom remains/ in life a journey through so many ills”(Lucr. 5.224) that  begins the moment infants are born.

Sudden rains, flaws of winds with furious whirl, torment and twist, savage beasts, and death are but few of so many ills Lucretius named that mankind faces. These were major proof, for Epicureans, that the gods did not interfere with mankind’s welfare. Going beyond Epicureans’ position are some contemporary atheist philosophers of religion. The existence of pain and suffering, they argue, does not only challenge the idea of divine providence but also the very existence of a benevolent and omnicompetent God.

“In light of our experience and knowledge of the variety and scale of human and animal suffering in our world,” representatively contended William Rowe, “the idea that none of this suffering could have been prevented by an omnipotent being without thereby losing a greater good or permitting an evil at least as bad seems an extraordinarily absurd idea, quite beyond our belief.”(Rowe 1990: 131)

The problem of pain and suffering did not escape the ink and papers of twentieth century’s most tremendous Christian defender Clive Staples Lewis. In The Problem of Pain Lewis presented two major responses to this challenge, viz., the Free Will Defense and Soul-Making Theodicy. This two parts article concisely explored a part of Lewis’ Free Will Defense¹ found in his work, The Problem of Pain.

Pain and suffering were not strangers in C. S. Lewis’ life. Three months before he turned ten years old, cancer stole his mother’s life and estranged his father. The God who his mother taught him, the God he encountered in the Church of Ireland was then for Lewis  cruel and probably just a vague abstract. Within the next four or five years Lewis lost his belief in God and became a self-confessed atheist.

According to Lewis, the strongest case that assured his atheism is found in Lucretius’ line: “Had God designed the world, it would not be / A world so frail and faulty as we see” (Lucr. 5.198-199). It was not until in his early thirties that Lewis returned to the faith he lost and became one of Christianity’s greatest defender the 20th century has ever produced.

In The Problem of Pain Lewis set the deductive problem of pain and suffering as follows:

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 (Lewis 1996, 23)

If a being that is rightly called God must by necessity possess perfect goodness and almightiness as essential attributes, then lack of either or both would mean that there cannot be such a being.

The second part of this article looks at a small but significant part of Lewis’ Free Will Defense, namely his challenge to hidden assumption that an omnipotent God can, without exception, do all tasks.

Next: C. S. Lewis & Omnipotent God

[1] A biblical-based and personal response to this challenge is found in A Grief Observed as Lewis wrestled with the death of his wife.

Cover Image: Dan DeWitt, Mere Imagination © 2011 Theolatte


Lewis, C. S. (1996) The Problem of Pain. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura Trans. William Ellery Leonard & E. P. Dutton (1916) Perseus Digital Library Project.

William Rowe, “The Problem of Evil and Some Varieties of Atheism,” in The Problem of Evil, ed. by Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams (1990) Oxford: Oxford University Press. First published in American Philosophical Quarterly 16 (1979): 335-41.

Tooley, Plantinga and the Deontological Argument from Evil Part II

Edited: Matthew Flannagan

In my last post, Tooley, Plantinga and the Deontological Argument from Evil Part I, I sketched Tooley’s distinction between a deontological and an axiological argument from evil and argued that Tooley rejects the axiological version because it rests on controversial ethical claims that are likely to be rejected by many theists. I outlined Tooley’s deontological version and explored the moral assumptions it is based on and Plantinga’s criticism of these.

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Tooley, Plantinga and the Deontological Argument from Evil Part I

Edited: Matthew Flannagan

This two-part series criticises the deontological argument from evil proposed by Micheal Tooley in The Knowledge of God, the print debate between him and Alvin Plantinga.1 My critique proceeds in four parts. Initially I will sketch Tooley’s distinction between a deontological and an axiological argument from evil and will argue that Tooley rejects the axiological version because it rests on “controversial ethical claims;”2 claims that are “likely to be rejected by many theists.”3 Then I will outline Tooley’s deontological version and focus on the moral assumptions upon which it is based and Plantinga’s criticism of these. This will conclude Part I of the series. Continue reading

Atheist Tooley’s Problem Of Evil Refuted

William Lane Craig April 2010 News Letter

William Lane Craig

Michael Tooley has developed a very complicated argument against God’s existence based on concrete examples of terrible evils in the world like the famous Lisbon earthquake. Alvin Plantinga has remarked that Tooley has thereby done us a service, for if an argument as carefully developed as his fails, it’s very unlikely that any better argument from evil against God’s existence will be found. Here is part of my response to Dr. Tooley’s argument:

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