C.S. Lewis offers a brilliant defense of Christian theism despite the pain in the world in his brief book The Problem of Pain. Combining sharp thinking and excellent prose, this book is highly recommended for Christians and non-Christians alike.
Lewis’s arguments are similar to many theodicies (defenses of God’s existence despite suffering) developed by great Christian thinkers past and present. Man’s suffering is in fact a result of free will, not an original creation of God. And suffering continues to result due to the evil wills and deeds of men. As Lewis observes, “When souls become wicked they will certainly use this possibility to hurt one another; and this, perhaps, accounts for four-fifths of the sufferings of men.” If men are to have any significant free will at all, the bad consequences of evil deeds must be allowed.
This, of course, leaves the problem of so-called natural evil. Lewis contends that such evil and pain are necessary for our own repentance. In order to recognize our sins and ask God for forgiveness (and thus restore the proper relationship between created and Creator) we humans must be awoken with pain and suffering. Pain shatters the notion that what we have is ours and is good enough.
The Problem of Pain, despite its brevity, covers a great deal of ground, including a defense of the doctrine of the fall and the doctrines of heaven and hell. All throughout, Lewis’s writing style is accessible and convincing. For a powerful defense of Christian theism in the face of a cruel world, The Problem of Pain is highly recommended.