This weeks post will focus on the unique timing of the publishing of The Problem of Pain.
– Both critics and audiences praised The Problem of Pain for its highly intellectual and accessible approach to morality. As Alister McGrath writes in his biography of Lewis: “Many readers found a voice that was sympathetic to their concerns and reassuring in its responses… It won Lewis many admirers, but did not make Lewis famous… It proved to be a critical link in the chain that soon led to the emergence of that fame.”In effect, Lewis had created a work that transcended class distinctions, and, in doing so, he accomplished what few modern authors had been able to in the last two decades. Upon its release in October of 1940, The Problem of Pain became an immediate best seller, and set into motion Lewis’ wartime fame.
A key theme in Lewis’ life was his highly unintentional sense of timing. Had he resolved to write a book like The Problem of Pain even a few years before the war, it would have, like Lewis himself, most likely gone unnoticed. For one, Lewis had only recently become a Christian prior to the outbreak of the war, and he would have never entertained the idea of writing a book about Christian theology. Furthermore, Christianity and the church were struggling to remain relevant in the lives of the modern Englishman; so, any attempt at a national conversation revolving around theology or morality would have largely fallen on deaf ears. Yet the war had rekindled an interest in the topic of morality, and Lewis, therefore, was afforded the perfect opportunity. In the calm years preceding the war, Lewis quietly added to his understanding of faith, and age and maturity had refined his writing skills. When the call was given for an individual to answer the nation’s spiritual needs, Jack Lewis emerged as an unlikely and reluctant hero.