A redated post.
Charles Williams was a great friend of C. S. Lewis who died prematurely in 1945. Lewis edited a set of essays in his honor in 1947, entitled Essays Presented to Charles Williams (Eerdmans, 1974, originally Oxford University Press, 1947) (one year before the Anscombe exchange), and included the following in the preface. p. xiii.
But that was only one side of him. This scepticism and pessimism were the expression of his feelings. High above them, overarching themn like the sky, were the things he believed, and they were wholly optimistic. the did not negate his feelings; they mocked them. To the Wiliams who had accepted the fruition of Deity itself as the true goal of man, and who deeply believed that the sufferings of this present time were as nothing in comparison, the other Williams, the Williams who wished to be annihilated, who would rather not have been born, was in the last resort a comic fugure. He did not struggle to crush it as many religious people would have done. He saw its point of view. All that it said was, on a certain level, so very reasonable. He did not believe that God Himself wanted that frightened, indignant, and voluble creature to be annihilated; or even silenced. If it wanted to carry its hot complaints to the very Throne, even that, he felt, would be a permitted absurdity. It was true, Williams added, that the Divine answer had taken the surprising form of inviting Job to study the hippopotamus and the crocodile. But Job's impatience had been approved. The weight of the divine displeasure had been reserved for the 'comforters', the self-appointed advocates on God's side, the people who tried to show that all was well--'the sort of people', he said, immeasurably dropping his lower jaw and fixing me with his eyes--'the sort of people who wrote books on the Problem of Pain'.
In his essay "De Futilitate," (William B. Eerdmans, Christian Reflections, p. 70), which was a presentation given during the Second World War but written after the Problem of Pain, he seems to echo Williams' comments:
I cannot and never could persuade myself that such defiance is displeasing to the supreme mind. There is something holier about the atheism of a Shelley than about the theism of a Paley. That is the lesson of the book of Job. No explanation of the problem of unjust suffering there given: that is not the point of the poem. The point is that the man who accepts our ordinary standard of good and by it hotly criticizes divine justice receives the divine approval: the orthodox, pious psople who palter with that standard in the attempt to justify God are condemned. Apparently the way to advance from our imperfect apprehension of justice is not tot hrow our imperfect apprehensions aside but boldly to go on applying them. Just as the pupil advances to more perfect arithmetic not by throwing the multiplication table away but by working it for all it is worth.
So is Lewis pleading guilty to the charge of being a Job's comforter in PP? In one sense he could plead innocent; he could point out that the book is designed first and foremost to prevent us from drawing the conclusion, which Williams also does not draw, that God does not exist. The book frequently offers possible, rather than actual solutions to the problem of suffering, and is not designed to allow someone to go to someone undergoing immeasurable suffering: "Look, this is why you are having such a hard time now."
But while not condemning his previous book, Lewis seems to think that Williams had a point that he ought to have taken more seriously when he became "the sort of person who writes a book about the Problem of Pain."
In much of Lewis's work, he allows a considerable constructive role to be played by what I like to call the believer's "inner atheist." He remained firmly convinced that actual atheism was self-refuting (see Reason, Argument From) and undermining to the very moral foundation of the criticism directed at God. But even so, Lewis would, I think, have to agree that a lot of people died and suffered because of Hurricane Katrina who did not deserve to and that we really don't know, specifically, why God allowed this to happen. This response to Charles Williams, I think, is an excellent lens through which we can better understand A Grief Observed.