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Common reads > The Four Loves, by C. S. Lewis

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message 1: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1879 comments First published in 1960, The Four Loves is Lewis' reflection on the four different words used in the New Testament for different types of love. This is the thread where you can post your thoughts, comments and questions about the book, as we read it together for our November 2014 common read or at any time after that!


message 2: by Janelle (new)

Janelle (janelle5) | 576 comments I was hoping to join in on our group read, having voted for The Four Loves, but I'm really struggling in my health atm. So I won't be reading or participating, but I look forward to reading what others have to say about it.


message 3: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1879 comments Janelle, we'll definitely be praying for your health, and hoping to hear that you're feeling better very soon!


message 4: by Janelle (new)

Janelle (janelle5) | 576 comments Thanks Werner


message 5: by Ron (new)

Ron | 79 comments Most of the way through my fifth reading of The Four Loves. An old friend, who shows me things I missed previous readings.


message 6: by Mary (new)

Mary Catelli | 41 comments I've read it so often I've lost count.


message 7: by Banner (new)

Banner This is my first read, but I can already see it is a book that I will be reading again.
So rich.


message 8: by Tessa (new)

Tessa in Mid-Michigan (asata) This book makes you work at your ideas and assumptions. So many how tos or book studies are pretty basic--not this! I re-read often, which I never do elsewhere. Great wisdom found in his working through the questions for us.


message 9: by Ron (last edited Nov 08, 2014 05:00AM) (new)

Ron | 79 comments I agree. Throughout his works, Lewis starts very close to us and works his way through whatever thought or issue he's contemplating, so that we're right with him all the way. Very effective.


message 10: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1879 comments I finished the book (for the first time) yesterday. In case anyone's interested, here's the link to my review: www.goodreads.com/review/show/1094479109 .


message 11: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1879 comments It occurred to me that it might be interesting, in the remainder of the month, to look at the book chapter by chapter, and interact with the contents. What are some of the insights that particularly stand out to you as helpful? Do you agree or disagree with the ideas expressed? What are the implications, for life and thought, of the ideas Lewis is outlining?

Personally, I was especially impressed with the distinction between "nearness of likeness" and "nearness of approach" that he draws in Chapter 1, vis a vis the "nearness" of human loves to the Divine love; and I think it's perfectly clarified by his analogy from life. It's also worth commenting on, IMO, that his approach presupposes both that the capacity to love is a part of the image of God that's not effaced by the Fall, and that humans must make a willed approach to God (though that's "initiated and supported by Grace").


message 12: by Banner (new)

Banner I think the chapter by chapter works for a book like this. I do agree with the way he links the existence of all the loves with a relationship to God in some aspect.

It is my experience that all love that I am capable of relates to God.
"Our need love for God...can never end..."


message 13: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1879 comments Lewis' discussion of patriotism (love of country) in Chapter 2 is, IMO, insightful and right on the mark. Of course, being an American, I bring a slightly different perspective to the subject than he does as a British writer. The U.S. is such an immensely large country (unlike England, which is about the size of an average single one of our 50 states), and so diverse culturally and ethnically compared to the England of 1960, that it's harder here for attachment to "home" and a familiar way of life to generalize into any kind of affection for the whole country. True, since our population is somewhat mobile, "home" often can (as it does for me) include more than one part of the country; but it's usually still a long way from encompassing the whole nation, or feeling much in common with people in what often might as well be foreign countries. What (theoretically) can serve as a uniting glue and a focus for national affection, for Americans of many different regions and cultures, is a common embrace of the principles of America's founding: commitment to the bedrock concepts of God-given human rights and political democracy, rule of law and constitutional government. (That's why Lewis' second ingredient of patriotism, "a particular attitude to our country's past," is particularly significant in the American context.)

Of course, this kind of patriotism is also vulnerable to the exact kind of perversions that Lewis outlines. We Americans can deceive ourselves into imagining that these principles, instead of being ideals that we have to strive to live up to, are instead innate virtues that we have and embody in our public life automatically --whereas the reality is that most of our people (and virtually all of our ruling class) have never actually read the founding documents they pay lip service to, and are actively hostile to most of the ideas expressed in them. :-( And instead of seeing ourselves as a fortuitously blessed people whose experience can be a constructive example for other nations (and historically the example of American principles has been an inspiration for democratic reform in many countries), we can imagine ourselves as some kind of innately superior Master Race, with a mandate to forcibly impose our founding principles on everybody else --whether we understand the principles or not, or whether others want them or not.


message 14: by Ron (new)

Ron | 79 comments Amen.

Or, in a kind of inversion of the same sin, we see ourselves as guilty for all the sinners of our fathers and, rather than try to do better, flagellate them and ourselves for them.


message 15: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1879 comments Yes, that's a peculiarly besetting fault of the leftist socio-political and academic elites in the West. It's a pose that serves, paradoxically, to give them a sense of moral superiority over everybody else; in their own minds, they deserve an enormous pat on the back from the Universe and the rest of mankind for being so perceptive as to wallow in guilt when the rest of us moral dullards do not. (Had these flagellants been alive in our forefathers' times, of course, most of them would probably have been leading perpetrators of every outrage they claim to denounce today.)


message 16: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1879 comments Does anyone have any thoughts on Chapter 3, which deals with affection, mostly family affection (Greek, storge)? Lewis' analysis strikes me as very sound (both as to the positives and potential negatives of this kind of feeling).


message 17: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1879 comments In Chapter 4, discussing friendship (Greek, philia), which he sees as essentially based on having "in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share," Lewis writes "...of course we do not want to know our Friend's affairs at all. Friendship, unlike Eros, is uninquisitive." I think Lewis based this on his own experience, shaped by his own personal psychology; but this is one area where I think the experience of most people would be different.

The discovery of a shared common interest, insight or taste between people does create a bond; but IMO it's a bond that's more along the lines of Companionship, Lewis' matrix for friendship. Personally, I see true friendship as going beyond this, and essentially grounded in an appreciation of our friend's basic qualities of character. That very much involves getting to know who the person essentially is, and how he/she acts in her own context.

My own interactions with people online (especially on Goodreads) form an example of this. For me, these are almost always based on some shared interest (and those of us on Goodreads pretty much all share, by definition, an interest in reading). I have various pen pals and "friends" centered on interests. But the relationships that I've come to value as actual friendships all are based on the friend's character, and have involved a desire to get truly acquainted with each other, not just to talk about the interest.

What do some of the rest of you think about this?


message 18: by Ron (last edited Nov 20, 2014 09:12AM) (new)

Ron | 79 comments I agree that friendship can extend beyond the object which first drew the subjects together, however I believe it's equally valid that it may not. Aficionados of model railroads may broaden their relationship beyond Tuesday evening club meetings, but they may not.

Soldiers in combat often form a bound which is mistaken for love (which it may also be, but that only confuses the analysis) but has more characteristics of friendship. Lewis mentions it in reference to classical literary examples, but it's equally real and intense among any "band of brothers." (And may include women, which Lewis might have had trouble conceiving. But it'd be women as a brother, not as a lover or a sister.)


message 19: by Tessa (new)

Tessa in Mid-Michigan (asata) I think it's our definition of friend that is causing differing reactions. Is a friend the person you work with, lunch with, and exchange news with but who you never see again when you leave that job? Or is it only the person you have kept up with, meeting regularly, no matter what, over years? So, yes, I think the first example, which fits the shared interest (job), seems more like companionship to me, but the second is what I really call a friend. There aren't many of those.


message 20: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1879 comments Tessa, I was thinking of "friend" primarily in that second sense. And I agree that those relationships are relatively rare.


message 21: by Ron (new)

Ron | 79 comments I agree, today's definition of friendship is completely wrong.

In the sense Lewis presented it, what shared between friends is not an "interest" so much as a passion.

I also agree that such friends are rare.


message 22: by Banner (new)

Banner It is indeed rare.
What I related to is the example of how two old friends (of this type ) can pick up with the relationship after a period of absence.


message 23: by Tessa (new)

Tessa in Mid-Michigan (asata) Absolutely. Rare and precious. But there are many with whom I share an interest and for whom I feel affection. I really liked the section on affection, since there are lots of people I see daily at the library for whom I feel affection. Even when they smell bad.


message 24: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1879 comments Chapter 5 concerns itself with Eros (romantic love). Here, too, I think Lewis' analysis is insightful. His interpretation of the "headship" of the husband keeps in mind the sacrificial perspective that St. Paul draws in his direct comparison to the headship of Christ towards the Church, expressed in sacrificial love. My personal view of the husband and wife relationship is that it should be one of mutual subjection; but Lewis' perspective is not in practice as far removed from that as it might appear.

By 1960 standards, Lewis' discussion of the role of "Venus" in marriage is quite frank; but, IMO, wholly appropriate. In one area, I have a thought that might contrast with (or perhaps just amplify) his. I can see the legitimacy of the mystery-play/masque aspect, and how that does allow symbolic dominance of the male (in some roles). But I think the submission and fealty of a knight to a queen is an archetypal reality that can be as properly enacted in that context. Just a thought!


message 25: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1879 comments There's a great deal of substantial content in Chapter 6, which deals with what, in the New Testament, is conveyed by the Greek word agape, which is generally defined as "unconditional" love. Lewis takes the term basically to refer to our love for God, and in what he says about that I think he's perfectly on the mark. That's also true of the insight that the qualities we love in others, in the sense of recognizing these as worthy of love, are the qualities with which they reflect the nature of God Himself, as He works in and through their lives by grace; so there's no conflict between these loves of the reflected glory and of the Divine Glory itself.

To my mind, though, there's more that can be said; because agape love is also the love with which God loves undeserving humans, and the love we're commanded to direct towards other humans, including enemies. That isn't the same as liking, or pretending that everybody is likable, but it does mean, if it means anything, a concern and wish for the well being (temporal, and eternal) of everybody, apart from how "good" or congenial to us that they are. And it obliges us to try to promote their well being as best we can. That's a tall order, because it even includes our persecutors --those who hate us for our faith, who would enjoy killing us and our families. It includes those who actively work to bring about harm to others, and indeed those who have brought about harm to us personally. I'm not saying that it requires absolute pacifism in the face of violent aggression (and indeed, I don't think it does). But it requires a degree of willingness to consider even the aggressor as a human being, in need of love and forgiveness, that comes to us only by the influence of God's grace; it's not something that human beings can naturally psych up out of our own unaided resources. (Lewis, I think, would completely agree with that.)


message 26: by brooke1994 (new)

brooke1994  (formerlynarnian525) | 79 comments You brought up some great points about God's love for us and how we should show love to others Werner. Here are my thoughts:

Some people, unfortunately, view God as a genie or a vending machine. They think that being a Christian is about fulfilling your own wants, desires, and lusts. Some people have the "God loves me, so he'll give me whatever I want, whenever I want it." As soon as God answers their prayer in a different way than they would have liked, they give up and abandon their faith. God loves us, but it's so different from the world's idea of love. God loves us to inspire us to love Him and live for Him more and more. I believe we need to extend that same love to others. Yes, our faith will be tested, but it doesn't end there. We can do all things through Christ! Philippians 4:13


message 27: by Werner (new)

Werner | 1879 comments Rachel, your thoughts are right on the mark; thanks for sharing!


message 28: by brooke1994 (new)

brooke1994  (formerlynarnian525) | 79 comments Werner wrote: "Rachel, your thoughts are right on the mark; thanks for sharing!"

Thanks! And you're welcome :)


message 29: by Ron (new)

Ron | 79 comments I agree. In fact, we were warned we'd have troubles in this world. After all, look how well Jesus was received.


message 30: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Baker | 12 comments Did C.S. Lewis write Narnia?


message 31: by Janelle (new)

Janelle (janelle5) | 576 comments He sure did, Sarah


message 32: by Sarah (new)

Sarah Baker | 12 comments Janelle wrote: "He sure did, Sarah"

Well, i heard people believe that he did a Christian take on the movies and i thinks so too.


message 33: by Janelle (new)

Janelle (janelle5) | 576 comments CS Lewis wrote the original books and intended them to be an allegory of Christianity. The movies seem to have been fairly faithful to that.


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