Back at the end of June, I finished reading the Christian non-fiction The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis: the celebrated scholar, theologian and author of The Chronicles of Narnia, Mere Christianity and The Screwtape Letters. However this is my second read, after The Problem of Pain, of Lewis’ slightly lesser known works from my very smart C.S. Lewis Signature Classics boxset.
In The Four Loves, first published in 1960, Lewis dedicates a whole chapter each to contemplating the essence of the four types of human love: affection, the most basic form; Eros, passionate love; charity, the greatest and least selfish; and friendship, the rarest and perhaps most insightful, and how practicing these forms of love should compare, reflect and bring us closer to the perfect love of God.
If I am honest, before reading this, I was interested in this topic, however wasn’t exactly sure how there could be so much to say on it. Happily, I was proved wrong! With compassion, experience and measured study, Lewis discusses in-depth each form of love, giving examples and explaining how he believes they should be practiced in our daily lives, in a way that is true to God and the Christian faith. Encouraging us to open ourselves up to all forms of love, as the key to bringing us closer to God.
On the other hand, Lewis also gives us an important warning of how we, as innately sinful humans, can also twist and misshape each love to a selfish, hurtful and ungodly way, which can often be done completely unbeknownst to ourselves; although of course there are sadly those who do it on purpose and for their own gain. I found it really helpful to see both the positive and negative uses of love, especially as we may be committing the latter without even realising.
All of which was delivered in Lewis’ trademark academic but down-to-earth style. Okay, that might sound like a contradiction, however somehow Lewis manages to perfectly balance academic integrity and wordy discussion, with a down-to-earth, everyman feel – Lewis himself was once an unbeliever and he never shies away from this, so he never feels like he is preaching or talking down to you. Even the warnings he gives are done gently and sensitively, like an uncle or grandad taking you aside to guide and protect you.
All in all, I found The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis to be an insightful and comforting exploration of the nature of love from a Christian perspective. Whenever I read Lewis’ non-fictions, I feel like I am sitting in his cosy office, listening to him, over a steaming cup of tea. I can’t wait to read my next one – I have The Great Divorce, Miracles or Surprised by Joy still in my boxset to choose from. Great read
(This was book #2 for my 10 Books of Summer 2021 reading challenge)
Now I’d love to hear from you: Have you read this? Or have you read any of C.S. Lewis’ other books? Which one do you think I should read next?