on October 29, 2002
C.S. Lewis' The Four Loves was not a book that I expected to reshape my thinking. I first picked it up while following the reading guide at the end of Lindskoog's Mere Christian. I thought it would be a fun read during valentine's season. One often is most vulnerable to the trap when one is not alert...
And so, once more, C.S. Lewis has changed my thought on a broad portion of life. He's done it to me before--the Narnian Books, Mere Christianity, An Experiment In Criticism--have all been books that have greatly shaped me. Now I can add the Four Loves to the list.
One does not often sit down and ponder the different kinds of love. One may have generalized "loved ones" such as family and friends, we may "love" certain activities or places, we may even say we are "in love" ... but do we stop to consider our words?
Lewis spends time surveying the lay of love's different lands. Building on blocks of seemingly deepening emotion, he moves from looking at affection to friendship to erotic love (Eros) to the love of God (Agape). Each is looked at in detail, their meaning and impact on life is explored.
The most helpful thing about this book is that Lewis allows the reader to think about how they deal with their own loves in life. Does one stress a certain kind of love in an unhealthy way? Do we ignore the possibilities of one love because another kind holds too much sway in our lives?
I believe Lewis makes the case that God's love should be primary in the lives of humans. The other loves, though they can be wonderful in their place, can be used unnaturally and ineffectively to try and fill in for Agape if it is not felt. A healthy life will involve all four loves. Yet they must be rooted and grounded in Agape.
My own favorite passage in this book is in the friendship section. Dispelling the myth that an intense friendship between two people is always the best, Lewis notes that after his friend Charles (Williams) died, his friendship with J.R.R. Tolkien was something less than it was when Charles was still around--he could no longer appreciate Tolkien through the eyes of Williams. The passage is personal, poignant, and true to my own experience.
The Four Loves is a remarkable book. I give it my full recommendation.
on May 13, 2006
I was not especially expecting to be engrossed by a book about four greek words, but I was wrong. This was one of the better books that I have ever read. Lewis overviews each of the four types of love: storge (affection), phileo (friendship), eros (romantic love), and agape (charity or God-love). Each discussion was extremely insightful, especially the friendship one.
He desribed storge as the kind of love we have for people whome we spend a lot of time with, but whom with we do not necessarily have a lot in common with. For example, if you have a sibling whom you do not share many interests with but whom you love nonetheless, it is probably storge. These are people whom you probably would not be friends with if you were not related to or neighbors to these people. Lewis notes that these are people we often do not really realize how much we loved until they are gone (or until we realize that they are those kind of people to us).
He had an amazing chapter on phileo and the gift of friendship as well. I won't go into much detail so that you can enjoy it more when you actually get around to reading it. Let me just say that it made me appreciate my friends much more, and changed my views on what a friend is. He had the amazing insight that each friend brings out a different part of you. He noted that his friendship with J. R. Tolkien was not quite the same after Charles Williams died, because Williams brought out parts of Tokien that Lewis did not. Very insightful.
Lewis' discussion of eros was very insightful as well. He discussed the nature of romantic love, and what romantic love looks like in a marriage. His main point seemed to be that eros loves the other person, and does not try to make the other person become more like himself.
Finally, Lewis discussed agape, the kind of love that gives with no expectancy to receive in return. The whole point of this book, through there may have been amazing sidenotes on the way, is that this is the only perfect love. All the other kinds of love can be twisted until they are no longer recognizable. Storge can degenerate into condescendence, phileo can consume us and destory our lives, and eros can degenerate into lust or domineering, but agape is uncorruptable.
I highly recommend this book. I can nearly guarantee that it will change the way that you think about love.
Overall grade: A+
I own nearly 1000 books, of which a few I have multiple copies of: The Bible, Sun Tzu's The Art of War, The Prince. This book I have only one copy of, but have bought at least 5 that I can recall off-hand. That's because I loan it out, and it rarely gets returned (folks always return the Bibles, for some reason...). Anyone concerned with the nature and types of love should read this book. C.S. Lewis compares and contrasts love of God, Family, Lovers, and Friends in a way that makes good sense, is easy to understand, and is practical in real life. Should be required reading for anyone that has just started a relationship of any kind, or just ended a relationship for any reason.
on August 7, 2006
I used to think that if I just found the "perfect" way to do relationships, I would never get hurt or have my heart broken.
Lewis counters that kind of thinking. Love is vulnerable, and you will get hurt, he says, and the only place you can fully escape from the "dangers and perturbations" of love is in Hell.
This book helped me, and I hope it will help you, to break free from the mindset of seeking to avoid hurt in relationships, and replace it with a desire to truly love other people.
We can never entirely avoid hurt or pain in relationships, but if we approach relationships with the mindset of avoiding pain, we will never experience the joy of true love.
This book's scope is not limited to one kind of relationship. It is the "Four Loves," after all. Four kinds of love...affection, friendship, eros, and charity.
Lewis truly goes through the whole gamut of love. He covers what he calls the "likings and loves for the sub-human" (like a pet), simple affection for other people and family, the love that friends share, romantic love, and then God's love--the fullest expression of love.
I think perhaps this is one of the best books on love and relationships (for the two are inexplicably bound up in each other) that I have ever read. I don't think you will be able to read this book without being changed.
on October 24, 1995
Trust is fragile and does not come without an open heart.
C.S. Lewis' book on the four loves: affection (between a parent and a child), friendship, romantic love, and charity or love towards God is truly a remarkable piece of work.
Professor Lewis writes with an easiness rare amongst writers, speaks deliberately and with wisdom in his words.
He speaks of trust and of hearts, of humanity and humility. Truly, this is a moving book (or was for me) as well as a book which takes the seriousness of love rather lightly and playfully, for good reason. The seriousness and playfulness of love are but opposite sides of the same coin.
Read this book with an open, honest, yet vulnerable heart. One needs to take risks in the matters of the heart. And you shall experience the best of dark and bright.
on November 9, 2006
An excellent starting point for a reader only acquainted with C. S. Lewis through his fiction, "The Four Loves" stems from his "day job" at Oxford and Cambridge as a lecturer in Medieval and Rennaissance literature. "Loves" also invites the serious reader into Lewis' thoughts about the contrast between his Christian faith and the "psychological" bent of Western values and theory took in the late Twentieth Century. Well written and easy to understand.
on October 30, 1998
Far more than merely a "book on tape", these tapes contain a series of lectures which (I'm guessing) were delivered before the writing of the book "The Four Loves". The words of the book are more polished and the ideas more expanded but I actually find these talks more accessible than the book itself, although both are very fine. These tapes are also the only professional recordings of the actual voice of C.S. Lewis which we still have, and as such are a priceless treasure. His voice sounds a little like Winston Churchill's and his droll sense of humor sparkles throughout. Though not a Christian myself, I find a lot of inspiration in Lewis's thoughts. I know that whenever I reread any of his books from now on, I will hear his rich, warm, dry baritone voice in my head.
on March 11, 1998
This has to be one of the most thought-provoking books that has ever been written. Absolutely breathtaking! Using the logic Lewis is so famous for and written with the same intelligence as "Mere Christianity", this book is not to be discounted simply because it is about love. Lewis is regarded as one the best Christian theologians of modern times, and it is no mistake that he wrote about this subject, the different types of love, and the importance of it.
I went on a spiritaul search for true love--the love of God--at the same time I read this book. "The Four Loves" made everything about love that is cloudy much more clear. From Lewis, you can't get an better than this!
on April 28, 2001
In one of Lewis' Narnia books, he describes a quiet, restful place called The Wood Between the Worlds, where "You can almost hear the trees growing." Reading Lewis at his best, you can almost hear the spirit growing, taking up water through its roots in God.
I can't say how much I've learned from this beautiful little treasure. Reading it for the first time twenty or more years ago, each chapter struck me as a revelation, and has been a part of the "spiritual furniture of my mind" ever since. (Though living up to it is more difficult.) It gives me food for thought on "like" and "love," how to treat animals, the beauties and dangers of friendship and romance, how they differ, the inherent riskiness of love, the disquises by which hatred can enter the soul, and what it means to love God and for God to love me. I do not agree with Gross above that this book is a more "persuasive apologetic" for Christianity than his other books, but I do think that non-Christians are likely to enjoy it. M. Scott Peck's books, Road Less Travelled and People of the Lie, (the first written as a Buddhist, the second as a Christian) can even be read as "case studies" of some of the points Lewis makes here.
Four Loves proves that the most eloquent and deepest truths can be expressed in the simplest language. It (they?) would be a wonderful gift for a newlywed, a young person graduating from high school or college, or anyone else to whom you wish to express your love.
author, Jesus and the Religions of Man
on May 31, 2006
C. S. Lewis is a great thinker and whatever he writes, he writes well. This book compares and contrasts the four kinds of love that one can personally experience and personally manifest towards others. It can definitely improve your love life!
Harlan D. Betz, author of "Setting the Stage for Eternity"