C.S. LEWIS’s famous work on the nature of love divides love into four categories: Affection, Friendship, Eros and Charity. The first three are loves which come naturally to the human race.Charity, however, the Gift-love of God, is divine in its source and expression, and without the sweetening grace of this supernatural love, the natural loves become distorted and even dangerous.
The Four Loves summarizes four kinds of human love–affection, friendship, erotic love, and the love of God. Masterful without being magisterial, this book’s wise, gentle, candid reflections on the virtues and dangers of love draw on sources from Jane Austen to St. Augustine. The chapter on charity (love of God) may be the best thing Lewis ever wrote about Christianity. Consider his reflection on Augustine’s teaching that one must love only God, because only God is eternal, and all earthly love will someday pass away:
Who could conceivably begin to love God on such a prudential ground–because the security (so to speak) is better? Who could even include it among the grounds for loving? Would you choose a wife or a Friend–if it comes to that, would you choose a dog–in this spirit? One must be outside the world of love, of all loves, before one thus calculates.
His description of Christianity here is no less forceful and opinionated than in Mere Christianity or The Problem of Pain, but it is far less anxious about its reader’s response–and therefore more persuasive than any of his apologetics. When he begins to describe the nature of faith, Lewis writes: “Take it as one man’s reverie, almost one man’s myth. If anything in it is useful to you, use it; if anything is not, never give it a second thought.” —Michael Joseph Gross
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