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C.S. Lewis: The Four Loves

from Program Two


Lewis explores the nature of divine love and finds kinship with other believers at Oxford.

Narrator: For Lewis, true happiness could only be found in relationship with God. When he entered into this relationship, it changed his life.

Lewis: To believe in God and to pray, were the beginning of my extroversion. I had been taken out of myself.

Narrator: Lewis was a bachelor living with Mrs. Moore and her daughter, Maureen, the mother and sister of a dead comrade from the first World War. They were family to him.

After he embraced faith, Lewis broadened his circle of friends. He was drawn more and more to the writers and scholars at Oxford who shared his faith.

Lewis: My happiest hours are spent sitting up to the small hours in someone's college room talking nonsense, poetry, theology, metaphysics over beer, tea and pipes. There's no sound I like better than adult male laughter.

Narrator: The group gathered weekly to talk, drink and read their works. Literary critics Hugo Dyson and Owen Barfield, medievalist J.R.R. Tolkien, writer and editor Charles Williams, Lewis and his brother Warren. They called themselves the "Inklings".

Colin Duriez: The Inklings actually began around 1933 and Tolkein and Lewis were the — were at the core of it and they invited friends along. The 1930s was a time when modernism was very strong both as a literary movement and philosophically sweeping away the old idealism, and putting forward the scientific model as the only means to truth. Lewis and his friends passionately resisted this movement, and the Inklings actually functioned as a kind of an oasis to stand against this trend, and to give encouragement to each other, to develop their writings in a consciously Christian way.

Lewis: To belong to a group of real friends is to be armed against influences from without. The public opinion within the group may be tiny, but it matters more than the opinion of ten thousand outsiders.

Duriez: Lewis and Tolkien felt that the kind of stories they liked weren't being written, and that as nobody else was doing it, they should do it themselves. One stage they tossed a coin to see who would write a time story, and who would write a space story.

Narrator: Tolkien got the time story — which became The Lord of the Rings. And Lewis got the space story, which became the trilogy Out of the Silent Planet.

Duriez: Lewis began to realize that all kinds of theological ideas could be smuggled into people's minds by writing good stories which would inculcate these kind of concepts.

Walter Hooper: All this time Lewis had been spinning his wheels. Then came the conversion. What happened was when he was converted, he really lost all interest in himself. I can't underscore that enough — what a change that was in that man. He just lost his interest in himself. Not in the things that he was interested in — not in poetry. He was technically one of the most proficient men for writing you could think of. But he had nothing to say. Then, along came an invitation to preach in St. Mary, the Virgin. Which is one of the oddest things that they would ask him. But they knew he was interested in theology. Anyway, he preached this remarkable sermon.

James Como: He became this great defender of the faith. He said, I realized that one real service I could provide my fellow Christians was to explain and defend the faith to them, because, you know, he had this extraordinary rhetorical gift. So he became, he became as his friends saw, very selfless and looked outside of himself.

Duriez: There was a lot of resistance from his colleagues in Oxford. They felt that, whereas as a Don might write detective stories, it was another matter when it came to writing popular theology. They had a feeling that they should be the specialist theologians that wrote on theology. Lewis was a very intellectual person, a brilliant mind. But at the heartbeat of all his work is a preoccupation with the whole idea of human love. He wrote a book called The Four Loves, which is about the four kinds of love that we experience.

Narrator: Affection for family and friends, sexual love, these Lewis defined much as Freud would have. Then he added a fourth category — love of God.

Lewis: Divine gift love in a man enables him to love what is not naturally lovable — lepers, criminals, enemies, morons.

Gilbert I. Bond: Lewis is differentiating between different experiences of love that all human beings have, and identifying that it is natural to love one's brother, one's family members, enter into relationships with friends, male and female, to enter into erotic and romantic love. But he also recognized this mysterious realm of love that did not have a direct and immediate personal benefit, and he identified that as agape, or a selfless love, a love that was truly committed to the well being of the other. And passionately so.

Peter Kreeft: What Agape means in the New Testament is the love of God. The love that God has to us. And that love mediated and explained by Christ is absolutely egalitarian. Agape or charity is a scandal to reason because it means loving people not just in terms of justice or what they deserve, but simply loving them absolutely.

Bond: For Freud, uh, what we're talking about as love he would designate as eros. But eros, as desire, sought an object, in other words it was a quantum of energy that goes in search of satisfaction with an other. That's a far cry from what Lewis understood to be the human manifestations of agape, because in that definition of love, there is a degree of selflessness, in other words, eros has an aim, it has a target, it has an object, it has an ulterior motive. Agape doesn't.

Francis Collins: The love that's being talked about in the love-your-neighbor exhortation is not necessarily the love that comes easy, the love that is full of emotion, of good feeling. It is a love that extends to all of other human beings, because we are of the same species. We are all creatures who are children of God.