Four Loves c.s. lewis on four types of love inherited from greek culture

The second task for the first week of class is to listen to BBC radio lectures offered by the Oxford scholar C.S. Lewis from 1958. (The Thames in Oxford is pictured to the left, just across from Lewis's own Madgalene College, filled as it is with the small boats used for punting.) In the brief radio broadcasts provided below Lewis offers four Greek terms for "love." In doing so he situates us within the Greco-Roman inheritance key to the development of Christianity, showing us how the final term, "agape" takes on particular resonance in light of Christian teaching about following Jesus.

The following are the opening lines of Four Loves:

""God is love," says St. John. When I first tried to write this book I thought that his maxim would provide me with a very plain highroad through the whole subject. I thought I should be able to say that human loves deserved to be called loves at all just in so far as they resembled that Love which is God. The first distinction I made was therefore between what I called Gift-love and Need-love. The typical example of Gift-love would be that love which moves a man to work and plan and save for the future well-being of his family which he will die without sharing or seeing; of the second, that which sends a lonely or frightened child to its mother's arms.

There was no doubt which was more like Love Himself. Divine Love is Gift-love. The Father gives all He is and has to the Son. The Son gives Himself back to the Father, and gives Himself to the world, and for the world to the Father, and thus gives the world (in Himself) back to the Father too.

Christians use a notion of a dance of love to describe God's love

And what, on the other hand, can be less like anything we believe of God's life than Need-love? He lacks nothing, but our Need-love, as Plato saw, is "the son of Poverty". It is the accurate reflection in consciousness of our actual nature. We are born helpless. As soon as we are fully conscious we discover loneliness. We need others physically, emotionally, intellectually; we need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.

I was looking forward to writing some fairly easy panegyrics on the first sort of love and disparagements of the second. And much of what I was going to say still seems to me to be true. I still think that if all we mean by our love is a craving to be loved, we are in a very deplorable state. But I would not now say (with my master, MacDonald) that if we mean only this craving we are mistaking for love something that is not love at all. I cannot now deny the name love to Need-love. Every time I have tried to think the thing out along those lines I have ended in puzzles and contradictions. The reality is more complicated than I supposed."

The distillation of Lewis's thoughts on these matters is contained in Four Loves and will help orient us to a main theme for the course, namely Love and the City.

Your task is to view the following four illustrated versions of the BBC Radio broadcasts of the Four Loves. Take notes. Submit the notes for each video, along with a paragraph explaining how each love applies to your life. Be specific and concrete.

Created By
Cyrus Olsen


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