Monday, October 28, 2013

Illustrated Summary of The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis—DIVINE LOVE

C.S. Lewis assigns 4 English words to 4 distinct Greek words translated love in the New Testament, with parenthetical clarification:

  • Storge = Affection (family love)
  • Philia = Friendship (friendship love)
  • Eros = Eros (erotic or sexual love)
  • Agape = Charity (divine love)

This post summarizes the chapter on Divine Love with lively illustrations. A post with all the chapters laced into one post follows.

Divine Love

"William Morris wrote a poem called 'Love Is Enough' and someone is said to have reviewed it briefly in the words 'It isn't.' Such has been the [message] of this book. The natural loves are not self-sufficient. Something else, at first vaguely described as 'decency and common sense,' but later revealed as goodness, and finally as the whole Christian life in one particular relation, must come to the help of the mere feeling if the feeling is to be kept sweet.

"To say this is not to belittle the natural loves but to indicate where their real glory lies. It is no disparagement to a garden to say that it will not...weed itself, nor prune its own fruit trees, nor...cut its own lawns.... It will remain a garden...only if someone does all these things to it [because] teams with life. It glows with colour and smells like heaven and puts forward...beauties which man could never have created and could not even, on his own resources, have imagined.... The gardener's contributions to that glory [seem] a sense paltry compared with those of nature.... When he has done all, he has merely encouraged here and discouraged there, powers and beauties that have a different source. But his share, though small, is indispensable and laborious.

"When God planted a garden He set a man over it and set the man under Himself. When He planted the garden of our nature and caused the flowering, fruiting loves to grow there, He set our will to 'dress' them.... Unless His grace comes down, like the rain and the sunshine, we shall use this tool to little purpose. But its are indispensable. If they were needed when the garden was still Paradisal, how much more now when the soil has gone sour and the worst weeds seem to thrive on the best?... To liberate that splendour, to let it become fully what it is trying to part of our purpose.

"But only part. For now we must face a topic that I have long postponed...our natural loves as rivals to the love of God.... not the place at which most of us need begin.... For most...the true rivalry lies between the self and the human Other, not yet between the human Other and God. It is dangerous to press...the duty of getting beyond earthly love when [the] real difficulty lies in getting so far. And it is no doubt easy enough to love the fellow-creature less and to imagine that it is happening because we are learning to love God more, when the real reason may be quite different....

The Emperor Controls the Prince
"To have stressed the rivalry earlier...would have been premature in another way also. The claim to divinity which our loves so easily make can be refuted without going so far as that. The loves prove that they are unworthy to take the place of God by the fact that they what they promise to do without God's help. Why prove that some petty princeling is not the lawful Emperor when without the Emperor's support he cannot even keep his subordinate throne and make peace in his little province for half a year?... When God rules in a human heart, though He may sometimes have to remove certain of its native authorities altogether, He often continues others in their offices and, by subjecting their authority to His, gives it for the first time a firm basis.... The rebellious slogan 'All for love' is really love's death warrant (date of execution, for the moment, left blank)....

Augustine's Heart Breaks
"If the Victorians needed the reminder that love is not enough, older theologians were always saying very loudly that (natural) love is likely to be a great deal too much. The danger of loving our fellow-creatures too little was less present to their minds than that of loving them idolatrously. In every wife, mother, child and friend they saw a possible rival to God. So of course does Our Lord (Luke 14:26). There is one method of dissuading us from inordinate love of the fellow-creature which I find myself forced to reject.... I do so with trembling, for it met me in the pages of a great saint and a great thinker to whom my own glad debts are incalculable. In words which can still bring tears to the eyes, St. Augustine describes the desolation in which the death of his friend Nebridius plunged him (Confessions 4:10). Then he draws a moral. This is what comes, he says, of giving one's heart to anything but God. Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose.... Of course this is excellent sense...and there is no man alive who responds more naturally than I to such canny maxims. I am a safety-first creature. Of all arguments against love none makes so strong an appeal to my nature as 'Careful! This might lead you to suffering.'

"To my nature, my temperament, yes. Not to my conscience. When I respond to that appeal I seem to myself to be a thousand miles away from Christ. If I am sure of anything I am sure that His teaching was never meant to confirm my congenital preference for safe investments and limited liabilities. I doubt whether there is anything in me that pleases Him less. And who could conceivably begin to love God on such...ground—because the better? Would you choose a wife or a friend [or] a dog in this spirit?... I think that this passage in the Confessions is less a part of St. Augustine's Christendom than a hangover from the high-minded Pagan philosophies in which he grew up.... [Christians] follow One who wept over Jerusalem and at the grave of Lazarus, and, loving all, yet had one disciple whom, in a special sense, He 'loved.'... There is no escape along the lines St. Augustine suggests. Nor along any other lines....

"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. [Imagine facing and articulating that fact in the clearest terms possible when, like C.S. Lewis, your beloved spouse has terminal cancer.] If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one.... Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.... The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

"I believe that the most lawless and inordinate loves are less contrary to God's will than a...self-protective lovelessness. It is like hiding the talent in a [field] and for much the same reason: "I knew thee that thou art a hard man" [Matthew 25:24]. Christ did not teach and suffer that we might become, even in the natural loves, more careful of our own happiness. If a man is not uncalculating towards the earthly beloveds whom he has seen, he is none the more likely to be so towards God whom he has not. We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour....

"It is probably impossible to love any human being simply 'too much.' We may love him too much in proportion to our love for God; but it is the smallness of our love for God, not the greatness of our love for the man, that constitutes the inordinancy.... The real question is, you serve, or choose, or put first? To which claim does your will, in the last resort, yield? As so often, Our Lord's own words are both far fiercer and far more tolerable than those of the theologians. He says nothing about guarding against earthly loves for fear we might be hurt; He says something that cracks like a whip about trampling them all under foot the moment they hold us back from following Him. 'If any man come to Me and hate not his father and mother and wife...and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple' (Luke 14:26).

"But how are we to understand the word hate?... I think Our Lord, in the sense here intended, 'hated' St. Peter when he said, 'Get thee behind Me.' To hate is to reject, to set one's face against, to make no concession to the Beloved when the Beloved utters, however sweetly and however pitiably, the suggestions of the Devil. A man, said Jesus, who tries to serve two masters, will 'hate' the one and 'love' the other.... He will adhere to, consent to, work for, the one and not for the other.... In the last resort, we must turn down...our nearest and dearest when they come between us and our obedience to God. Heaven knows, it will seem to them sufficiently like hatred. We must not act on the pity we feel; we must be blind to tears and deaf to pleadings.

"I will not say that this duty is hard; some find it too easy; some, hard almost beyond endurance. What is hard for all is to know when the occasion for such 'hating' has arisen. Our temperaments deceive us.... That is why it is of such extreme importance to so order our loves that it is unlikely to arrive at all.... We may see [this] on a far lower level when the Cavalier poet, going to [war], says to his [lady]: 'I could not love thee, dear, so much, loved I not honour more.'... [Lovelace's lady] admits, as he does, the claims of Honour. He does not need to 'hate' her, to set his face against her, for he and she acknowledge the same law. They have agreed and understood each other on this matter long before.... It is this prior agreement which is so necessary when a far greater claim than that of Honour is at stake.... Indeed, a real disagreement on this issue should make itself felt early enough to prevent a marriage or a friendship from existing at all. The best love of either sort is not blind.... If 'All'quite seriously all'for love' is implicit in the Beloved's attitude, his or her love is not worth having. It is not related in the right way to Love Himself.

How to Scale the Heights of God's Love?
"And this brings me to the foot of the last steep ascent this book must try to make. We must try to relate the human...loves to that Love which is God.... 'God is love.... Herein is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us' (1 John 4:8, 10). We must not begin with mysticism, with the creature's love for God.... God, who needs nothing, loves into existence wholly superfluous creatures in order that He may love and perfect them. He creates the universe, already foreseeing...the cross.... God...causes us to be that we may exploit and take advantage of Him. Herein is love. This is the diagram of Love Himself, the inventor of all loves. God...implants in us both Gift-loves and Need-loves. The Gift-loves are natural images of Himself...a devoted mother, a beneficent ruler or teacher.... He communicates to men a share of His own Gift-love...[which] enables [us] to love what is not naturally lovable: lepers, criminals, enemies, morons, the sulky, the superior and the sneering. Finally, by a high paradox, God enables men to have a Gift-love towards Himself.... Since it is only too obvious that we can withhold ourselves, our wills and hearts, from God, we can...also give them.... And as all Christians know, there is another way of giving to God: every stranger whom we feed or clothe is Christ [Christ's parable of the sheep and goats in Matthew 25:31-46].... Love Himself can work in those who know nothing of Him....

"[However,] no sooner do we believe that God loves us than there is an impulse to believe that He does so, not because He is Love, but because we are intrinsically lovable.... It is easy to acknowledge, but almost impossible to realise for long, that we are mirrors whose brightness, if we are bright, is wholly derived from the sun that shines upon us.... This pretense that we have anything of our own or could for one hour retain by our own strength any goodness that God may pour into us, has kept us from being happy. We have been like bathers who want to keep their feetor one footor one toeon the bottom, when to lose that foothold would be to surrender themselves to a glorious tumble in the surf. The consequences of parting with our last claim to intrinsic freedom, power, or worth, are real freedom, power and worth, really ours just because God gives them....
Some Things No One Can Like But...

"We all need at times, some of us at most times, that Charity from others which, being Love Himself in them, loves the unlovable. But this, though a sort of love we need, is not the sort we want. We want to be loved for our cleverness, beauty, generosity, fairness, usefulness. The first hint that anyone is offering us the highest love of all is a terrible shock." (In a separate chapter on this love in Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis explains that Charity now means giving to the poor, but it originally had a much wider meaning. "You can see how it got the modern sense," says he: "If a man has 'charity,' giving to the poor is one of the most obvious things he does, and so people came to talk as if that were the whole of charity. In the same way, 'rhyme' is the most obvious thing about poetry, and so people come to mean by 'poetry' simply rhyme and nothing more.") We all need Charity in the highest sense because "there is something in each one of us that cannot be naturally loved. It is no one's fault if they do not so love it.... You might as well ask people to like the taste of rotten bread or the sound of a mechanical drill. We can be forgiven, and pitied, and loved in spite of it, with Charity; no other way. All who have good parents, wives, husbands, or children, may be sure that at some times...they are receiving Charity, are loved not because they are lovable but because Love Himself is in those who love them.

"Thus God, admitted to the human heart, transforms not only...our [love for] Him, but our [love for] one another. This is...not the only thing that can happen. He may come on what seems to us a more dreadful mission and demand that a natural love be totally renounced. A high and terrible vocation, like Abraham's, may constrain a man to turn his back on his own people and his father's house. Eros, directed to a forbidden object, may have to be sacrificed. In such instances, the process, though hard to endure, is easy to understand. What we are more likely to overlook is the necessity for a transformation even when the natural love is allowed to continue....

"The invitation to turn our natural loves into Charity is never lacking. It is provided by those frictions and frustrations that meet us in all of them; unmistakable evidence that (natural) love is not going to be 'enough.'... In everyone, and of course in ourselves, there is that which requires forbearance, tolerance, forgiveness. The necessity of practising these virtues sets us, forces us, upon the attempt to turn...our love into Charity. These frets and rubs are beneficial.... Where they are plentiful the necessity of rising above [them] is obvious.... The necessity for the conversion is inexorable; at least, if our natural loves are to enter the heavenly life.... Nothing can enter [heaven] which cannot become heavenly. 'Flesh and blood,' mere nature, cannot inherit that Kingdom [1 Corinthians 15:50].... Only those into which Love Himself has entered will ascend to Love Himself. And these can be raised with Him only if they have...shared His death: if [by faith] the natural element in them has submitted—year after year, or in some sudden agony—to transmutation.

"The fashion of this world passes away [1 Corinthians 7:31]. The very name of nature implies the transitory. Natural loves can hope for eternity only insofar as they have allowed themselves to be taken into the eternity of Charity; have at least allowed the process to begin here on earth.... The process will always involve a kind of death. There is no escape. In my love for wife or friend the only eternal element is the transforming presence of Love Himself. By that presence...the other elements may hope, as our physical bodies hope, to be raised from the dead. For this only is holy in them, this only is the Lord.... All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.

"But...I dare not...leave any...reader...confirmed in the widespread illusion that reunion with the loved dead is the goal of the Christian life.... 'Thou has made us for Thyself,' said St. Augustine, 'and our heart has no rest till it come to Thee.'... Believing first in reunion with the Beloved, and then, for the sake of that reunion, believing in Heaven, and finally, for the sake of Heaven, believing in God—this will not work.... A self-critical person will soon be increasingly aware...he is only weaving a fantasy.... We were made for God. Only by being in some respect like Him... a manifestation of His beauty, lovingkindness, wisdom, or goodness, has any earthly Beloved excited our love. It is not that we have loved them too much, but that we did not quite understand what we were loving. It is not that we shall be asked to turn from them, so dearly familiar, to a Stranger. When we see the face of God we shall know that we have always known it. He has been a party to, has made, sustained and moved moment by moment within, all our earthly experiences of innocent love. All that was true in them was, even on earth, far more His than ours, and ours only because His. In Heaven there will be no anguish and no duty of turning away from our earthly Beloveds. First, because we shall have turned already; from the portraits to the Original, from the rivulets to the Fountain, from the creatures He made lovable to Love Himself. But second, because we shall find them all in Him. By loving Him more than them we shall love them more than we do now.

"But all that is far away in 'the land of the Trinity,' not here in exile, in the weeping valley.... The very purpose of... bereavement...may have been to force this upon us. We are then compelled to try to believe, what we cannot yet feel, that God is our true Beloved.... 'Is it easy to love God?' asks an old author. 'It is easy,' he replies, 'to those who do it.'... God...can awake in man, towards Himself, a supernatural Appreciative love. This is of all gifts the most to be desired. Here, not in our natural loves, nor even in ethics, lies the true centre of all human and angelic life. With this all things are possible. And with this, where a better book would begin, mine must end."

Worth Reading Yourself!

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