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Three kinds of love and a fourth to sanctify them,
This review is from: The Four Loves (Paperback)
Lewis discusses the differences between Gift-love and Need-love in the introduction, explaining that although our Need-loves may be demanding and greedy, they are good and necessary because there is little danger that they can be made into idols. They are not near enough to God, by likeness, to be twisted like that. The highest does not exist without the lowest and a plant has roots below as well as sunlight above.
Chapter 2: Likings And Loves For The Sub-Human, is a discussion of Pleasures of Need versus Pleasures of Appreciation. The types of love explored here include patriotism and love of nature. The next chapter: Affection, deals with the humblest love as Lewis calls it. He refers to literary works like The Wind In The Willows, Tristram Shandy, Emma and others to demonstrate the good and the bad manifestations of this kind of love.
Friendship is explored in Chapter 4, again with reference to literature, including inter alia Ralph Waldo Emerson. This section includes an interesting discussion of the word "spiritual" - which is nowadays often used as substitute for "religious". Lewis reminds us that there is spiritual good as well as spiritual evil. The next chapter deals with Eros and he points out its aspects of glory and its playfulness, with reference to books like Anna Karenina and 1984, and certain passages from scripture.
The final chapter is titled Charity and includes an interesting view of a passage from the Confessions by St Augustine. Lewis notes that the Gift-loves are natural images of God whilst the Need-loves are correlatives (not opposites) of the love that God is. When God is admitted to the human heart, He transforms our Gift-love and our Need-love. Conversion is necessary for our natural loves to enter the heavenly life.
The main lesson of the book is the importance of Charity. Without it, all three of the aforementioned types of love may become distorted and even dangerous. That alone is worth the price, but I have not found The Four Loves to be as accessible as his masterpiece Mere Christianity or his comforting book titled The Problem Of Pain.
Sometimes his arguments are hard to follow and his views and examples of certain types of love are coloured by the English culture of the period in which he lived, thus not always universally applicable. The book would also have been a better reference source if an index had been provided. Besides these minor comlaints, The Four Loves is still a great read that provides valuable insight into the human condition.