Guide to The Four Loves

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Study Guide to The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis

Name: _________________________________
The Four Loves was Lewis’ look at some of the different loves described in Greek thought:

familial or affectionate love (storge); friendship (philia); romantic love (eros); and spiritual love

(agape) in the light of Christian commentary on ordinate loves. Though it is “probably

impossible” to love any human being too much, we must, says Lewis, make sure we do not “love

him too much in proportion to our love for God.” As Lewis notes, it is always “the smallness of

our love for God, not the greatness of our love for man, that constitutes the inordinacy.”

Chapter 1 – Introduction

1.  What was the first distinction Lewis makes in types of human love?

     Give his example of each and add an example of your own.

2.  Lewis initially did not consider "Need-love" to be a form of love.  What reasons led him to reconsider?

3.  Why will our love for God predominantly be Need-love?  How does God address our Need-love?

4.  Describe the paradox that "man approaches God most nearly when he is in one sense least like God."

5.  Lewis distinguishes between two things, both of which might be called "nearness to God." 

(a)  nearness by likeness:  humans and angels are nearer to God in the sense that they bear more of his image or likeness than do the animals and plants

(b)  nearness of approach:  we are nearest to God when swiftly approaching our final union with God, vision of God and enjoyment of God

Try to contrast the two by completing the chart:

Nearness by likeness

Nearness of approach


1. able to increase

2. given to us by God


3. made without our collaboration or consent


4.  likeness of image or portrait

4.  union with God in will

6.  What is our willed imitation of God (as distinct from the likeness God has impressed on us) in this life to resemble?

Lewis also calls it "the ­­­­­_____________________ life operating under ______________________________."

7.  Lewis says that God is love; but love is not god. What does he mean by this statement?

8.  Why is it that natural loves at their best stand in greatest danger of blasphemy?

9.  Lewis cautions against becoming either an idolater or a debunker of natural human love.  He gives examples of each.

Would you characterize 21st century American society as predominantly idolaters or debunkers of love?

How would you characterize yourself?

Study Guide to The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis

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Chapter 2 -- Likings and Loves for the Sub-Human

1. Into what two classes does Lewis divide pleasures? List an example he gives of each and add an example of your own.

2. What caution does Lewis give us as we begin to consider classes of pleasures? Do you agree?

3. What does Lewis observe about the comments people make regarding Need-pleasures and Appreciative pleasures?

4. What happens to Need-pleasures once they are satisfied? What about our Need-love for God?

5. Here, Lewis adds an element of love, not mentioned in Chapter 1. What are the three classifications of love and how does Lewis distinguish them from one another?


6. What does Lewis think of Nature as a teacher? What does Lewis mean by saying nature provides us "a language of images"?

7. List some of the limitations of nature.

8. What happens when the love of nature becomes excessive?


9. Why should we keep a wary eye on our love for country?

10. Describe the first ingredient of patriotism - the love of home. What makes this a fairly healthy form of love of country?

11. What are the healthy and dangerous sides to the second ingredient - attitude toward our country's past?

12. What often results when a nation considers itself superior to others?

13. Lewis contends that in the absence of patriotism, citizens can be motivated to sacrifice for their country only by appeal to ethical or moral values such as justice or humanity. He considers this a step down. Why? Do you agree?

14. What does Lewis say happens “when the natural loves become lawless”?

Study Guide to The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis

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Chapter 3 – Affection, Part 1

1. List some characteristics of storge or Affection.

2. How is Affection both a Need-love and a Gift-love?

3. Describe the beginning of Affection.

4. How does Affection often blend with the other loves?
5. What is the special glory of Affection and how does it open our eyes?

6. Why is Affection the broadest of the loves?

7. How is Affection sometimes similar to charity (agape or godly love)? How is Affection ambivalent?

8. Why is Affection sometimes demanded as a right? What does the demand for Affection often result in?

9. How does Affection exercise courtesy within the context of familiarity? How can taking liberties abuse Affection?
Study Guide to The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis

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Chapter 3 – Affection, Part 2

1. How is change a threat to Affection?

2. List some examples Lewis gives of Affection that has been damaged by jealousy. 

3. Describe "double jealousy."

4. What is the proper aim of Gift-love?  How did Mrs. Fidget's efforts work at cross-purposes of this goal?

5. What other examples of perverted Affection does Lewis offer?

6. Instead of neurosis, to what does Lewis attribute humanity's tendency to twist love?

7. What does Affection need to produce happiness?

8. What does Lewis mean when he writes: "if we try to live by Affection alone, Affection will ‘go bad on us'"?
9. What three factors motivated Mrs. Fidget to continue "loving" her family as she did?

Study Guide to The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis

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Chapter 4 - Friendship, Pt. 1

C.S. Lewis was well positioned to write on friendship. Because of his mother's death, his emotionally-distant father, and many years of boarding school, storge (familial affection) did not feature prominently in his experience. Eros entered his life late with Joy Davidman, and even that relationship began as philia or friendship. Lewis talked about his friendships in Surprised by Joy, including his childhood friend, Arthur Greeves, and his longtime Oxford friend, Owen Barfield. Then there were the men who made up the Inklings: Charles Williams, JRR Tolkien, and, of course, his brother and close friend Major Warren Lewis. Believing it was overlooked in modern society, Lewis felt the need to champion friendship in his writing.
1. Contrast the way in which the ancient and modern worlds view friendship.

2. What separates friendship from the other loves?

3. How does Lewis respond to the theory that every same-sex friendship is really homosexual in nature?

4. List some of the contrasts between lovers and friends.

5. Why is two not the best number for friends?

6. What is the matrix of friendship? According to Lewis, how does friendship develop from this?

7. Lewis states, "the very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends." Do you agree/disagree?

8. How does a friend differ from an ally?

9. How do friends learn details about one another? How do they learn to appreciate each other's qualities?

10. Describe what Lewis calls the "golden sessions" among friends. Have you experienced something similar?

Study Guide to The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis

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Chapter 4 - Friendship, Pt. 2

1. Why does Lewis think friendship between a man and a woman is less likely to develop than same-sex friendship? Do you agree/disagree?

2. Have you ever observed the two scenarios Lewis describes when men and women of differing cultural/educational backgrounds attempt to form friendships?

a) the school-marm wife and her husband
b) the less-educated woman joining the men who converse about ideas

Are those scenarios as likely to occur today as in 1960 Britain?

3.  Lewis makes a strong statement: "The presence of such women [i.e. women trying to enter men's circles], . . . helps to account for the modern disparagement of Friendship."  What do you think?
4.  Why do some women regard male friendships "with hatred, envy, and fear"?  Do you think some men have a similar response to female friendships?  (Note: Lewis addresses the first question, but not the second.)
5.  Why did Lewis consider friendship a spiritual love?
6.  What aspect of friendship causes those in authority to be suspicious of it?
7.  What dangers does Lewis see in the "element of secession" and "partial indifference or deafness" common to friendships?
8.  What happens when the friendship devolves into a mere coterie that exists for its own sake? 

9.  According to Lewis, the Bible rarely uses friendship as an image of God's love.  What explanation does Lewis offer for this omission?

10.  How does Lewis counter the assumption that we have chosen our friends?

11.  How does a good friendship serve as God's instrument for both creating and revealing beauty?  Consider Proverbs 27:17.

Study Guide to The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis

Name: _________________________________

Chapter 5 – Eros, Pt. 1

1.  How does Lewis use the terms Eros and Venus?

2.  Lewis believes that Eros often comes before Venus (sexual desire).  Do you think that is the case in contemporary American culture?

3.  How does Eros transform a Need-pleasure into an Appreciative-pleasure?  How does it transform sexual desire from being about self to being about the Beloved?
4.  What did the "older moral theologians" see as the danger in marriage?  By contrast, what danger in marriage did St. Paul fear?  (See 1 Corinthians 7:1-5; 32-35.)
5.  Lewis lists four reasons why Venus (sex) is serious, but then advises against taking it too seriously.  What does he find humorous about Venus?  What do you think of Lewis's characterization of Venus as "one of God's jokes"?
6.  According to Lewis, man has held three views of the body.  Do you think there are more?  How does the Bible view the human body?  Consider the following verses:  Genesis 1:27; Psalm 139:14; Matthew 26:41; Romans 6:13; Romans 12:1; 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20. 
7.  Why did Lewis like St. Francis's view of the body as "Brother Ass"?
8.  Do you think Lewis has a healthy view of the body?  Of sex? 

Study Guide to The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis

Name: _________________________________

Chapter 5 – Eros, Pt. 2

1. What is the "certain attitude" which Venus can evoke from pairs of lovers? What do you think about Lewis's assertion that lovers are role-playing in a pagan sacrament?
2. What does Lewis mean when he claims that nakedness is not a natural state but an abnormal one?

3. In what type of marriage is a husband's headship most fully embodied?

4. What do you think Lewis means when he writes: "The real danger is not that husbands may grasp the [crown of thorns] too eagerly; but that they will allow or compel their wives to usurp it"?

5. What support does Lewis offer for his contention that Eros does not aim at happiness?

6. What are some of the dangers of Eros when he speaks like a god?
7. How might we turn "being in love" into a religion?  What is the real danger in this?

 8. How is Eros the most fickle of loves?

 9.  What sort of marriage is most endangered by Eros? 
10.  What do "all good lovers know"?

Study Guide to The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis

Name: _________________________________

Chapter 6 – Charity, Pt. 1

1.  Why are the natural loves not self-sufficient?  How does Lewis use the analogy of a garden to illustrate this?
2.  Why has Lewis delayed talking about our natural loves as rivals to God's love?
3.  How does Lewis revise Emerson's statement, "When half-gods go, the gods arrive"?  Why are we unwilling to submit our natural loves to God's authority?
4.  How does Lewis take issue with Augustine's moral: "Do not let your happiness depend on something you may lose"?
5.  What is the meaning of inordinate love according to Lewis?  What is the real question that it all comes down to?
6.  How does Lewis explain the word "hate" as it is used in Luke 14:26 and Malachi 1:2-3?  Is it preventable?  When is it appropriate?
7.  What is meant by "all for love"?  What are the flaws in this thinking?

Study Guide to The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis

Name: _________________________________

Chapter 6 – Charity, Pt. 2

[This section covers the second half of the chapter, with the paragraph beginning: "And this brings me to the foot of the last steep ascent this book must try to make."]

1.  Lewis now begins to relate "the human activities called ‘loves' to that Love which is God."  How do we as finite human beings attempt to know God?

2.  Contemplate with Lewis an omniscient, loving God who proceeded with creation while foreseeing the cross.  What do you think of the analogy of God as a "host" who creates his own parasites?
3.  Contrast natural Gift-love with Divine Gift-love.  How does God enable us to love him?
4.  What happens when we believe God loves us because we think we are lovable?  How does grace remedy the situation?
5.  What corollary does Lewis draw between the Incarnation and the transformation of a natural love?
6.  What role do frustrations, frets, and rubs play in turning our natural loves to Charity?
7.  Twice in this section, Lewis says the transformation or conversion of the loves is inexorable.  How does this change take place? 

8.  How does Lewis respond to the age-old question: will we know one another in heaven?  What caution does he give?

9.  What will we understand about our earthly Beloveds when we finally see God?  In heaven, why will we no longer have to turn from our earthly Beloveds?
10.  What closing advice does Lewis give to those of us experience a gap where our love of God should be?

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