The Four Loves – Chapter 2 (Part 2: “Love of nature”)

Four Loves 2

Four Loves 2

Continuing my notes on The Four Loves, this is the first of two posts which continue my summary of Chapter 2 (“Likings and Loves for the subhuman”). In this post we will be looking at the section which Lewis devotes to the love of nature.

1. Some people have a special love of nature

For some people, perhaps especially for Englishmen and Russians, what we call “the love of nature” is a permanent and serious sentiment. I mean here that love of nature which cannot be adequately classified simply as an instance of our love for beauty.

(a) This is more than simply an appreciation of beauty

Of course many natural objects – trees, flowers and animals – are beautiful.

(i) Either of individual objects…

But the nature-lovers whom I have in mind are not very much concerned with individual beautiful objects of that sort. The man who is distracts them. An enthusiastic botanist is for them a dreadful companion on a ramble. He is always stopping to draw their attention to particulars. N

(ii) …or of vistas

or are they looking for “views” or landscapes. Wordsworth, their spokesman, strongly deprecates this. It leads to “a comparison of scene with scene”, makes you “pamper” yourself with “meagre novelties of colour and proportion”.

(b) For these lovers of nature, it is about the “Spirit” of the place

While you are busying yourself with this critical and discriminating activity you lose what really matters – the “moods of time and season”, the “spirit” of the place. And of course Wordsworth is right. That is why, if you love nature in his fashion, a landscape painter is (out of doors) an even worse companion than a botanist. It is the “moods” or the “spirit” that matter.

(c) Which is why beauty itself per se is the focus

Nature-lovers want to receive as fully as possible whatever nature, at each particular time and place, is, so to speak, saying. The obvious richness, grace and harmony of some scenes are no more precious to them than the grimness, bleakness, terror, monotony, or “visionary dreariness” of others. The featureless itself gets from them a willing response. It is one more word uttered by nature. They lay themselves bare to the sheer quality of every countryside every hour of the day. They want to absorb it into themselves, to be coloured through and through by it.

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Wise Words On Wednesday: Dark Moments

Dark

In all these dark moments, O God, grant that I may understand that it is you who are painfully parting the fibers of my being in order to penetrate the very marrow of my substance

– Teilhard de Chardin

Reading “The Four Loves” at The Eagle And Child

The Four Loves

You may have noticed the posts on C.S. Lewis’ book, The Four Loves, appearing on this blog. Our San Diego C.S. Lewis book club has now finished Mere Christianity and we have now started on this other book from Lewis…just in time for Valentine’s Day:

Chapter 1: Introduction
Chapter 2: The likes and loves of the sub-human (1 | 2 | 3)
Chapter 3: Affection
Chapter 4: Friendship
Chapter 5: Eros
Chapter 6: Agape

 

 

Leaving Westboro Baptist Church

A few years ago I became fascinated by the Westboro Baptist Church, the media-savvy Christian group who picket the funerals of US soldiers, and who seem to delight in telling everyone that they’re going to hell.

Since the time when this group first came on my radar, I have been aware that several members of the family at the centre of the organization have since left the church. Below is a video of Megan Phelps-Roper, talking about how she came to leave. I think it’s really instructive watching, particularly for those of us who all too easily write off someone as incapable of change and a lost cause…

Music Monday: Wounded Healer

As Audrey Assad’s new album is set to drop, she’s released another new single, “Wounded Healer”. It’s a wonderful track, even aside from the fact that it’s also the title of a Henri Nouwen book. Man, does this woman have the ability to read my soul…

Image of the Invisible
In our wounds we feel you near
God of heaven in flesh and bone
By your wounds we shall be healed

Wounded healer, we give our hearts to you x2

Arms stretched out not to part the seas
but to open up the grave
Blood poured out not for war, but peace
And to show us God’s own face.

No fire; no fury
just death into life
Over and over
Til all things are right

The Eagle and Child: S1E8 – “The Rival Conceptions Of God”

Jesus

Jesus

With Book I of “Mere Christianity” complete, we now move on to Book II! Having concluded that the Moral Law points to God, C.S. Lewis now examines the “Rival Conceptions of God”.

If you enjoy this episode, you can subscribe manually, or through a service like iTunesGoogle Play or Podbean. As always, if you have any objections, comments or questions, please send us an email through my website or tweet us @pintswithjack.

Episode 8: “Rival Conceptions of God” (Download)

 

— Show Notes —

• My outline for this chapter is available here. There is also a C.S. Lewis Doodle.

• Matt and I drank the last bottles of Heiniken in my fridge. If you have any beer recommendations for us, please tweet @pintswithjack.

• Jack begins the chapter by dividing the population into theists, who believe in some kind of God (or gods), and atheists.

• For the majority of human history, people have believed in God or gods. Even today, although there is an increasing number of people who do not profess a particular religion, still most people believe in the supernatural. While this isn’t proof that God exists, it should hopefully give one pause for thought before entirely rejecting theism.

• In our discussion, Matt referenced a passage from C.S. Lewis where he wrote that an atheist can’t be too careful about what he reads. I said I thought this was from the Screwtape Letters. While in Chapter 1 of that book Uncle Screwtape certainly talks about restricting a person’s reading, after further thought, I think Matt was actually thinking of this line from Surprised by Joy: “A young man who wishes to remain a sound Atheist cannot be too careful of his reading”.

• The document Nostra Aetate from the Second Vatican Council speaks about the relationship between Catholicism and other world religions:

“The Catholic Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men…”
– Nostra Aetate, Paragraph #2

Christianity can take the more liberal view, recognizing elements of truth in other religions, whereas atheism must hold that they are all essentially wrong. Atheism makes the bold claim that the vast majority of people who have ever lived have been wrong on this fundamental question of reality.

• Despite being able to recognize truth in other religions, Christianity does, however, still make absolute truth claims:

“…Indeed, she [the Church] proclaims, and ever must proclaim Christ “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), in whom men may find the fullness of religious life, in whom God has reconciled all things to Himself”
– Nostra Aetate, Paragraph #2

• Matt tells the story about evangelization and the magician Penn Jillette. You can listen to the story in Penn’s own words in a video he recorded. In a talk I give on evangelization, I quote Penn regarding Christians who don’t evangelize: “How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate someone to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?”

• Jack then subdivides the theists into the pantheists and the non-pantheists.

Pantheists believe that God is beyond good and evil. They therefore can also hold to the idea that the universe basically is God. Among those who are pantheists, Jack identifies Hindus and Georg Hagel, the Prussian idealistic philosopher.

In contrast, non-pantheists, recognizing that much of the world has gone wrong, cannot identify it as “part of God”. Chief among the non-pantheists are the Jews, Christians and Muslims (which he identifies using the old-fashioned and rather politically-incorrect word, “Mohammedans”).

• Matt mentions Gnosticism, which is the belief that while the spirit is good, the world of matter is intrinsically evil.

• We briefly discuss the idea that the purpose of Christianity is not simply to turn us into nice people. Jack will address this issue directly in Book IV.

• We ended with a discussion of “The Problem of Evil”. Matt refers to Lewis’ book The Problem of Pain and says that the problem of evil presupposes God. I mentioned the book Stealing from God by Frank Turek.

• Lewis sums up the main problem with his former argument for atheism:

“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line…

…I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too- for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. Thus in the very act of trying to prove that God did not exist-in other words, that the whole of reality was senseless – I found I was forced to assume that one part of reality – namely my idea of justice – was full of sense.

Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”

• I referred to a story about the grandmother of Trent Horn’s wife, who fortuitously missed her opportunity to travel on The Titanic. After the show, I double-checked the details of this story and discovered that she didn’t miss the boat due to sickness, but because her mother wouldn’t give her permission to go. The point of the story, however, still stands. We are rarely in a good position to be able to see the good which can come out of suffering and be able to see the ripple effects through time.

The Four Loves – Chapter 2 (“Likings And Loves For The Sub-Human”)

Four Loves 2

Four Loves 2

Continuing my notes on The Four Loves, in this chapter Jack examines the likings/loves we have for things things which are not human (which he calls “subhuman”). In particular, he focuses in on love of nature and love of country. We will not deal with these in this post. Due to the length of the chapter, these will be dealt with in subsequent posts.

Notes and Quotes

1. Before we get to loves, we need to look at likes, which means we need to look at pleasures

…there is a continuity between our elementary likings for things and our loves for people. Since “the highest does not stand without the lowest”* we had better begin at the bottom, with mere likings; and, since to “like” anything means to take some sort of pleasure in it, we must begin with pleasure.

* This is a quotation from “The Imitation of Christ” by Thomas a Kempis

2. We may divide pleasures into two kinds

Now it is a very old discovery that pleasures can be divided into two classes…

(a) Need Pleasures

…those [pleasures] which would not be pleasures at all unless they were preceded by desire… An example… would be a drink of water. This is a pleasure if you are thirsty and a great one if you are very thirsty. But probably no one in the world… ever poured himself out a glass of water and drank it just for the fun of the thing.

(b) Appreciative Pleasures

…[the other kind are] those which are pleasures in their own right and need no such preparation [of desire]. An example… would be the unsought and unexpected pleasures of smell – the breath from a bean-field or a row of sweet-peas meeting you on your morning walk. You were in want of nothing, completely contented, before it; the pleasure, which may be very great, is an unsolicited, super-added gift.

3. There can be complications with dividing up pleasures in this way

(a) You can have both pleasures at the same time

If you are given a coffee or beer where you expect (and would have been satisfied with) water, then of course you get a pleasure of the first kind (allaying of thirst) and one of the second (a nice taste) at the same time.

(b) Addiction can turn pleasure from appreciative-pleasure to need-pleasure

For the temperate man an occasional glass of wine is a treat like the smell of the bean-field. But to the alcoholic…no liquor gives any pleasure except that of relief from an unbearable craving. 

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