Wise Words on Wednesday: To love is to be vulnerable


“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. 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 casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”

– C.S Lewis, The Four Loves

The Eagle and Child: S1E18 – “Christian Marriage” (Part 1)



Following on from last week’s episode on the virtue of chastity, today we look at the Christian teaching on marriage with C.S. Lewis. Matt and I got rather carried away on this chapter, recording far more material than normal, so this chapter will be divided into two parts.

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Episode 18: “Christian Marriage (Part 1)” (Download)


— Show Notes —

• My outline for today’s chapter is available here. Thankfully, once again, there’s a C.S. Lewis doodle for this episode!

• The Drink-of-the-week today was sponsored by two listeners of the show, Rachel and Megan. They gave Matt a Shock Top: Ruby Fresh and I received a Fathom IPA from Ballast Point. We’re always open to other listeners buying us drinks!

• This was our Quote-of-the-week:

“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you”

– C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

• Lewis approaches the subject of marriage with some trepidation, and for two reasons:

1. Christian teaching is extremely unpopular

2. He wasn’t married himself, although he would later marry Joy Davidman. So this is a chapter concerning marriage… written by a bachelor… and being discussed by two bachelors! So, take this as you will…

• The Christian understanding of marriage is based on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 19:1-9 concerning the “one flesh” union of man and wife:

“For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’? So they are no longer two but one”

– Matthew 19:5-6

“The Christian idea of marriage is based on Christ’s words that a man and wife are to be regarded as a single organism… when He said this He was not expressing a sentiment but stating a fact-just as one is stating a fact when one says that a lock and its key are one mechanism, or that a violin and a bow are one musical instrument”

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

• It is because a husband and wife are a single organization, that fornication (sex outside of marriage) is wrong:

“…those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union. The Christian attitude does not mean that there is anything wrong about sexual pleasure, any more than about the pleasure of eating. It means that you must not isolate that pleasure and try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to try to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again”

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

This argument against separating out the different kinds of union is the same argument Christians have historically used against contraception, since it attempts to separate the procreative and unitive aspects of the marital act.

• Christianity teaches that marriage is for life. However, this is not the belief of contemporary culture. While there are differences in this teaching between the different Christian denominations concerning marriage, Christians still generally take the permanent nature of marriage much more seriously than those in the secular world:

“…they [the Christian denominations] all regard divorce as something like cutting up a living body, as a kind of surgical operation”

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

I paraphrased the quote given in Episode 3 from the encyclical Ut Unum Sint: What unites us is much greater than what divides us”.

Matt tells the story of a retreat he went on with John Eldridge, the author of popular books such as Wild At Heart. The sexual act is like gluing two pieces of paper together and then trying to separate them again. It ends messily…

• Jack explains that he doesn’t base the permanence of marriage on chastity, the virtue we discussed in the previous episode. Instead, he founds the permanence of marriage in one of the cardinal virtues which we discussed in Episode 14. He roots it in Justice since, when we get married, we promise to stay with that person in sickness and health until death.

Some people would say that they didn’t really mean the promises they made on their wedding wedding day. Who were they trying to hoodwink? God? Their partner? Their partner’s parents? God? None of these are good choices! Matt and I went on a little tangent for a while talking about Avalon, a board game entirely based around deception, rather similar to another game called Mafia.

• Lewis suggests that sometimes one or both parties in a marriage are trying to deceive society:

“They wanted the respectability that is attached to marriage without intending to pay the price”

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

In response to this, Lewis rather shockingly says that perhaps it best that those with this mindset not marry at all:

If people do not believe in permanent marriage, it is perhaps better that they should live together unmarried than that they should make vows they do not mean to keep.. one fault is not mended by adding another: unchastity is not improved by adding perjury.

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

I pushed back a bit on this idea, suggesting that help, both natural and supernatural, might come to those even with an imperfect conception of marriage.

• We then took a little bit of time to offer some qualifying statements to Lewis’ rather stark the intent to “deceive” in marriage. What Lewis is describing here is not every marriage that ends in divorce. He’s also going to flesh things out further as the chapter goes on. Finally, I brought up the issue of “raw materials” which we discussed in the episode on morality and psychoanalysis.

• Some might object to Lewis’ caricature and say that people get married when they think themselves in love. However, when they find themselves no longer in love with that person, it makes sense to end the marriage. After all, why stay married to someone whom you don’t love? In response to this, Lewis asks, if we only stay married based upon how we feel, why make the promises at all?

If love is the whole thing, then the promise can add nothing; and if it adds nothing, then it should not be made… A promise must be about things that I can do, about actions: no one can promise to go on feeling in a certain way. He might as well promise never to have a headache or always to feel hungry

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

Promises are not alien to lovers:

As Chesterton pointed out, those who are in love have a natural inclination to bind themselves by promises. Love songs all over the world are full of vows of eternal constancy. The Christian law is not forcing upon the passion of love something which is foreign to that passion’s own nature: it is demanding that lovers should take seriously something which their passion of itself impels them to do.

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

• Love is a choice, not simply a feeling. Matt explained this is terms of our relationship with God, bringing up the example of St. Teresa of Calcutta who endured a “dark night of the soul” during her final years, when she felt an absence of the feeling of God’s presence…and she yet continued with her mission regardless.

• Why might you want to keep a couple together who no longer feel the same kind of love for each other as they did in the early days? Lewis offers three practical reasons, notably focussed on the wife and children:

1. Provide a home for the children.

2. Protect the woman who will have sacrifice much

3. Protect the woman from just being dropped

• It’s not that “being in love” is a bad thing. It’s just not the best thing:

[They] like thinking in terms of good and bad, not of good, better, and best, or bad, worse and worst…What we call “being in love” is a glorious state, and, in several ways, good for us. It helps to make us generous and courageous, it opens our eyes not only to the beauty of the beloved but to all beauty, and it subordinates (especially at first) our merely animal sexuality; in that sense, love is the great conqueror of lust. No one in his senses would deny that being in love is far better than either common sensuality or cold self-centredness.

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

It’s not the best thing because feelings never least, at least in the same way or with the same intensity:

Now no feeling can be relied on to last in its full intensity, or even to last at all. Knowledge can last, principles can last, habits can last; but feelings come and go.

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

Matt complains about Millennials for a while… 🙂

• Love is seeking the good of the other person, even if it costs you something…even a lot.

Love in this second sense-love as distinct from “being in love” is not merely a feeling. It is a deep unity, maintained by the will and deliberately strengthened by habit; reinforced by (in Christian marriages) the grace which both parents ask, and receive, from God. They can have this love for each other even at those moments when they do not like each other; as you love yourself even when you do not like yourself

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

We do this for our own selves all the time, loving ourselves even when we don’t like ourselves. I quote the Catholic speaker Jackie Angel (nee Jackie Francois) who wrote about wanting to punch her husband in the face sometimes! 😉

• The feeling of “being in love” and this “willing to love” are then contrasted:

They can retain this love even when each would easily, if they allowed themselves, be “in love” with someone else… It is on this love that the engine of marriage is run: being in love was the explosion that started it.

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

I extended this analogy, contrasting the behaviour of a car engine when you first turn on the ignition to when you’re cruising on the freeway. You might also use the analogy where you contrast the explosion necessary for a spaceship to break the earth’s orbit and then the piloting of the craft once it is in space.

• Since the episode was running long and we had finished our beers, Matt and I opened his bottle of Glenfiddich 12 scotch.

• Some listeners might argue that we simply don’t know what we’re talking about when it comes to marriage. To quote Lewis, “You may quite possibly be right”! However, Lewis asks those to object to make very sure that they are objecting based on their own experiences, rather than on what they have read in novels and seen in movies.

Matt rambles on about The Notebook, a Nicholas Spark’s novel, which was made into a very popular movie. Please pray for him!

• The same feelings of love cannot last, but they can be transformed into something else beautiful:

if you go through with it, the dying away of the first thrill will be compensated for by a quieter and more lasting kind of interest. 

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

• Movies and novels often tell us that falling in love is irresistible, but Lewis doesn’t think this is really the case. We can admire good qualities in others, but he still thinks it’s largely a matter of will to choose whether or not to indulge these feelings. Having said that, there are ways to encourage this indulgence…

No doubt, if our minds are full of novels and plays and sentimental songs, and our bodies full of alcohol, we shall turn any love we feel into that kind of love

– C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Book 3, Chapter 6)

This chapter will be completed in the next episode!

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.

Read more

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. 

Read more

Friday Frivolity: Progressive Criticizes Jesus

From one of my favourite satire sites…


Mere Christianity – Book III – Chapter 9 (“Charity”)



Picking back up my notes for C.S. Lewis’ “Mere Christianity”…

Notes & Quotes

1. “Charity” has a broader meaning than its current usage.

“‘Charity’ now means simply what used to be called ‘alms’ – that is, giving to the poor. Originally it had a much wider meaning… Charity means “Love, in the Christian sense.” But love, in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people”

2. Charity is distinct from affection

“I pointed out in the chapter on Forgiveness that our love for ourselves does not mean that we like ourselves. It means that we wish our own good. In the same way Christian Love (or Charity) for our neighbours is quite a different thing from liking or affection”

(a) Affection can aid charity

“Natural liking or affection for people makes it easier to be “charitable” towards them. It is, therefore, normally a duty to encourage our affections – to “like” people as much as we can (just as it is often our duty to encourage our liking for exercise or wholesome food) – not because this liking is itself the virtue of charity, but because it is a help to it”

(b) However, affection can be an obstacle to charity

“…it is also necessary to keep a very sharp look-out for fear our liking for some one person makes us uncharitable, or even unfair, to someone else. There are even cases where our liking conflicts with our charity towards the person we like. For example, a doting mother may be tempted by natural affection to ‘spoil’ her child; that is, to gratify her own affectionate impulses at the expense of the child’s real happiness later on”

3. Feelings and actions are separate, but related

(a) Acts of charity nurture affection

“The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbour; act as if you did… When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him”

Our motivation will affect the result:

(i) Expecting Gratitude 

“If you do him a good turn, not to please God and obey the law of charity, but to show him what a fine forgiving chap you are, and to put him in your debt, and then sit down to wait for his ‘gratitude,’ you will probably be disappointed….”

(ii) Loving another “self”

“But whenever we do good to another self, just because it is a self, made (like us) by God, and desiring its own happiness as we desire ours, we shall have learned to love it a little more or, at least, to dislike it less”

(b) Acts of hate nurture hate

“This same spiritual law works terribly in the opposite direction. The Germans, perhaps, at first ill-treated the Jews because they hated them: afterwards they hated them much more because they had ill-treated them. The more cruel you are, the more you will hate; and the more you hate, the more cruel you will become-and so on in a vicious circle for ever”

3. Acts of love and hate have compound interest

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible”

4. What should we do if we don’t love God?

(a) Do it anyway

“[People] are told they ought to love God. They cannot find any such feeling in themselves. What are they to do? The answer is the same as before. Act as if you did. Do not sit trying to manufacture feelings. Ask yourself, ‘If I were sure that I loved God, what would I do?’ When you have found the answer, go and do it”

(b) God does not mainly care about feelings, but our will

“Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will. If we are trying to do His will we are obeying the commandment, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” He will give us feelings of love if He pleases. We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him”

Discussion Questions

1. What is “charity”?

2. How is charity related to and distinct from affection?

3. Why does Jack say that love and hate have “compound interest”?

4. What should we do if we don’t have feelings of love towards God? Why?

C.S. Lewis Doodle

No doodle!

Loving Jesus More

A few days ago I shared a video of St. Teresa of Calcutta and so I thought I’d share a video of one of my other favourite Saints, St. Josemaria, the founder of the Opus Dei.

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