“The Four Loves” and Thoughts on Charity

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The sumptuous Botanical Gardens in Oxford.

The Four Loves has to be one of my favorite books by C.S. Lewis, right along with its fictional counterpart, Till We Have Faces.  It is a highly convicting read, though, and my first exposure to it this past Spring for a class in my graduate program was quite challenging for me, to tell the truth.  I am one of those affectionate sorts who can sometimes pride themselves on being able to love even the most unlovable people.  Some things that Lewis wrote in this book pierced my heart to the core.  It was a good thing for it revealed the painful truth that my love is nowhere near as unselfish as I would like to think.  Oh, how easily we deceive ourselves!

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Reason vs. Mystery in The Fox and Priest of “Till We Have Faces” (Essay by Byron Barlowe)

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Essay By Byron Barlowe

“You think the gods have sent you there? All lies of priests and poets, child . . . The god within you is the god you should obey: reason, calmness, self-discipline.”

– The Fox, Greek tutor in Till We Have Faces[1]

“Heaven forbid we should work [the garden of our human nature] in the spirit of . . . Stoics . . . We know very well that what we are hacking and pruning is big with a splendour and vitality which our rational will could never of itself have supplied. To liberate that splendour, to let it become fully what it is trying to be, to have tall trees instead of scrubby tangles, and sweet apples instead of crabs, is part of our purpose.”

– C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves[2]

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Divine Silence in the Face of Human Questioning

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“I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer.  Before your face questions die away.”[1]

In considering the reason for man’s existence, the great mathematician Blaise Pascal wrote, “the eternal silence of these infinite spaces terrifies me.”[2]  Divine silence or hiddenness was something that fascinated C.S. Lewis and it is one of the primary themes of his work, Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold.  Its main character, Orual, makes her case against the pagan gods of her culture, bringing a similar charge against this divine silence as that of the 20th century logician Bertrand Russell.[3]  “They would give no clear sign, though I begged for it,” she says.[4]  She experienced the same silence that terrified Pascal and confirmed Russell in his atheism.  Yet, Lewis would write in his poem, “The Apologist’s Evening Prayer”, “From all my thoughts, even my thoughts of Thee, / O thou fair Silence, fall, and set me free.”[5]  Surely, this Silence cannot be desirable for a Christian apologist?  Yet, for Lewis there was a silence that was neither terrifying nor challenging to his faith.  In fact, it was confirmation that God was far more personal and concrete than what can be expressed in words.  For Lewis, even Christian doctrines were a lesser speech, these being mere translations from a “language more adequate:  namely the actual incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection”[6] of Jesus Christ. Till We Have Faces offers an imaginative exploration of this divine quietude in the face of human questioning.

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