Skip to main content

CS Lewis & Male-Female Friendship

Image result for cs lewis women
C.S. Lewis -in his well-known book, The Four Loves - discusses the four Greek words for our one English word of “love”.  These words are Storge (affection), Philia (friendship), Eros (erotic or romantic love) and Agape (unconditional love). 

As with all of Lewis’ works, it is well written and it makes distinctions in the types of love which are very helpful for any discussion on friendship, especially on male-female ones. A young woman may have a long-standing male friend with whom she feels a deep, safe Philia but little to no Eros. Likewise, she may have a new boyfriend with whom she feels the wild love of Eros but not yet much Philia. These two relationships don’t have to go into a jealous war with each other and they won’t if they are properly understood. She can have a deep love for both, just of a different sort. 

Lewis specifically says of cross-gender friendships,
“In a profession (like my own) where men and women work side by side, or in the mission field, or among authors and artists, such Friendship is common.  To be sure, what is offered as Friendship on one side may be mistaken as Eros on the other… but to say that something can be mistaken for, or turn into, something else is not to deny the difference between them.”

Greek is not a perfect language any more than English is and most relationships are a unique cocktail of some or all of the four loves. These loves are hard to find in a 100% pure form in any one relationship. All four can exist in a relationship at various times and to various degrees. We can find all four loves in a healthy marriage but as the years come and go the love will go through stages and be noted at times more by affection, other times sacrificial love and yet again friendship or romance. 

In a best friendship - the type you want to last as your days are long - there is hopefully the strong presence of three of these loves. This may be with a special someone of either gender.  You feel Storge (affection) for them: you feel at peace and at ease in their company and their nearness and touch brings you joy.  You have Philia with them: you enjoy doing things together be it discussing a book, playing sports or writing poetry. You fight life’s battles together. Hopefully you Agape them above all: you love them with a sacrificial love seeking their best even at your expense. These relationships make life worth living. A marriage can be one of these as well (ideally with the addition of Eros).

Though these Greek distinctions are imperfect, our culture tends to make few clear distinctions and tends to think of love relationships between men and women only in terms of intensity instead of type.   For example, you have probably heard the moving lines from the poet Tennyson quoted, “Tis better to have loved and lost then never to have loved at all.”  Now-a-days, when we read the intensity of these words, what type of love do we think of? Eros. Romantic love. That’s likely what comes to mind. But in the mid-19th century this was not the assumption. It was written by Tennyson for a close male friend who had died. He was writing poetry from a place of deep Philia. People accepted this as a natural expression of one close friend to another with no thought of Eros.  

Few poems written today are written to express love to a close, non-romantic friend (of either gender). Unless our culture rediscovers differentiation in types of love - instead of just intensity of love - then friendship between the genders will always break down

bkFor more, check out our book Forbidden Friendships available on Amazon in Paperback and Kindle in the USA and the UK


Popular posts from this blog

Dear Pro-Gay Christian Friend

[Response to the letter Dear Non-Affirming Christian]
Dear Pro-Gay Christian Friend,
Thank you for taking the time to write me. Sadly, it seems you misunderstand why I met with you for coffee. Please let me explain my motives by defining the words in my salutation above. Would this be too terrible a way to go about it?
Let’s start with ‘friend’ shall we? You rightly question this term as an accurate description of our relationship. For now, let's simply say I mean it as an expression of good will - but will return to it again at the end of the letter. Then there's this term, 'pro-gay'. By this, I don't mean your personal sexual urges. There have historically been – and are today – countless godly leaders in the church who have deep sexual and romantic attractions to people of the same gender. In spite of their desires, they remain celibate and teach orthodox views of gender and sexuality. In your letter, you repeatedly refer to me as a ‘non-affirming Christian’, but I …

Where I Turn Down a Gay 'Wedding' Invitation

Dear Katie,
I hope this letter finds you well. You’ve been on my mind lately as it’s been a few weeks since we’ve met up. We’re overdue to grab a coffee – I hope we can soon. I also want to thank you for thinking of me as you sent out invitations for what I know will be a big day for you and Joanna. I’ve known you since before you met her (two years ago now, is it?) and I appreciate all you’ve shared with me about how meaningful that relationship is to you. It was especially kind of you given my Christian faith. You've never directly asked me my views on gender or sex in much detail. But I think our conversations must have touched on it enough times to at least make you a bit unsure of my reaction when you sent the invitation. I have to say 'no' to your kind invitation. You know that I care for you and that I value our friendship. You know I don't reject you because you are gay. So, would it be too much to ask of you if I explain why my faith would make attendance at your…

Driscoll Returns, ‘Christian Today’ Melts.

Sometimes in the course of events, a peculiar thing happens that then triggers a response more peculiar still. This is what we now see with the return of Pastor Mark Driscoll to the church scene.
For those unfamiliar with the drama, Mark Driscoll was a church planter and Bible teacher who made a big impact in the least churched city in the USA: Seattle. Thousands professed faith in Christ through his ministry. But he left the church that he had started under dark circumstances. No, it wasn’t adultery as is so often the case with some of these big-name preachers. Rather, it was heavy-handed leadership―resulting in many spiritually crushed church members―that drove him to resign.
Now, three years later, he is leading a new church and many are downloading his sermons once again. This is not without some valid controversy―for reasons we’ll mention soon. But what is most noticeable is not his peculiar return. It is the reaction among those who lean left of classical Christian teaching: the …