The Four Loves: Friendship

The Four Loves by C. S. Lewis

Blog readers: Chi Alpha @ Stanford is engaging in our annual summer reading project. As we read through three books by C. S. Lewis, I’ll post my thoughts here (which will largely consist of excerpts I found insightful). They are all tagged summer-reading-project-2018. The schedule is online.

Now we turn to the second human love Lewis considers: philia (φιλία — friendship)

Even if you’ve gotten behind on the readings I encourage you to go through this chapter. While much has changed in the way we think about friendship nowadays (for instance, we value it more than did Lewis’s contemporaries), much has not. And the nature of friendship has changed not at all. Lewis’s insights will help you forge better friendships and be a better friend.

Three comments before we dive in:

On to the content! This is one of my favorite observations by Lewis:

In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out. By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him “to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth, if only the newcomer is qualified to become a real friend. (page 783)

In case you were wondering, Charles is Charles Williams (a novelist, poet, and editor at Oxford University Press) and Ronald is J. R. R. Tolkien (yes — that Tolkien). They along with Lewis were the central members of a literary discussion group called the Inklings. They would read their writings aloud to one another and critique each other. If you’re ever in Oxford you can visit the pub they used to meet in — The Eagle and Child.

Back to the main topic. This idea of two friends bringing things out of each other that allow me to appreciate each of them more is beautiful, and Lewis’s theological application of it is one that I have found helpful when thinking about the glory of heaven:

…the very multitude of the blessed (which no man can number) increases the fruition which each has of God. For every soul, seeing Him in her own way, doubtless communicates that unique vision to all the rest. That, says an old author, is why the Seraphim in Isaiah’s vision are crying “Holy, Holy, Holy” to one another (Isaiah VI, 3). The more we thus share the Heavenly Bread between us, the more we shall all have. (page 783)

More practically, Lewis has some thoughts on how friendships begin:

Friendship arises out of mere Companionship when two or more of the companions discover that they have in common some insight or interest or even taste which the others do not share and which, till that moment, each believed to be his own unique treasure (or burden). The typical expression of opening Friendship would be something like, “What? You too? I thought I was the only one.” (page 785)

This is one reason why college is so exhilarating. You have so many more peers than you did in high school that you can easily find people who share your interests. Your friendships in Chi Alpha especially have the potential to become so satisfying because you’ve already got your faith in common, and on top of that Stanford itself, and on top of that your experience of Chi Alpha instead of another Christian community, and if you add on top of that just one more thing like a certain sport or a specific fandom or a shared sense of humor then the odds that a significant friendship will form are quite high. 

Not everyone acquires those friendships, of course. Some respond by looking for friends. Lewis points out why looking for friends directly is often counterproductive:

That is why those pathetic people who simply “want friends” can never make any. The very condition of having Friends is that we should want something else besides Friends. Where the truthful answer to the question Do you see the same truth? would be “I see nothing and I don’t care about the truth; I only want a Friend,” no Friendship can arise— though Affection of course may. There would be nothing for the Friendship to be about; and Friendship must be about something, even if it were only an enthusiasm for dominoes or white mice. Those who have nothing can share nothing; those who are going nowhere can have no fellow-travellers. (page 786)

So if you feel lonely — pursue something you’re interested in. And then chat with those around you who are engaged in the same pursuit. Friendship will often emerge. This will prove to be especially useful advice once you graduate and have to forge friendships without the aggressive help of Stanford Res Ed.

Lewis also addresses a perennial question among college students: can guys and girls can be just friends?

When the two people who thus discover that they are on the same secret road are of different sexes, the friendship which arises between them will very easily pass—may pass in the first half-hour—into erotic love. Indeed, unless they are physically repulsive to each other or unless one or both already loves elsewhere, it is almost certain to do so sooner or later. (page 786)

Lewis is correct, and at this juncture I refer you to one of my favorite YouTube videos: Why Men and Women Can’t Be Friends

Near the end of the chapter he gives us a helpful reminder:

…we think we have chosen our peers. In reality, a few years’ difference in the dates of our births, a few more miles between certain houses, the choice of one university instead of another, posting to different regiments, the accident of a topic being raised or not raised at a first meeting—any of these chances might have kept us apart. But, for a Christian, there are, strictly speaking, no chances. A secret Master of the Ceremonies has been at work. Christ, who said to the disciples “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you,” can truly say to every group of Christian friends “You have not chosen one another but I have chosen you for one another.” (pages 801–802)

Thank God for your friends!

Next week, romantic love…

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 144

On Fridays I share articles/resources about broad cultural, societal and theological issues. Be sure to see the explanation and disclaimers at the bottom. I welcome your suggestions. If you read something fascinating please pass it my way.

Things Glen Found Interesting

  1. Extensive Data Shows Punishing Reach of Racism for Black Boys (Emily Badger, Claire Cain Miller, Adam Pearce And Kevin Quealy, NY Times): “The authors, including the Stanford economist Raj Chetty and two census researchers, Maggie R. Jones and Sonya R. Porter, tried to identify neighborhoods where poor black boys do well, and as well as whites. ‘The problem,’ Mr. Chetty said, ‘is that there are essentially no such neighborhoods in America.’ And, intriguingly, these pockets — including parts of the Maryland suburbs of Washington, and corners of Queens and the Bronx — were the places where many lower-income black children had fathers at home. Poor black boys did well in such places, whether their own fathers were present or not.”
    • The main takeaway from this research is that American society is failing black men. The sole ray of hope I saw in the article was in the paragraph above: poor black boys apparently do as well as similarly-situated poor white boys if there are black fathers nearby. It’s stunning: a dense gathering of fathers can bring health even into fatherless situations. The family is a basic building block of society and we weaken it at great risk. I’m shocked this result from the study hasn’t received more coverage.
  2. Marriage Has Become a Trophy (Andrew Cherlin, The Atlantic): “For many people, regardless of sexual orientation, a wedding is no longer the first step into adulthood that it once was, but, often, the last. It is a celebration of all that two people have already done, unlike a traditional wedding, which was a celebration of what a couple would do in the future.” The author is a sociologist at Johns Hopkins.
  3. This Preacher Would Be Happy to Share Your Bowl of Açaí (Laura Wilson, New York Times): “Pastors today who want to start a ministry for those 40 and under follow a well-traveled path. First, they lease an old theater or club. Next, they find great singers and backup musicians. A fog machine on stage is nice. A church should also have a catchy logo or catchphrase that can be stamped onto merchandise and branded — socks, knit hats, shoes and sweatshirts. (An online pop-up shop on Memorial Day sold $10,000 in merchandise its first hour, Mr. Veach said.) And lastly, churches need a money app — Zoe uses Pushpay — to make it easy for churchgoers to tithe with a swipe on their smartphones.”
    • I thought this was an odd paragraph: “‘Instagram built our church,’ he said one afternoon at his office here a block from the El Rey Theater. ‘Isn’t that fascinating?’ Mr. Veach believes he can save souls by being the hip and happy-go-lucky preacher, the one you want to share a bowl of açaí with at Backyard Bowls on Beverly Boulevard, who declines to publicly discuss politics in the Trump era because it’s hard to minister if no one wants to come to church. Jesus is supposed to be fun, right? ‘I want to be loud and dumb,’ Mr. Veach said with a wide, toothy grin. ‘That’s my goal. If we aren’t making people laugh, what are we doing? What is the point?’”
  4. Why Cloudflare Let An Extremist Stronghold Burn (Steven Johnson, Wired): “Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the internet. No one should have that power.” I shared one of the related articles back in issue 136, but didn’t realize it was the theme of the whole issue: The (Divisive, Corrosive, Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech. The other articles are worth checking out as well. Recommended by a friend.
  5. Terry Crews: How to Have, Do and Be All You Want (Tim Ferriss Podcast): this is a moving interview. Highly recommended. Worth mentioning: Terry Crews is public about his Christian faith on social media, although it does not come through in this interview. I mention that because he says some things about guilt and shame towards the end that are not quite right theologically, but are still worth thinking about.  
  6. God Made Me Black On Purpose (Tim Alberta, Politico): “A pillar of the area’s African-American community, the shop features aging walls covered in photos, news clippings and other paraphernalia. Two individuals in particular are lionized: Barack Obama, the country’s first black president; and Scott, the first black senator from the South since Reconstruction—and the only African-American ever to serve in both chambers of Congress. Both are children of single mothers, but politically, the pair have little in common: Obama, a liberal Democrat raised primarily by well-off whites in Hawaii before adopting Chicago’s impoverished South Side as his political base; Scott, a conservative Republican who grew up poor in North Charleston, and whose initial ticket to D.C. was punched by affluent voters in the state’s three-quarters-white 1st Congressional District. Still, they are members of a small fraternity—two of just 10 African-Americans ever to serve in the Senate—and both are an immeasurable source of pride for the barber shop and its customers.”
    • One detail from later in the article that stood out to me: Scott got saved in college at a Bible study. College ministry matters. Also, the way he became a Republican is actually really funny. Search the article for the phrase, “Scott knew immediately he would run; what he didn’t know was for which party.”
  7. How many hours does it take to make a friend? (Jeffrey Hall, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships):  “Taken together, results suggest that the chance of transitioning from casual friend to friend is greater than 50% after around 80–100 hr together. Results suggest that the chance of transitioning from friends to good/best friends is greater than 50% after 119 hr over 3 weeks and 219 hr over 3 months.” The author is a communications professor at the University of Kansas.

Less Serious Things Which Also Interested/Amused Glen

Things Glen Found Interesting A While Ago

Every week I’ll highlight an older link still worth your consideration. This week we have How Can I Learn To Receive – And Give – Criticism In Light Of The Cross?(Justin Taylor, Gospel Coalition): “A believer is one who identifies with all that God affirms and condemns in Christ’s crucifixion. In other words, in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s judgment of me; and in Christ’s cross I agree with God’s justification of me. Both have a radical impact on how we take and give criticism.” This is based on a longer article (4 page PDF). (first shared in volume 63)

Why Do You Send This Email?

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world. I pray this email gives you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar.

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles (although if I strongly disagree with something in the article I’ll usually mention it).

Also, remember that I’m not reporting news — I’m giving you a selection of things I found interesting. There’s a lot happening in the world that’s not making an appearance here because I haven’t found stimulating articles written about it.

If this was forwarded to you and you want to receive future emails, sign up here. You can also view the archives.

Things Glen Found Interesting, Volume 22

In the time of King David, the tribe of Issachar produced shrewd warriors “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do” (1 Chron 12:32). In a similar way, we need to become wise people whose faith interacts with the world.

To that end, on weekends (usually Fridays but last night we had alumni over for homecoming and it turned into a five hour party, so this time Saturday) I’ve been sharing articles/resources I have found helpful recently in thinking about broader cultural and societal issues (be sure to see the disclaimer at the bottom). May these give you greater insight, so that you may continue the tradition of Issachar. Past emails are archived at http://glenandpaula.com/wordpress/category/links

Without further ado, I give you the interesting things:

  1. Muslim Migrants, Meet Christian Gypsies (Jillian Melchior, Wall Street Journal): this is pretty beautiful.
  2. Moral Responsibility and Emotional Rejection of God (William Lane Craig): Craig, who we hosted on campus years ago, answers a tough question. I think it’s amusing how often he directs the reader to another one of his books, but I don’t guess he had an alternative if he wanted to keep his answer short enough to be readable.
  3. Hooking Up Is Easy To Do (Katie Van Syckle, NY Mag):  “I’ve come back to my alma mater because it sits at the crossroads of two major themes of modern-day college sex: hookup culture, which seems as rampant as I remember it, and sexual assault… Lately, researchers have been making an obvious but controversial point: that these two trend lines are in fact related — that hooking up puts students at higher risk of having nonconsensual sex, and that there are elements of this culture… that are more complicated than ‘yes means yes.’”
  4. How Friendships Change In Adulthood (Julie Beck, The Atlantic): there’s a lot in this article. I was struck by the idea that friendships are either active, dormant, or commemorative.
  5. Joel Osteen: Would Jesus Christ Be A Good President? (David Wallis, New York Observer): the title is super-click-bait. It’s a short, interesting interview with Joel Osteen, pastor of the largest church in America.
  6. Treasures On Earth: How Religion Is Redistributing The World’s Wealth (Morgan Lee, Christianity Today): misleading title, interesting data.
  7. Quick Links:

Disclaimer

Chi Alpha is not a partisan organization. To paraphrase another minister: we are not about the donkey’s agenda and we are not about the elephant’s agenda — we are about the Lamb’s agenda. Having said that, I read widely (in part because I believe we should aspire to pass the ideological Turing test and in part because I do not believe I can fairly say “I agree” or “I disagree” until I can say “I understand”) and may at times share articles that have a strong partisan bias simply because I find the article stimulating. The upshot: you should not assume I agree with everything an author says in an article I mention, much less things the author has said in other articles.