Jason Lepojarvi on Re-Thinking Love(s)


Jason Lepojarvi

Postdoctoral Scholar in Residence, Regent College

Junior Research Fellow St. Benet’s Hall, Oxford, UK

How Many Loves? A Friendly Critique of CS Lewis’ The Four Loves

Wednesday, March 15 @ 4:00 p.m.   in Woodward (IRC) Room 5

Audio File of Jason Lepojarvi: https://ubcgcu.org/2017/02/22/c-s-lewis-scholar-ubc-march-15/



C. S. Lewis’s The Four Loves has greatly shaped Christian understanding of love. It has become common practice to speak of “four” loves. But are there really four? What is love itself in essence? Dr. Lepojärvi, a former President of the Oxford University C. S. Lewis Society, argues that the title of The Four Loves is misleading. He claims that there are not “four”, nor are they even “loves”. Charity or agape is the most misunderstood – even, or especially, among Lewis’s most devoted readers. This will provide an intriguing rethink of a long time classic.


Dr. Jason Lepojärvi is a scholar-in-residence at Regent College for the 2016-17 academic year. His current passion is a Postdoctoral research project on the theology of love, entitled Idolatry: Catholic and Protestant Perspectives. Born to a Canadian mother and a Finnish father, Jason studied theology and philosophy at the University of Helsinki, obtaining a PGCE. His master’s thesis focused on Pope John Paul II’s theology of the body and sexuality. It was published as the first introduction to the subject in Finnish. As a Visiting DPhil Candidate at Oriel College, Oxford, Jason served as the President of the Oxford University C. S. Lewis Society in 2012–13. He, his wife, and their two daughters moved to Vancouver in July 2016. Prior to this, they lived in Oxford, where Jason worked as the Junior Research Fellow in Theology at St Benet’s Hall. His doctoral thesis “God Is Love but Love Is Not God: C. S. Lewis’s Theology of Love” (2015) critically analyzed C. S. Lewis’s contribution to the debate on love (agape versus eros) that preoccupied much of twentieth century Protestant and Roman Catholic thought. It is a vital contribution to inter-religious dialogue.

Jason writes in order to capture our imagination:

“I intend to offer a definition of love itself (the genus of which the “four” loves are species), of Charity or agape in The Four Loves (it is not what we think it is), and of “Christian love” (if such a thing exists).

“Charity has undeniably been the most misunderstood of the ‘four’ loves, even or especially among his most devoted readers.”

“The word agape, too, had a more or less fixed meaning in the imagination of his contemporary Christian readership. This assumed fixed meaning, I now suspect, was actually part of the mindset Lewis wanted to correct. And it probably continues to be the default understanding of many Christians.”

“So absorbing is the description of these loves that one’s critical faculties are lulled to sleep.”

“There are not ‘four’, nor are they even ‘loves’.”

The Four Loves—a simple and memorable title, brilliant really, but at the expense of creating a false expectation.”

“One of the most peculiar facts about The Four Loves is that it never tells us what love is. If you comb its pages for a definition of love, you will leave empty-handed.”

“Lewis dissected love but never patched it back together.”

“Charity or agape in The Four Loves is not what we think it is. It is actually surprisingly practical, mundane, and even ‘secular’.”

“Strictly speaking there is no such thing as a ‘Christian love’, only a Christian praxis of love.”


To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to 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. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. The only place outside of Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.  ~C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves.