Throughout history in philosophical and theological treatise, love has been discussed, examined, and many have attempted to define it. In the Western tradition since the time of Christ, understanding love has become even more complicated as it was established a the central co-mission of Christian moral action. Indeed, as Christ said to his apostles all the law hangs on the first two commands to love God, and your neighbor as yourself."
But in none of this has the concept of love ever been adequately defined. Some justification exists for this lack of particularity: can love really be defined? Would we want to define it without ambiguity, even if we could? Probably not. But we do know we ought to love. In Defining Love: A Philosophical Scientific, and Theological Engagement Thomas Oord explores the concept of love as it has been articulated throughout history and in the Western Tradition, but also unveils what science is saying about this enigmatic subject. He also bridges the gap, as it were, between the humanities and the sciences by attempting to articulate a full theology of love in light of the hard and social sciences.
The result is a stirring account of how we can understand love in a scientific age, as well as how we can see the real incontestable difference Christian love can make in an increasingly isolated and impersonal world.
Some scientific studies suggest that human beings are innately selfish and that Christian virtues like self-sacrifice are a delusion. In this intriguing volume, esteemed theologian Thomas Jay Oord interprets the scientific research and responds from a theological and philosophical standpoint, providing a state-of-the-art overview of love and altruism studies. He offers a definition of love that is scientifically, theologically, and philosophically adequate. As Oord helps readers arrive at a clearer understanding of the definition, recipients, and forms of love, he mounts a case for Christian agape and ultimately for a loving God.
Thomas Jay Oord (PhD, Claremont Graduate University) is ordained in the Church of the Nazarene. He taught for many years at Northwest Nazarene University. Oord is the author of Science of Love and the editor of The Altruism Reader.
"Thomas Jay Oord is as devoted to the theology, philosophy, science, and practice of love as anyone alive today. His writing is very accessible, reflecting his ample experience as a journalist writing thoughtfully for a wide audience. The book covers all the aspects of the new science and theology of love in a phenomenal overview of the existing literature, shaped by the author's own wonderfully constructive position. This is a splendid book that does more than any other to introduce the worlds of science and theology to a new field of integrative research and conceptualization that is giving agape a new centrality in our lives."
-Stephen G. Post,
President, Institute for Research on Unlimited Love
"Research on love has flourished across the disciplines in the past two decades. Thomas Oord has had an important role in this development and is now able to provide a sweeping, but detailed, survey of the results. He shows that science supports the best in Christian teaching, and he offers his own richly nuanced doctrine of love, involving God's love for the world and our love for God and our fellow creatures to which we are all called. This book is deeply reassuring to all who have been troubled by the challenges of science to Christian faith."--John Cobb, professor emeritus, Claremont School of Theology
"Tom Oord has been on the cutting edge of interdisciplinary research on love for many years. This book represents his most comprehensive contribution to date. Newcomers to the science and religion dialogue on altruism and related themes will appreciate the clarity of his definitions and his overview of the issues. Longtime participants in this dialogue will appreciate the creativity and courage of his controversial proposal for a 'theology of love' informed by the social and natural sciences. Sure to generate discussion in both the church and the academy!"
-F. LeRon Shults,
Professor of Theology and Philosophy, University of Agder, Norway
"By focusing on the theme of love, Thomas Oord's impressive book provides a refreshing example of how to connect the insights of science to the visions of religion and theology. This informed and readable work deserves a wide readership. Strongly recommended."
-John F. Haught,
Senior Fellow, Woodstock Theological Center, Georgetown University
"This book is a thorough-going and wide-ranging effort to place 'love' on the world map by examining cosmology, biology, psychology, social science, interpersonal love, and Christian agape. Oord knows the issues and the sources and is a sure-footed guide in dealing with them. Who are we, and what ought we to do? Oord's vision is that we are placed on Earth with inexhaustible opportunities to love. That makes an examined life worth living. Indeed, that makes life divine."
-Holmes Rolston III,
University Distinguished Professor, Colorado State University
"In this extraordinary meditation on the forcefield of love, science, and theology, Tom Oord cuts through sentimentalism, reductionism, and dogmatism to start a fresh kind of conversation. The text presents some of the most exciting edges of contemporary science, bringing them into revelatory interchange with the most important questions of theology. But it also risks real answers. Consistently readable and generously teachable, Defining Love brings a strong and surprising voice to current questions about divine power, the gift, creation, and cosmology."
-Catherine Keller, Professor of Theology
The Theological School of Drew University
"If love is God's primary attribute, why do theologians shun the topic? Perhaps they're embarrassed that discussions of love are often superficial and simplistic, more emotional than reasonable. Not so here. Tom Oord's rigorous survey of the scientific data and philosophical resources breathes new life into the study of theology's central topic. A must read."
Ingraham Professor, Claremont School of Theology