Thomas Jay Oord, Ph.D., has published two scholarly monographs on the theology, philosophy and science of love. The Northwest Nazarene University professor of theology and philosophy is widely recognized as an expert in research on love, altruism and compassion.
The first book, Defining Love, explores love’s philosophical and scientific dimensions. Oord offers and defends his technical definition: to love is to act intentionally, in sympathetic/empathetic response to others including God, to promote overall well-being.
“Very few scholars have taken the time to define what they mean by love,” says Oord. “Without a clear understanding, we are prone to unnecessary confusion. And a clear understanding of love can motivate us to act in loving ways.”
Love requires relationships, intentional actions and God’s influence, says Oord. And its aim is to make the lives of others better.
Defining Love (Brazos Press) presents recent research on love in the social sciences, biology, and cosmology. It reports on recent findings in the sciences, while suggesting how best to interpret that research and what future direction such research might take.
Oord’s second book, The Nature of Love (Chalice Press), offers his theology of love. It explains the role God plays in love. “Theologians have rarely taken the central idea of Christianity – God is love – as their central theological idea,” says Oord. “As a result, the message and ideas about God some Christians have preached have not sounded like good news.”
The Nature of Love takes the Bible’s ideas about love and Oord’s definition and builds them into a coherent theology. Along the way, Oord explores the helpful and unhelpful ideas past theologians have offered.
“I am most excited about the last chapter in The Nature of Love,” says Oord. “In it, I propose that Christians can affirm wholeheartedly that God loves us all, without also believing that the almighty God of creation entirely controls the universe. A loving and powerful God creates free creatures and calls them to live abundant life in Jesus Christ.”
The two books are getting favorable reviews from scholars and leaders in the church and academy. The American Academy of Religion conference in November will use the books in study sessions.