Review: The Nature of Love

The Nature of Love: A Theology

Author: Thomas Jay Oord

Paperback: 196 pages

Publisher: Chalice Press

ISBN: 978-0-827208-28-5

Chalice Press

Amazon

Just a few comments before I jump into the actual review:

  1. This is a pretty academic book, so if you’re looking for an easy read on a theology of love, this might not be the book to pick up first; and,
  2. My current views on traditional theologies are jaded, at best.
This is the first time that I’ve engaged a work by Thomas Jay Oord.  The first thing that struck me as I just flipped through the book was high volume of end notes (there are 474 total.)  As I read the book, I noticed this high number was due to Oord’s engagement with other theologians and speaks to what I believe to be a well researched discussion on how other theologians view love.

Why a theology of love?  Oord states, “Love is present in Christian devotional literature, worship lyrics, testimonials, and other forms of Christian experience.  But too many theologians write their formal theologies with love as an afterthought.” (1)  Oord want to take this “afterthought” of love in theology and put it at the forefront.  “If love is the center of the biblical witness and the core of Christian experience, it should be the primary criterion of theology.  Love should be the orienting concern and continual focus for speaking systematically about theology.  We should discard ideas or theories that undermine love.” (15)  But, what is love?  Oord defines love in this way, “To love is to act intentionally, in sympathetic/empathetic response to God and others, to promote overall well-being.” (17)

Before Oord lays out his theology of love, he first deals with other love theologies (chapters 2,3, and 4), stating their strengths and weaknesses (where they match up with Oord’s theology and where they don’t).  I found this engagement by Oord to be extremely helpful.

I appreciate the fact that Oord is willing to define his terms.  Not only does he define love (see above), he also defines the different kinds of love (agape, eros, philia) and states why they are important to the Christian witness.  He does so in a way that brings the different kinds of love into a Christian view (some theologians argue that agape is the only Christian love).

I really enjoyed the chapter on Open theology and the final chapter, where Oord laid out his theology of love.  The opening chapter was as expected, getting all the necessary stuff out of the way in order to dive into the topic at hand.  Chapters two and three were kind of tedious for me to read; I had to take them in short bursts or I would wear myself out [1].  What this book has done for me is open me up to a whole new way of looking at theology.  As I read the chapter on Open theology and the final chapter in which Oord lays out his theology of love, the one thing that kept popping into my mind is “I need to read more of this.”

This is my first engagement with a theology of love, therefore, I have nothing to compare it to.  That said, this book has had some effect on me, the full extent of which is still being revealed to me.  The book challenged my preconceived notions on traditional theologies and has opened me up to the possibility of other theologies.

Disclaimer:
I received this book free from SpeakEasy Blog Network. Providing me a free copy in no way guarantees a favorable review. The opinions expressed in this review are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

[1] This was my issue and I think it speaks to my ongoing issues with traditional theology.  This in no way reflects on Oord’s writing.  The only thing I can do is admit to the 800 lb gorilla in the room and move on.

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