The Uncontrolling Love of God – Lecture Notes

On 3/8/16 Thomas Jay Oord came to Fuller to give a presentation based on his new book: The Uncontrolling Love of God. The presentation was followed up with a very interesting dicussion in which participants who sympathized with Oord’s position and those who did not were both able to ask questions and press him on some issues with his proposal.

Thomas Jay Oord is a theologian, philosopher, and scholar of multidisciplinary studies who teaches at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho.

Below you can see my notes from his presentation:

The Uncontrolling Love of God:

  • Most Christians want to believe God is lovingly providential, but evil and chance make this difficult…
  • Problem of evil – asks why a powerful and loving God doesn’t prevent genuine evil
    • GE – event that makes the world worse than it might have been if some other event would have occurred instead
  • The problem of chance and randomness – asks how God can be providential if genuine chance and randomness occur
  • Christians typically address chance, evil, and other matters in the doctrine of providence: 7 models represent ways Christians think about God’s activity
    • God is omincause
    • God empowers and overpowers
    • God is voluntarily self-limited
    • God is essentially kenotic
    • God sustains as a steady state force
    • God is initial creator and current observer
    • God’s ways are not our ways
  • Is God culpable for failing to prevent evil?
    • Under Essentially Kenotic view – no, he is not because God’s loving nature is incapable of intervening
  • There is something about the servanthood of Jesus that gives us some revelation about God’s nature.
    • God expresses self-giving, other-empowering love. Most theologians say God is voluntarily kenotic.
    • Oord – God necessarily expresses self-giving, other-empowering love. This love is logically primary in God’s nature and God “cannot deny himself.”
    • Love comes logically prior to election, sovereignty, power, etc.
  • Essential Kenosis says
    • God necessarily gives freedom to all creatures complex enough to express it. Consequently God cannot withdraw, override, or fail to provide freedom to a free perpetrator of evil.
    • God necessarily gives agency and/or self-organization to simpler creatures and entities. Consequently God cannot withdraw, override, or fail to provide agency to these creatures either.
    • God’s love generates both regularities and random events in nature. God cannot interrupt law-like regularities.
    • Although creatures sometimes can use their bodies to prevent evil, God can’t b/c he is Spirit.
    • Example: mermaids cannot run marathons because leglessness is an aspect of mermaid nature. Similarly an essentially Kenotic God cannot control others, b/c uncontrolling love is an aspect of God’s nature.
  • God won’t or God can’t?
    • Wont
      • God could prevent evil, but God voluntarily wont do so.
    • Can’t
      • There is some sort of external force constraining God, so God can’t prevent evil.
    • Can’t
      • God’s love necessarily gives freedom – so God can’t prevent evil
    • Biblical Witness
      • The God of essential kenosis is not weak. God is creator, provider, even source of miracles. This God is almighty
        • Mightier than all others
        • God is the one who exerts might upon all existence
        • God is the ultimate source of might for all others
      • Miracles
        • As unusual and good events that involve God’s special action in relation to creation.
        • This special action does not require God to control others
        • Miracles do not require interrupting law-like regularities of existence
          • There is always some contribution on the part of the agent in the miracle
          • See Phil 2:13
        • Summary
          • Essential Kenosis affirms that God’s self-giving, others empowering love is logically first in God’s nature
          • Because this love comes first in God, God necessarily gives freedom, agency, and self-organization to creatures and creation
          • God’s controlling love consistency gives existence to all, making possible both chance events and evil
          • God is not culpable for failing to prevent genuine evil or evil producing randomness




Published by cwoznicki

Chris Woznicki is an Assistant Adjunct Professor of Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. He works as the regional training associate for the Los Angeles region of Young Life.

2 thoughts on “The Uncontrolling Love of God – Lecture Notes

  1. You speak of “God’s self-giving” which gives the impression you and the writer of the book believe the false teaching that Jesus would be God, instead being the son of God. It was Jesus who did not want to do his won will, which he would have done in case he is God; and gave his soul (flesh, blood and bones, something God as an eternal Spirit does not have) for the sins of the whole world.

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