Love’s Essential Aspects and Diverse Forms – Thomas Jay Oord

The first plenary session at Biola’s CCT conference this year was given by Thomas Jay Oord. Here is an outline of his talk.

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Thomas Jay Oord

Introduction

  • Personal story: faith – atheism – faith
  • At the core of what makes sense of Christianity is love.

Love

  • Should we even attempt to define love? So many answers/possibilities
  • Can we define love?
  • Irving Singer’s series: The Nature of Love
    • Answer: Language analysis presupposes too many things
    • Answer: In Scripture, there are many normative claims about love, we should have some idea of what love means.
  • Love is?
    • Desire? Feeling? Choice? Relationships? Well-being? Somehow connected to God?
  • Definition: To Love is to act intentionally, in sympathetic/empathetic response to others (including God), to promote overall well being.

Love is to act intentionally

  • Try to do harm but end up doing well, not love… (not accidental)
  • Motives matter
  • Freedom involved
  • Seen and unseen actions

In sympathetic/empathetic response to others (including God)

  • Relationality matters
  • Emotional response involved
  • Requires divine action (inspired to love unconsciously, prevenient grace)

To promote overall well-being

  • Common good, not utilitarian
  • Affirms self-love
  • Includes (distributive) justice

Forms of Love

  • Agape: form of love that promotes overall well being when responding to activity that generates ill-being. (In spite of love)
  • Eros: ……. When appreciating or seeking to enhance beauty or value. (Because of love)
  • Philia: ….. by seeking to develop cooperation, friendship, solidarity (Alongside of love)
  • Sometimes one of these three predominates….
  • Other forms
    • Compassion (doesn’t necessitate love)
    • Romance (doesn’t necessitate love)
    • Forgiveness (doesn’t necessitate love)
    • Self sacrifice (doesn’t necessitate love)
    • Special obligations (doesn’t necessitate love)
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