Is It Love, Is It Love You’re after?

Here is my review of Thomas Jay Oord‘s The Nature of Love: a Theology for the SpeakEasy bloggers network.

We have had a philosophical God for several centuries in the Christian West.  By this I mean we define God to the nth degree (I wanted to type that “we define the hell out of God,” but don’t want to offend…) and, in so defining God, we have tended to remove God from the biblical narrative and encase God, rather, in some frame of terms and ideas.

The Bible says a lot of things about God.  Most of the things the Bible says about God it says in story form.  Occasionally more specific claims are made clear: God is a jealous God… God is holy…, God is this or that. Typically the things that God “is” are adjectives; words used to describe aspects, attributes, or the character of God.

In on important case, though, a noun is used in the predicate rather than an adjective: “God is love.” (1 John 4:8)

My memory isn’t perfect, but I don’t recall other passages that say God is justice, wrath, power, or any other noun.

Oord contends that in understanding or discussing God, we must begin with love. We don’t, then, weigh love against justice, as many systematics have sent many pages doing. To understand God’s identity in love, Oord leads us through Philippians 2, the kenotic hymn, which describes Jesus “emptying himself.”  This emptying, Oord concludes, indentifies the nature of God’s love.

A Nature of Love develops kenotic love theology in terms of the theologians Andres Nygren, Augustine, and Clark Pinnock.  Oord shows that each fails to take love seriously enough; typically, they fail when surrendering the kenotic nature of love to philosophical definition-making.

Oord concludes with a chapter on “Essential Kenosis” in which he takes on theodicy, miracles, and eschatology; categories which he believes any robust theology must account for, and categories he recognizes will generate the most questions and challenges from readers.

I appreciate Oord’s robust account of God’s love and the progression of history and philosophy through which he leads the reader in the quest thereof.  This book is worth reading if you care about the future, health, and faithfulness of the small “c” church as we we continue into the post-Christendom world that we share.

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