Project for the Study of Love in Religion

loveinreligion.org

 

A Project of the Oxford Centre for Christianity and Culture.

 

‘You shall love the Lord your God…and you shall love your neighbour as yourself’. This double love command of Jesus Christ, as recorded in the Gospels, is the inspiration for a research project running in collaboration with the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Amman, Jordan. Drawing on different religious traditions, while always in conversation with Christian faith, the aim is to explore the research question: what grounds are there for thinking that love, in religious consciousness and practice today, is the ultimate reality of the universe? The underlying conviction is that a study of the phenomenon of love is, finally, discovery of the nature and activity of God in the world.

 

ABOUT THE PROJECT

 

At the centre of the project is the ‘H.M. King Abdullah ibn al-Hussein II of Jordan Fellowship for the Study of Love in Religion’, which will be occupied in five-yearly periods alternately by a Muslim scholar and a Christian scholar. The first appointment was made in January 2016 (more below). The post includes responsibilities for research and teaching in Oxford, and may be occupied by a scholar in any area of Christian theology, Religious Studies or Islamic Studies which involves the study of love. The Fellowship is held as a College-only appointment, and the project is run and managed by the College, but the Faculty of Theology and Religion of the University of Oxford is fully supportive of the project and has a representative on the Advisory Board for the Fellowship.

 

The project will widen the scope of the research beyond the key religions of Christianity and Islam, to include other world religions. A third Abrahamic religion, Judaism, will be included fully in the initial three-year period, and more attention will be given to Hinduism and Buddhism in the following phase. Christian faith will always be a partner in the process, and the aim is not to achieve merely generalized statements about religion but for scholars in each religion to explore and present what is distinctive about their approach to the research question from the perspective of their tradition.

 

The project is being run in collaboration with one of the main funders of the Fellowship, The Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought in Amman, Jordan. The founder of this Institute, HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan, author of the world-renowned A Common Word (an appeal to world Christian leaders on the theme of love), is a significant personal collaborator.

 

ACTIVITIES AND OUTPUTS

 

  • Research into the phenomenon of love in religion by the Fellow, by the Director of the project and by the Co-Investigators, leading to scholarly publications.
  • Lecture courses on the nature of love in religion within the Faculty of Theology and Religion in the University.
  • Encouragement for graduate students to explore some aspect of love in religion in Masters’ dissertations and Doctoral theses.
  • Ethnographic/empirical research in selected religious communities in and near Oxford.
  • The writing of a text-book for use in undergraduate courses (already in preparation).
  • Knowledge-transfer of research into the wider public outside the academy, through already-existing relationships with local Christian congregations and Muslim imams.
  • Knowledge transfer through the performing and visual arts. For example, a Christian liturgy is being prepared based on Shakespeare’s play Midsummer Night’s Dream, under the theme of ‘Seeing with the Eyes of Love’, to be performed at the World Shakespeare Congress in Stratford-Upon-Avon in 2016.
  • One colloquium each year in Oxford with invited scholars, drawing especially on resources of the Independent Study Centres connected with the University of Oxford for Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism.

 

If further funding can be secured the following will also take place:

 

  • Colloquia with scholars in international centres of Higher Education with which Regent’s Park College already has research relations. In the first 3 years it is planned to hold colloquia in Amman, Jordan; Izmir, Turkey; Qom, Iran and Jerusalem. The next phase of the programme will involve centres in Beijing and Varanasi, involving Buddhist and Hindu scholars.
  • The creation of an on-line course for wider learning in the study of love in religion, in partnership with the Continuing Education Department of the University.
  • The establishing of one-year Research Fellowships for young scholars attached to three of the above international centres, and the involvement of these fellowship-holders in the Oxford colloquia, giving nine young scholars the opportunity for exposure to the Oxford academic scene. At least one year of research in each place will be devoted to an ethnographic study.
  • Two larger, international conferences in Oxford.
  • A website collecting the results of research and colloquia with open access to materials.

 

PEOPLE

 

The project is the larger environment for the post, and involves the post-holder and others. Its Director and Principal Investigator is Professor Paul S. Fiddes, Professor of Systematic Theology in the University of Oxford (Faculty of Theology and Religion). His research converges with that of four Co-Investigators: Dr Minlib Dallh (the Fellow in the Study of Religion at Regent’s Park College, Oxford), Professor Oliver Davies (Professor of Christian Doctrine, King’s College London) and Dr Lydia Schumacher (Chancellor’s Fellow in Theology, University of Edinburgh).

 

Photo © Clive Boursnell For further information please contact Clive Boursnell tel: +44 (0)7831 64 72 44 email: photo@cliveb.ndo.co.uk

Paul S. Fiddes holds the title of Professor of Systematic Theology in the Faculty of Theology and Religion in the University of Oxford. He is Director of Research at Regent’s Park College, Oxford, where he was Principal from 1989 to 2007.  Research and teaching interests include:  modern systematic theology; theology and literature; the impact of late-modern continental philosophy on literary theory and theology; theology of culture. He is the author or editor of more than 25 books, and the author of more than 115 articles and book chapters. A recent book is Seeing the World and Knowing God. Hebrew Wisdom and Christian Doctrine in a Late-Modern Context (Oxford University Press, 2013).  For a full list of publications please click here.  In the ‘Love in Religion’ project he is linking the theological tradition of wisdom with the phenomenon of love, as well as offering theological reflection on the part played by the creative arts in the ‘rhythms’ of life which engage in the ultimate Reality which is love. Email: paul.fiddes@regents.ox.ac.uk.

 

Minlib Dallh

Minlib Dallh, O.P., Co-Investigator, is the H.M. King Abdullah II Ibn Al Hussein of Jordan Fellow for the Study of Love in Religion at Regent’s Park College, Oxford. Following a doctorate at the University of Exeter in Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations, he has been Visiting Assistant Professor at Hartford Seminary, Loyola University New Orleans, Rosemont College and Candler Divinity School. His research focuses on comparative mysticism in Islam and Christianity, with special interest in love-mysticism in Sufism and the contribution of women mystics in both religious traditions. His book, A Sufi and a Friar. A Mystical Encounter of Two Men of God in the Abode of Mysticism (a study of the Sufi ‘Abdullah Anṣārī of Herat and the French Dominican friar, Serge de L. de Beaureceuil) will be published by Suny Press in 2017. In the ‘Love in Religion’ project he will focus on the mysticism of love in its mediaeval and modern forms.

 

Lydia Schumacher

Lydia Schumacher, Co-Investigator, holds a Chancellor’s Fellowship in Theology at the University of Edinburgh School of Divinity. Previously, she was British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty of Theology and Religion at Oxford University and at Oriel College (2011-14). Author of three monographs and  co-editor of the three-volume Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine, she has most recently published Rationality as Virtue, and Theological Philosophy (Ashgate). With a research specialization in virtue epistemology (rooted in Franciscan and Dominican traditions of thought), in the ‘Love in Religion’ project she is exploring the connection between love and knowledge from the perspective of analytic theology.

 

Oliver Davies

Oliver Davies, Co-Investigator, is Professor of Christian Doctrine at King’s College London.  He has made substantial research contributions to the study of medieval mysticism (especially Meister Eckhart), early medieval Welsh and Irish spirituality, and contemporary Systematic Theology. Author of eight monographs, editor of other volumes and author of many scholarly articles, he is founder and leader of the influential ‘Transformational Theology’ movement. His most recent publication is Theology of Transformation: Faith, Freedom and the Christian Act (Oxford University Press, 2013). He is working at present with colleagues in the Department of Psychology and Psychiatry, University of Cologne, to develop the theological implications of the neuroscience of social interaction and social cognition. In the ‘Love in Religion’ project he finds the ‘love’ traditions of Christianity and Islam to be the ideal focus for exploring the interdisciplinary resources of  the ‘neuro-anthropological’ method in evolutionary biology.