‘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.
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.
If further funding can be secured the following will also take place:
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 Pamela Anderson (Professor of Modern European Philosophy of Religion, University of Oxford), Professor Oliver Davies (Professor of Christian Doctrine, King’s College London) and Dr Lydia Schumacher (Chancellor’s Fellow in Theology, University of Edinburgh). The Research Assistant is Dr Eleanor McLaughlin (Regent’s Park College, Oxford).
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
Pamela Sue Anderson, Co-Investigator, holds the title of Professor of Modern European Philosophy of Religion in the University of Oxford and is Fellow of Philosophy at Regent’s Park College, Oxford. Her research interests include Continental and Feminist Philosophy, with a particular emphasis on Kant, Paul Ricoeur and Michèle Le Doeuff, and she has been honoured by the University of Lund as a pioneer in feminist Philosophy of Religion. She also specializes in the ethics of love and forgiveness. Her most recent book, among many publications, is Re-Visioning Gender in Philosophy of Religion. Reason, Love and Epistemic Relatedness. In the ‘Love in Religion’ project she will focus on ethical issues of love and vulnerability.
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, 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.
Eleanor McLaughlin, Research Assistant, holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford and a master’s degree from the University of Geneva. Ellie’s research interests include disability theology, medical ethics, and the interface between loving and being limited by the Other. Her doctoral research focused on the concept of ‘unconscious Christianity’ in Dietrich Bonheoffer’s late theology, and she is the author of ‘Dietrich Bonheoffer and the death of God theologians’, in Engaging Bonhoeffer: The Impact and Influence of Bonheoffer’s Life and Thought, ed. by Matthew D. Kirkpatrick (Fortress Press, 2016). Email: email@example.com.