International Consultation on ‘Love in Religion: The Cutting-Edge Issues’


The International Consultation on ‘Love in Religion: The Cutting-Edge Issues’ was held at Regent’s Park College, on 9-12 November 2016, with generous support from the John Templeton Foundation.

The Project’s purpose of this consultation was to bring together leading scholars from a
variety of disciplinary and religious backgrounds to identify the cutting-edge issues within the topic of love in religion (for a full list of our speakers, respondents, and the papers presented at the consultation please see below). As well as identifying the cutting-edge issues in the field, we also aimed to encourage scholars of different faiths to work together in furthering the study of love in religion and to enable them to build international, interdisciplinary and multi-faith networks. One aspect of this collaboration was to sensitise scholars to the underlying assumptions and pressing questions in others’ faith traditions.

The consultation consisted in an introductory evening session followed by two full days of presentations and discussion. During the introductory evening three members, past and present, of the Project for the Study of Love in Religion at Regent’s Park College gave overviews of trends and tensions within literature on love in religion. This helped set the framework within which discussions would take place over the next two days. During the evening’s discussion participants suggested additions to the Project’s annotated bibliography, thus broadening the input to the bibliography.

Over the course of the consultation, each speaker offered their thoughts on what the cutting-edge issues are in the field of love in religion. The format of multiple short papers allowed for extremely rich and varied approaches to the topic to be covered comfortably within the time allowed, and generated animated and wide-ranging debates, both in between papers and in the final round-table session.

Ten central questions emerged from the papers and discussions:

  1. In what sense is love cognition?
  2. Where does love fit into virtue ethics – or into the formation of character through virtues and practices?
  3. How is love (including desire) related the divine will?
  4. How can love connect with science, as different accounts of relationality?
  5. What is the relation between love and vulnerability? Can love re-imagine/ re-mythologize vulnerability, taking it out of the association with violence?
  6. How does the mystical experience of love as detachment from the world cohere with loving God through the world?
  7. Is it possible to talk about love without paying attention to the political context? Does praxis of love always imply politics?
  8. How is the human agency of loving related to the divine agency of loving?
  9. How does the embodiment of love differ between Christianity, Judaism and Islam?
  10. Can we even begin to discuss love without agreeing on a common anthropological framework first, or can we work meaningfully with a variety of anthropologies?

These questions will be central to the ongoing work of the Project for the Study of Love in Religion…watch this space!

This consultation was extremely positive for the Project, as it generated questions for further research as well as creating links between scholars and institutions. We have also received positive feedback from the participants, with one speaker commenting that it had been one of the best conferences she had ever attended. We hope that the links established through this consultation will continue to grow strong and bear fruit.

The Project is grateful to the John Templeton Foundation for its support of this consultation, to the staff at Regent’s Park College who helped the event run smoothly and extended a warm welcome to all our guests, and to all our participants who contributed their time and expertise to further the study of love in religion.

List of speakers, respondents, and papers presented:


Prof HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal of Jordan, Professor of Islamic Philosophy and Personal Envoy and Special Advisor on Religious and Cultural Affairs to H.M. King Abdullah II of Jordan: untitled paper

Prof Robert Adams, Clark Professor of Moral Philosophy and Metaphysics, Emeritus, Yale University: ‘Devotion to God, Neighbor-Love, and Detachment, in Religion’

Prof. Pamela Sue Anderson, Professor of Modern European Philosophy of Religion, University    of Oxford, and Tutorial Fellow in Philosophy, Regent’s Park College: ‘Love (Law) and Vulnerability (Violence): Two Love Commandments and one God in the (Abrahamic) Religions’

Dr Deborah Casewell, Teaching Fellow in Systematic and Philosophical Theology, Kings College London (presenting a paper by Oliver Davies, Professor of Theology, Dept. of Theology and Religious Studies, KCL): ‘Love in Religion’: The ‘Frontier Issues’

Dr Minlib Dallh, H. M. King Abdullah ibn al-Hussein II of Jordan Fellow for the Study of Love in Religion, Regent’s Park College: ‘Forgotten but not Lost: Women Mystics in Islam’ and an overview of the dominant trends in the study of love within the mystical traditions of Islam based on the interim literature review.

Dr Fiona Ellis, Reader, Heythrop College, University of London: ‘Love in religion: the question of desire’

Prof Paul S. Fiddes, Professor of Systematic Theology, University of Oxford; Principal Emeritus and Director of Research, Regent’s Park College. ‘“God is love: love is God”. A cutting-edge issue for the theology of love’

Imam Dr Musharraf Hussain Al-Azhari, Director, The Karimia Institute, Nottingham: ‘Putting the love of God into practice through the development of moral and spiritual intelligence: Actualising the transformative power of Divine love’

Prof Werner Jeanrond, Master of St Benet’s Hall, University of Oxford: ‘Love in Religion: Towards a Hermeneutics of Love’

Dr Kate Kirkpatrick, Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Hertfordshire. ‘Love in Religion Bibliography: Interim Report’, an overview of the dominant trends in the study of love within Christian theology and philosophy based on the interim literature review.

Dr Eleanor McLaughlin, Research Assistant for the ‘Love in Religion’ Project, Regent’s Park College, Oxford. ‘Tensions observed in research on Love in Religion’, based on the interim literature review.

Prof Melissa Raphael, Professor of Jewish Theology, University of Gloucestershire and Leo Baeck College, London: ‘Idoloclastic Love: Modern Jewish Theology and the One Heart of Flesh’

Dr Lydia Schumacher, Chancellor’s Fellow, School of Divinity, University of Edinburgh: Love in Religion: ‘A Virtue Epistemology’

Imam Dr Mohammad A. Shomali, Director, The International Institute for Islamic Studies, Qom, Iran and Director, The Islamic Centre of England (London). Reflections on Love in Islamic Theology and Spirituality’

Prof Nancy Snow, Director of the Institute for the Study of Human Flourishing, Oklahoma University: ‘Love in Religion’

Dr Brandon Warmke, Assistant Professor of Philosophy, Bowling Green State University: ‘Resenting Those You Love’

Professor Paul Weller, Professor in the Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations, Coventry University, and Research Fellow in Religion and Society, Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford: ‘Love in Religion: A Few Reflections and Considerations’



Dr Michael J. Murray, Senior Vice President, Programs, John Templeton Foundation

Dr Shirin Shafaie, Post-doctoral Fellow at the Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies (Oxford), and Teaching Fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London

Dr Martin Whittingham, Academic Director of the Centre for Muslim-Christian Studies, Oxford and Research Fellow, Regent’s Park College, Oxford.

Dr Nick Wood, Director of Oxford Centre for Christianity and Culture, University of Oxford



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