The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love

Works of Love
A Newsletter of  The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love

February 8, 2019

God Can't

Dear Friends:

Over the last two decades, philosopher-theologian Thomas J. Oord has risen high by lifting others with his outstanding books and workshops on the theme of spirituality and love. Not the love of chocolate or designer jeans, mind you, but the love of neighbor as self. By our Institute's unique definition, when the well-being and security of another is as real to you as your own, you love that person. Tom Oord has written and taught on love with a special pastoral concern for those who, due to the inevitable losses and sufferings of even the best lived lives, have given up on the idea that "God" is alive and real because so much underserved evil invades our lives.

Tom, sociologists Matthew T. Lee and Margaret Poloma, and myself joined together as far back as 2003 to offer a summer institute on the theme of "Works of Love" at Calvin College in Michigan. It was standing room only as we worked together for several weeks at the interface of spiritualty, unselfish love and evolutionary science. That was fifteen years ago! And about that time, Tom facilitated the Institute in its hosting a major grantees conference at Claremont University. In this picture of us all gathered at Claremont, Tom is the tall guy on the far right end of the top row, and I am the young guy sitting down three seats from the left on the bottom row. I always knew that Tom had a great philosophical mind. He was himself at the time a recent graduate of Claremont, having studied very closely with the renowned Professor John Cobb. Tom was always a natural writer who could connect with his audience like C.S. Lewis of old.

Group photo outdoors

So our Newsletter for this month, February 2019, is a tribute to Tom Oord for his bestselling new book God Can't. This would make a great gift for someone who has been navigating the struggles of life.

But I want to also pay an equally large compliment to Matt Lee, who went on to become the foremost sociologist of altruism and unselfish love in his generation. Matt founded and headed the American Sociological Association's Section on Altruism, Morality and Social Solidarity. Matt is now serving as the Director of Empirical Research of the Human Flourishing Program at the Institute for Quantitative Social Science at Harvard University. We include herein a picture of Matt and myself presenting at Cincinnati Children's Hospital more recently on the sociological roots of adolescent opioid addiction.

Stephen Post and Matt Lee

It has been a true privilege to watch Tom and Matt become the astonishing thought leaders that they are, and to know that they are also terrific role models of humility and kindness. They practice what they teach and study.

Stephen G. Post, PhD


Rethinking God and Love in a World of Hurting People

In God Can't: How to Believe in God and Love after Tragedy, Abuse, and Other Evils, Tom advocates for the view that God loves everyone perfectly.

Survivors and victims of abuse and tragedy have long wondered why a loving God doesn't prevent their pain. Many assume God has the kind of power to stop evil singlehandedly. When their suffering doesn't stop, they assume God has abandoned or is punishing them.

In God Can't, Oord wholeheartedly affirms God's love for everyone, all the time. He says God's love extends to all creatures, great and small. But Oord argues that God's love is inherently uncontrolling. Because God loves everyone and everything, God can't control anyone or anything.

The message of God Can't is reaching the hurting. Oord's book is already an Amazon Best Seller and has been ranked #1 in nine book categories. The book is written for a public rather than academic audience, and features dozens of true stories and real-life examples. To see reviews, endorsements, book trailers, and more, visit the book website:

Book cover: God Can't

Amazon          Video


"As a clinical psychologist working with people in trauma, I have often watched clients tie themselves in knots trying to make sense of horrendous and sadistic events. They try not to conclude that God somehow colluded with those who cause irreversible and senseless harm. I owe Thomas Jay Oord an enormous debt of gratitude for recasting the problem of evil in terms that are conceptually satisfying, theologically consistent, and pastorally liberating. Even in the most hellish human experiences, he shows us we can meet a God of love."

- Roger Bretherton, Principal Lecturer at the University of Lincoln (UK), Chair of the British Association of Christians in Psychology

"Victims of trauma sometimes hear theological responses that imply their suffering is somehow "God's will" - that God could have prevented it and did not, or that God directly intended it either as punishment for some wrong or in order to teach us something. With these responses, victims are further traumatized. A more careful theological reflection on the nature of the power of a God who is love can help. Oord gives us a clear and compelling alternative in this profoundly insightful and admirably concrete and accessible book."

- Anna Case-Winters, Professor of Theology, McCormick Theological Seminary

"Many have grappled with the problem of a loving God coexisting with pain and suffering in the world. But I know of no book that speaks to the issue with the depth of theological sophistication and psychological sensitivity as "God Can't." Oord doesn't just grapple with the problem, he sets out to solve it. While there will be critics who disagree, his solution will help many sufferers of trauma and tragedy hold onto their faith in the midst of pain. This book is a rare combination of depth and accessibility, truly written for the wounded. I recommend it to my students, parishioners, and therapy clients."

- Brad D. Strawn, Ph.D., Evelyn and Frank Freed Professor of the Integration of Psychology and Theology, Fuller Theological Seminary


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