Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The aim of this dissertation is to explore the connection between love and personal knowledge and what Jesus' life and teaching reveal about the relationship between these. I want to distinguish that form of love or caring that makes relationships personal from those forms, like benevolence or compassion, where the concern is impersonal. It is commonly thought in contemporary Western culture that the autonomy necessary for mature moral agency or for the realization of one's unique personal identity is diminished by the influence of other persons. In contrast, I argue that the relational image of love, or agape, in the New Testament presents a conception of personal identity in which autonomy is found in and through intimate, personal relationships with God and others. Our identity is ultimately personal, that is, we are not fully who we are apart from being in relationships with others that are personal. A fresh examination of the New Testament image of love reveals a portrait of the self as one in which the capacities essential for personhood such as autonomy are not diminished through identification with God but instead are most fully realized. I argue that this identification involves a personal form of caring, one that is distinctly intimate, that when mutual constitutes a personal form of knowing. This personal knowledge is constituted by a particular pattern of engagement between persons

and is more than the intellectual apprehension of propositions that are true about another person. I argue that directly engaging the New Testament as a part of a philosophical project is justified, in part, because adequately describing the moral character of this love requires a narrative. Only a story or exemplar can image in depth the volitional, desiderative, and emotional qualities of this love as well as its relational character. Moreover, I argue that joy is an essential emotional and desiderative component of this love and is necessary for intimate, personal knowing. I argue that this kind of personal knowing is capable of addressing the existential problem of meaning. On this account the human hunger for meaning, or significance, is one that finds its satisfaction not in theoretical or explanatory knowledge but in intimate, personal engagement with God and, through God, with others.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.