Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 100

RESPONSE TO CRITICS - Webb language that he employs, his work of translation is a gift, and I am in his debt. Criticisms, when thoughtful, are more fun to respond to than praise. Richard Sherlock accuses me of abusing stipulative definitions by claiming that Mormons are Christians and by saying that matter can be whatever I want it to be. Accusing a theological opponent of being overly stipulative is like calling for a foul on every play in a friendly driveway basketball game. Every metaphysical system begins with definitions; whether a philosopher unfairly advances an argument by changing a pre-established definition to his advantage is a hard call to make, especially since it happens all the time. Adjusting definitions is just what philosophers do, just as basketball players are always pushing the boundaries of what constitutes a foul. Classical metaphysicians make so many stipulative moves that I am often left feeling as if they do not want anyone else to play with them. If a critic like me says that God’s attributes cannot all be the same because then they would be meaningless, the classical theist simply replies that they are the same by definition, and that the critic is not playing by the rules of the metaphysical game. If a critic says that apophatic theology leaves us with nothing to know about God, which is a profoundly unbiblical position, the classical theist will say that God by definition cannot be known, and that it follows from that definition of God that negative theology is the best way to know him. If the critic says that God must have a nature of some sort, the classical theist will insist that the definition of divine simplicity precludes that, and that it follows that even God’s simplicity is not God’s nature, even though it seems to be. And so on. Since I have been talking about prime matter, take the stipulative move that Thomists make regarding the problem of how prime matter can exist without inherent characteristics and yet function as something common to a number of substantial forms and thus something that can be divided into various portions. Well, let us just redefine prime matter so that when we talk about its commonality we are really talking about com