Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 74

REVIEW OF MORMON CHRISTIANITY - Metzger God’s eternal-material embodiment. As he writes near the outset of the volume, “Much of this book is nothing more than an attempt to take seriously the possibility that God has a form or shape that is something like what we call a body” (5). For Webb, this perspective bears on the whole range of Mormon thought and practice. Mormon metaphysics is challenging in that it flies in the face of traditional Christian teaching, which rejects the notion that God is embodied. According to historical Christianity, God is pure immaterial spirit by nature. Mormon metaphysics appeals to Webb in many ways. In his estimation, it helps Christians address modern atheism’s belief that matter is all there is and presents Christian faith claims more cogently than key tenets of classical theism. Webb claims that “Mormonism can address directly and sympathetically the question of materialism that lies at the heart of modern atheism” (9). For the Latter-day Saints, matter is “the very stuff of the divine” (81). Against the claim that everything can be reduced to materiality—and that God and the soul as spiritual entities do not, therefore, exist—Mormonism holds to a metaphysic wherein all reality, including spirit, is material, including God and the soul. Webb believes Mormonism removes all dualisms between this world and the one to come—and the world in which we are said to have existed previously in a pre-mortal life (Mormons have a doctrine of the soul’s “preexistence” [172–174]). Webb also maintains that the Mormon belief in an embodied God gives us better grounds for understanding Jesus’s humanity than traditional Christianity, which asserts both that God is outside space and time, and that Jesus is identical in nature with the Father. “Indeed,” he argues, “no other theology has ever managed to capture the essential sameness of Jesus with us in a more striking manner” (168). A few questions come to mind, however. Does talk of God as embodied and spirituality as refined materiality really improve our response to atheism? If, contrary to Mormon belief, certain philosophical accounts of science tell us that matter is only matter, where does that leave the Mormon conception of deity? If matter is not really the “very stuff of the divine,” does a material or embodied God exist? Or is “God” just another word for matter? Moreover, how does one verify that matter is the “very stuff of the divine”— or, for that matter, that it isn’t? After all, many scientists and philosophers now acknowledge how perplexing the material world is. It calls to mind John Searle’s and Thomas Nagel’s acknowledgments of the inadequacies of 73