Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 75

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE strictly physicalist theories of consciousness, especially in regard to intentionality. I am still of the mind that consciousness (and with it intentionality) cannot be explained away by a materialist conception of life; there is more to life than matter. More to God There is also more to God than an embodied deity. The Mormon idea that Jesus is embodied prior to his birth in Bethlehem takes away from the uniqueness of the Incarnation. (I find unsatisfactory Webb’s defense: that “the preexistent Jesus is not embodied in the exact same way that we are” [122]). Moreover, the idea that we had a prior existence qualitatively like the prior existence of Jesus undermines his uniqueness as our Savior: Why do we need him if we could potentially save ourselves? Webb contends that “much of liberal theology trivializes the divinity of Jesus” (125). Something similar could be said of the Socratic and Platonic view that affirms humanity’s preexistence. As Søren Kierkegaard argues in Philosophical Fragments2, this view undermines the status of Jesus as Savior and Lord. The same kind of concern applies to the Mormon teaching on this subject. (It is worth noting that Origen, the third-century theologian, was condemned for his belief in the preexistence of the soul and for his claim, at one point, that throughout eternity, God has been lord over some form of material creation.) There is far more to Jesus than what a Mormon perspective offers. Although Webb contends that Mormons do not worship any human other than Jesus, I would ask, Why not? Webb claims that “Mormons honor and revere (but do not worship) the principle of the divine that resides in every human being” (44), but why would we not worship ourselves? If Jesus and his Father evolved over time, and if the same divine “principle” resides in human beings, then there is no qualitative distinction between God and man. This is very different from the Orthodox conception of divinization: Orthodox Christianity affirms the uniqueness of the Father and Son as eternally distinct from us. The Father and Son do not possess eternal embodiment, and the principle of the divine does not dwell in us now or in eternity. Rather, we participate in God through his energies—in other words, by an act of his grace, not by our own nature. 2. Søren Kierkegaard, Philosophical Fragments, ed. and trans. Howard V. Hong and Edna H. Hong (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1985), 9–22. 74