Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 79

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE volume, Webb explored the possibility of God and divine material embodiment through a consideration of elements in the history of Christian thought, in particular “heavenly flesh” Christology. In Mormon Christianity, Webb continues to explore Mormon materialist metaphysics but more broadly than in his previous volume on the topic. Classical theism argues for a dualistic philosophical perspective regarding metaphysics and matter. In this view, there is the material and the immaterial. God is understood as an immaterial being who brought all matter into existence, who continues to sustain his material creation, and who is independent and radically other and unique by comparison with the material world. The Mormon view is very different. Webb describes this succinctly when he says, “Most fundamentally speaking, spirit and matter are not opposites at all. Spirit and matter complement each other and are not ultimately different in substance.”4 He further states that, “if all of [Mormonism’s ] beliefs can be traced back to a single philosophical root, this would be it.”5 In describing the origins of this “spirit as matter” metaphysic, Webb explains that Joseph Smith’s “experience of God, not speculations about nature or analyses of matter, led him to his ideas about spirit and matter.”6 Smith’s “First Vision,” wherein he claimed that God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him, is said to be the experience that provided the young prophet with new insights. It would result in a radically different metaphysic, as well as a theology that conceives of God as having a physical body.7 Esotericism and Metaphysical Hermeneutics I disagree with Webb’s idea that Smith’s visionary experiences led him to develop his materialist metaphysic. Such experiences were common in America in Smith’s time and location, and in particular, many of the 4. Webb, Mormon Christianity, 34. 5. Ibid., 84. 6. Ibid., 35. 7. Ibid., 5, 9. 78