Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 84

VOLUME 11 NUMBER 1 2015 A REVIEW OF MORMON CHRISTIANITY: WHAT OTHER CHRISTIANS CAN LEARN FROM THE LATTER-DAY SAINTS BY STEPHEN WEBB Charles Randall Paul∗ Stephen Webb observes that Joseph Smith affirmed that translation can enhance, not diminish, the usefulness of a text or message. Instead of using language to redirect thought back to the silent single center that needs no interpretation, the divine purpose for words seems to be seeding conversations that expand in variety and beauty ad infinitum. The God who reveals himself in words to us desires to be influenced—to grow—by hearing our words and desires. I aim in a few words “to translate” Webb’s latest book and entice many to read it. If you were to take one book o n Mormon theology written by an outsider, this should be it. Webb dives deeply into the neglected pool where Harold Bloom’s The American Religion1 invited us to swim. In the Introduction, Webb lets us know where he is taking the reader on his comparative tour of Christian Mormon theology: But what would happen . . . if we thought that matter is more like the fields of energy that animate the whole cosmos rather than incredibly small particles held together by external forces? What would happen if we thought of matter as the stuff that makes relationships possible, including our relationship to God? What would happen if we thought that matter and spirit are just different names for the same thing, depending on how you look at it? . . . Is it really bad theology to imagine that we will see God face-to-face one day? Is it really childish to think that God can actually speak as well as feel, think, and act? Is it nothing more than vanity to suppose that, since God created us in his image, our existence, including our bodies, is the best clue we have to figuring out what God is like? And here is the biggest “what if” question of all: What if Joseph Smith’s vision of God really does have something important to say to all Christians DOI: ∗ Charles Randall Paul is Founder and President of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy; 1. Harold Bloom, American Religion (New York: Chu Hartley, 2013). 83