Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 87

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE KJV]) by familial association is one also.2 This materiality makes them more worship-worthy (not less). On the bottom side, he elevates humanity and all material things into the ontological divine genome. This is the theological move that returns human agency to its earlier place of honor that gives value to love as a mutual relationship: human beings freely accepting love— especially God’s—as a gift shared between ontological peers. (This is not to say “peers” have the same virtues or powers—only that they are free to give and receive with knowledge of their actions.) Although the title Mormon Christianity aims the book at “other” Christians, the book also teaches Mormons a great deal about their informal theology— especially clarifying (in the appendix to the book) several philosophical conundrums that tend to muddle Mormon conversations. For example, Webb (who calls his theologizing fun) explores the mutual rivalry for primacy between eternal law and radical freedom. Joseph Smith said, “God himself finds himself in the midst of spirits and . . . he saw proper to institute laws for those who were less intelligent whereby the rest could have the privilege to advance like himself.3 The term “institute” tantalizes speculation on both the nominalist side (law is subject to change, created by consensus of collaborative eternal beings—including God(s)) and the essentialist side (law exists as the uncreated, unchanging condition in which eternal beings exist— including God(s)) of this question—and allows Mormons to explore the philosophical ramifications of either side. This book is written in the tone of a conversation between candid friends that hold differences. It fortuitously coincides with a rising Mormon understanding of apostasy as less about doctrinal disagreement than about suspicion and contention—less about divergent truth claims and more about refusing to love challenging critics. Webb is not coy in his analysis and will provoke arguments over his conclusions; but there is no fear or condemnation in his tone that prevents him from listening to criticism. In sum, Webb is tired of the Greek inspired Christian mystery of why, philosophically speaking, “a Simple Perfection” (that is, not a particular being or thing) would act at all, let alone create a mess of material things to worship “It.” Instead he prefers to face the bottomless mystery of divine 2. Joseph Smith expanded explicitly on this verse, citing Jesus thus: “I do the things I saw my Father do. Before the worlds came rolling into existence I saw my Father work out his kingdom with fear and trembling, and I must do the same.” See Andrew F. Ehat and Lyndon W. Cook, comp. and ed., The Words of Joseph Smith (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center Brigham Young University, 1980), 350. 3. Ibid., 350, 360. 86