Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 90

REVIEW OF MORMON CHRISTIANITY - Sherlock Two examples of his poorly supported claims are 1) his discussion of miracles and 2) his discussion of classical philosophy. In describing the Mormon view of miracles as mysterious “only due to the current and not inherent limitations of our knowledge,” he seems to imply that the general Christian tradition sees miracles as “supernatural intervention in an otherwise closed system” (52). The “interventionist” view of miracles can plausibly be attributed to Calvin. But the alternative he attributes to Mormons can be found directly in Aquinas (Summa Contra Gentiles Q 101). Secondly, his reading of classical philosophy is highly misleading. To think of Platonic forms as “properties” of matter is a way of thinking Plato himself would never endorse (79). Further, to hold that Descartes is a “modern form” of Platonism is highly misleading (81). As a final example, consider his claim that when you remove all the properties of an object, “you have nothing left that can be known since we know things only by how they appear to us” (79). This is wrong both as a synopsis of classical philosophy and especially as a philosophical claim. The big bang that began the universe does not “appear” to us, yet we know of it by its aftereffects in the universe. If there are multiverses, a position Webb seems attracted to, they will never appear to us. At best they will be seen as an inference to the best explanation of anomalies in string theory. Enough of disagreements, each one of which could require a book to fully develop. I wish now to highlight three core problems with the fundamental claims of the book. The first has to do with a problem that is not unique to Webb, though he does have a generous portion. This is the problem of stipulative definitions. A stipulative definition is the use of language in nonstandard and obscure ways: e.g., “I say all A’s are really B’s. Why? Because I stipulate that all A’s are really B’s.” Here is an example: (Smith is a sheep rancher, and Jones is a dairyman.) Smith: Do you see my field of all “dirty white” sheep ? Jones : You are wrong. Don’t you see the black sheep in the far corner? Smith: Jones, you just don’t understand. That black is really a form of white. I know it doesn’t seem white, and it won’t appear white 89