Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 1 (Winter 2015) - Page 97

VOLUME 11, NUMBER 1 A JOURNAL FOR THE THEOLOGY OF CULTURE Prime matter is ghostly, but it is real enough to be the source of classical theism’s enervated state in the modern world. Classical theism, with its commitment to a simple, infinite, and immaterial God, has long been criticized for not making sense of how God is emotionally involved in the world. God is pure mind in classical theism, which suggests that we can connect to God in moments of peak experiences where consciousness transcends our bodily limitations. I have no patience for such intellectualistic biases. When theologians talk about the contemplative ascent to the divine, they are talking too dreamily (and boringly) of themselves. At the bottom of classical theism’s difficulties with God’s relatedness with the world, however, is the question of matter. Classical theism did not set out to deprive God of an emotional life. Such denials necessarily followed the definition of prime matter. If matter is pure potency, God is pure activity. God has no potency, and thus God cannot change. God, in fact, is not even pure activity, since that seems to connect God to the definition of matter, and God is not connected to anything at all. God is simple, without parts, without, even, a nature. There is nothing we can say about God other than that there is nothing we can say about God, and so on. We are left with the contemplative ascent, which is a far cry from Christ carrying the cross on the way to his crucifixion. Prime matter, in sum, is not sufficiently weighty to carry the Christian conviction that Jesus suffered, died, and was resurrected from the dead, and that our bodies will be transformed in heaven. Paul Metzger understands that this concern is the motivating force of my position, but he worries about the possibility that any Christian materialism will slide into reductive physicalism and thus be unable to account for how we (as well as God, angels, and abstract objects like mathematical propositions) are more than mere matter. Mormonism, however, does not reduce spirit to matter, at least not intentionally, and neither do I. Spirit can be thought of as “refined” matter, which is a useful metaphor that requires theoretical elaboration. Refinement is not a concept; it is an image that points to the possibility that spirit and matter are located on an ontological continuum, and that matter needs to be transformed before it can be located in a maximally spiritual state. We are indeed more than matter, but matter is also more than merely passive, inert, empty, and dead. Matter is not the opposite of spirit, since God felt right at home in it. Metzger also raises the objection that a preexistent embodied Christ would detract from the uniqueness of the Incarnation. This would be true only if spirit bodies were identical with earthly bodies. That Jesus had some kind of form prior to the Incarnation is, for me, the best way to make sense of the 96