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A few questions come to mind, however. Does talk of God as embodied and spirituality as refined materiality really improve our response to atheism? If, contrary to Mormon belief, certain philosophical accounts of science tell us that matter is only matter, where does that leave the Mormon conception of deity? If matter is not really the "very stuff of the divine," does a material or embodied God exist? Or is "God" just another word for matter?

Moreover, how does one verify that matter is the "very stuff of the divine"—or, for that matter, that it isn't? After all, many scientists and philosophers now acknowledge how perplexing the material world is. It calls to mind John Searle's suspicion of materialism and his claim that science and mathematics cannot answer the question of whether consciousness can be explained by sheer material causality. I am still of the mind that consciousness (and with it intentionality) cannot be explained away by a materialist conception of life; there is more to life than matter.

More to God

There is also more to God than an embodied deity. The Mormon idea that Jesus is embodied prior to his birth in Bethlehem takes away from the utter uniqueness of the Incarnation. (I find unsatisfactory Webb's defense: that "the preexistent Jesus is not embodied in the exact same way that we are".) Moreover, the idea that we had a prior existence qualitatively like the prior existence of Jesus undermines his uniqueness as our Savior: Why do we need him if we could potentially save ourselves? Webb contends that "much of liberal theology trivializes the divinity of Jesus." Something similar could be said of the Socratic and Platonic view that affirms humanity's pre-existence. As Søren Kierkegaard argues (in Philosophical Fragments), this view undermines the status of Jesus as Savior and Lord. The same kind of concern applies to the Mormon teaching on this subject. (It is worth noting that Origen, the third-century theologian, was condemned for his belief in the pre-existence of the soul and for his claim, at one point that, throughout eternity God has been lord over some form of material creation.)

There is far more to Jesus than what a Mormon perspective offers. Although Webb contends that Mormons do not worship any human other than Jesus, I would ask: Why not? If it is the case, as Webb argues, that "Mormons honor and revere (but do not worship) the principle of the divine that resides in every human being," why would we not worship ourselves? If Jesus and his Father evolved over time, and if the same divine "principle" resides in human beings, then there is no qualitative distinction between God and man.

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