The next issue of Sacred Tribes Journal due out later this year will focus on neglected issues of dialogue between Latter-day Saints and traditional Christians. A major facet of this issue will interact with Stephen H. Webb.Webb's forthcoming book on divine embodiment. Webb did his PhD at the University of Chicago, and he teaches in religion and philosophy at Wabash College. He has written on various topics, including Mormonism, where he came across Robert Millet and Gerald McDermott's dialogue book Claiming Christ, found the interaction and subject matter intriguing, and wrote a piece for Reviews in Religion and Theology.
As an outgrowth of this, Webb has written Jesus Christ, Eternal God: Heavenly Flesh and the Metaphysics of Matter (Oxford University Press, November 2011), where he argues that traditional Christians can learn from Mormonism regarding the notion of divine embodiment. Indeed, he goes so far as to argue for a traditional Christian notion of God's materiality, and that orthodox Christian theology needs to reflect further on this topic. Here is a description of the book provided by Webb:
If modern physics teaches us that matter is more mysterious than people used to think, could the spiritual be more material than theologians ever imagined? This book conceptualizes matter and spirit not as opposites or even contraries but as the very stuff of the eternal Jesus Christ. The result is a Christian materialism based on a new metaphysical interpretation of the incarnation. Webb provides an audacious revision of some of the deepest layers of Christian common sense with the goal of constructing a more metaphysically sound orthodoxy. Taking matter as a perfection (or predicate) of the divine requires a rethinking of the immateriality of God, the doctrine of creation out of nothing, the Chalcedonian formula of the person of Christ, and the analogical nature of religious language. It also requires a careful reconsideration of Augustine’s appropriation of the Neo-Platonic understanding of divine incorporeality as well as Origen’s rejection of anthropomorphism. Webb locates his position in contrast to evolutionary theories of emergent materialism and the popular idea that the world is God’s body. He draws on a little known theological position known as the “heavenly flesh” Christology, investigates the many misunderstandings of its origins and its relation to the Monophysite movement, and supplements it with retrievals of Duns Scotus, Caspar Scwenckfeld and Eastern Orthodox reflections on the transfiguration. Also included are discussions of classical figures like Barth and Aquinas as well as more recent theological proposals from Bruce McCormack, David Hart, and Colin Gunton. Perhaps most provocatively, the book argues that Mormonism provides the most challenging, urgent, and potentially rewarding source for metaphysical renewal today.
Francis Beckwith at Baylor University, a Roman Catholic scholar, and Charles Randall Paul of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy, a Mormon scholar, have agreed to review Webb's book and responsive and interactive essays.
In addition to these essays on Webb's thesis, this issue of the journal will include additional contributors in the hope that traditional Christians and Latter-day Saints will find the subject matter worthwhile for reflection and ongoing dialogue.