When I first launched the Review of Books on the Book of Mormon (eventually The FARMS Review) under the auspices of the late and much lamented Foundation for Ancient Research and Mormon Studies, or FARMS — which eventually became the Neal A. Maxwell Institute for Religious Scholarship and then altogether ceased to exist — we (I) devoted considerable attention to works that were critical of the Restoration and of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints from an Evangelical Protestant perspective.
Over the years, though, my interest in Evangelical criticisms waned. They became repetitive (when they weren’t simply entertainingly mad, as in the case of people like Loftes Tryk, Bill Schnoebelen, Ed Decker, and their ilk) and boring.
Much more interesting to me, now, is the challenge to Latter-day Saint belief, and to Christian or theistic belief more generally, of naturalistic atheism.
Here, from Douglas Axe, Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life is Designed (New York: HarperOne, 2016), is one element of that challenge. He’s defining the term materialism:
The meaning here isn’t the common one (an obsession with flashy cars or expensive clothes) but rather the view that matter — the stuff of physics — underlies everything real. Even if they don’t use this term, atheists tend to subscribe to the materialist view of reality, believing God to be a product of the human imagination, which they believe to be a product of material evolution. Theists, on the other hand, believe the reverse — that the material universe was brought into existence by God, who is not material. Both views accept the reality of the physical world, but one sees this as the only reality whereas the other doesn’t. (6-7)
Dr. Axe is a molecular biologist trained at the University of California at Berkeley and at the California Institute of Technology who subsequently worked as a postdoctoral fellow and then as a research scientist at the University of Cambridge, in England.
Plainly, his theology isn’t precisely mine. Latter-day Saints have a far more expansive view of the material world — including in it not only spirits but God himself, but excluding belief in creation ex nihilo — than does Dr. Axe’s Protestant doctrine. But we concur that the ordinary matter studied by physics and in chemistry laboratories doesn’t exhaust reality, we reject materialistic reductionism, and we agree that intelligence or mind (very much including a divine mind or minds) is fundamental to the universe.
Just in case you’re planning to drive around the American West this summer, or at least around Utah — or even if you’re not — here’s an interesting little piece:
My latest “Defending the Faith” column — now, alas, reduced from weekly to bi-weekly — was published yesterday by the Deseret News, and I’m late in mentioning it here:
Two new Old Testament KnoWhys have gone up on the Interpreter Foundation website:
With regard to the second of these, I’m actually moved by what it says about the Church today, and even, in a way, by what it says about the Interpreter Foundation: It’s a video and photo essay about a Latter-day Saint patriarch in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the first reader/viewer response to it comes, in Spanish, from a Latter-day Saint in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Nice, that.
I’m also tardy in mentioning this very nice article in Meridian, by Interpreter’s own Steve Densley:
And, new just today, in Interpreter: A Journal of Mormon Scripture: