To be perfectly honest I haven’t given Mormonism much thought lately. I did present at the Salt Lake City Sunstone Symposium last August for the second time and enjoyed that, and the thought that I put into that paper was the last time I gave the religion serious thought.
I have been giving the concept of God a lot of attention however. As I have been learning more about philosophy I have been taken aback by the sheer force of many of the arguments for God’s existence. I was of the mindset that modernity, culminating with Kant, had done away with Aquinas’ arguments. I was wrong, they are alive and well, thriving even.
My current favorite is the various forms of the Leibnizian cosmological argument (argument from contingency). There are several ways to approach this one, but it goes something like this:
There is a possible explanation for every contingent thing. [a contingent thing is one which could have conceivably not existed]
The aggregate of all contingent things is a contingent thing, call it C.
There is a possible explanation for C. [via the premise]
Any contingent thing posed as an explanation for C will be a member of C [by definition].
Therefore, there possibly exists some necessary thing to explain C. [a necessary thing is one which must exist in every possible world]
If it is to stand in an explanatory relationship with C it will be a concrete thing. [a concrete thing as opposed to an abstract, can effect things in the world]
Therefore, a necessary concrete object exists [via S5, a rule in modal logic which states that a possible necessary is necessary]
There is a stage 2 of this argument which explicates what sorts of properties this necessary concrete object must have analytically. Stage 2 ends up arguing for an agent with unbounded power and knowledge. There are of course rejoinders to consider, but in general if one accepts some form of the Principle of Sufficient Reason and possibly mereological universalism the argument seems to run.
I will pose this question, does Mormonism fulfill the requirements of these sorts of arguments? Historically obviously not, philosophy has been looked upon with suspicion and the corporal, finite nature of God the Father embraced as a positive distinctive element in the religion. But is there some room in Mormonism to integrate into it the insights that these kinds of arguments? After all, intelligence is the glory of God.
I have no immediate answers to this. It is clear that like any religious group Mormonism is changing, and as a young one is still defining itself. My hope is that as a group Mormons embrace all that reason reveals. Even if Mormonism as a theological system rejects what natural theology has to offer by engaging it it can only grow richer and deeper for its adherents.