Source:Webb:BYUS:2011:16:Joseph Smith more coherent than Augustine on matter and the divine

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Augustine's views about matter are perhaps less coherent than Joseph Smith's

Augustine's views about matter are perhaps less coherent than Joseph Smith's

Non-LDS Christian Stephen H. Webb wrote:[1]

Augustine’s position is actually not as sound as it first appears. If God makes the world out of himself, does it necessarily have all the attributes of the divine? Does it necessarily follow that matter is a substance that equals God’s own power? The problem with Augustine’s position (and the whole of classical theism on this issue) is that he can imagine no middle ground between creating and shaping. From the perspective of classical theism, if God does not create matter out of nothing, then God merely shapes (or adds form to) the matter that is already there, and that means that God is neither infinite nor omnipotent. If matter is too close to God, then God must not have complete mastery over it. Likewise, if matter comes from God, then God must be tainted by it, which means that God shares in its corruptibility. Either way, God would not be God, or at least, God would not be infinite. But what if there is a middle ground? What if matter is one of God’s perfections without the world being divine? If the perfection of matter is already an expression of who God is (indeed, if it is the substance of the Father’s relation to the Son), then matter can come from God without compromising God’s nature. Moreover, God would be neither master nor victim of matter’s nature, since God’s relation to matter would be nothing more than a reiteration of the Father’s relation to the Son.[2]:92–93


  1. "Webb is Professor of Philosophy and Religion at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana. He is a graduate of Wabash College and earned his PhD at the University of Chicago before returning to his alma mater to teach. Born in 1961 he grew up at Englewood Christian Church, an evangelical church. He joined the Disciples of Christ during He was briefly a Lutheran, and on Easter Sunday, 2007, he officially came into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church."
  2. Stephen H. Webb, "Godbodied: The Matter of the Latter-day Saints (reprint from his book Jesus Christ, Eternal God: Heavenly Flesh and the Metaphysics of Matter (Oxford University Press, 2012)," Brigham Young University Studies 50 no. 3 (2011).