The New Mormon Ecumenicism: Thoughts on Mormonism at the Crossroads of Philosophy and Theology: Essays in Honor of David L. Paulsen
There is no doubt that a "Mormon Moment" swept through the publishing industry in the wake of Mitt Romney's presidential ambitions. If a lasting and productive time of reflection on Mormonism's relationship to traditional and creedal Christianity comes from this moment, David Paulsen will deserve much of the credit. I have to admit my biases about his writings up front. While working on a book about a heretical option in ancient Christology that I call "heavenly flesh metaphysics," I came across several of his essays defending the notion of a corporeal God. I had been inching my way in that theological direction, but reading Paulsen was like being pulled out from a lazy beach by a rip current into new philosophical seas. It wasn't just the clarity of his prose or the carefulness of his scholarship; Paulsen writes with a generous voice that is nonetheless firm in its articulation of theological themes that have been nearly lost in the development of Western intellectual history. His ideas are like a rip current, but the destination where he wants to take you is a sea of startling splendor and serenity. He brings common theological sense to topics that are intellectually fantastic and spiritually revolutionary. I have had the pleasure of getting to know David as a colleague and brother in Christ. I have also enjoyed getting to know his Christian character. He brims with a quiet, confident joy that overflows in an easy, natural manner. There are fountains of wisdom in his work that will need to be appreciated for many years to come. Although I have never had a class with him, I am honored to consider myself one of his "untimely born" students.
In sum, this book demonstrates the lasting value of Paulsen's career. Paulsen asks his readers to put aside the categories of heresy and orthodoxy and instead to try to imagine what a church equipped with the fullest range of its ancient but still living theological ammunition might look like. Why face the secular world with anything less? If a Mormon Moment can usher in a period of Mormon Ecumenicism that will endure, then I welcome it wholeheartedly as a providential ripening of Smith's prophetic vocation. No other branch of the Christian tree is so entangled in complex and fascinating ways with the earliest and most neglected doctrines of the church, and no other branch extends so optimistically and brazenly upward as it stretches toward a cosmic horizon. May God bless David Paulsen and all of his students, past, present, and future, in their endeavors to draw together the people of God.