Mormon Naturalism



I think one of the great strengths of Mormonism is its naturalism; however, the term is equivocal and “naturalism” is sometimes criticized. Dictionary.com gives (among others) these definitions of “naturalism”:

Philosophy. The system of thought holding that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws.
Theology. The doctrine that all religious truths are derived from nature and natural causes and not from revelation.

It is in the context of this latter definition that, for example, “naturalistic” approaches to the Book of Mormon sometimes come under fire (typically from Mormon apologetic sources). But it seems there is a dichotomy in this definition that Mormonism rejects.

The assumption in the latter definition seems to be that God is “supernatural.” While this may be definitionally true (one of the dictionary definitions of “supernatural” is anything having to do with deity), there is a lot of baggage here. In Western religious and philosophical tradition, God has been understood to be outside or beyond the universe. But this is not the case in Mormon theology, in great part because of our denial of creation ex nihilo and our interpretation of scriptural creation accounts as pertaining to this earth only, and not to the entire universe.