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Notes on Hick's "Evil and Theodicy"

Notes on Hick’s “Soul-Making Theodicy”

Preliminaries:

Theodicy vs. Defense:
Defense: An attempt to show what God’s reason could be – as a bare logical possibility --for allowing evil to exist.

-the goal of a defense is a modest but important one: to show that God’s existence is logically compatible with the existence of evil.

-Alvin Plantinga offered a defense.

Theodicy: An attempt to explain what God’s reason actually is for allowing evil to exist.

-the goal of a theodicy is more ambitious and important: to provide a plausible explanation as to why God actually permits evil that in our world.

-John Hick is offering a theodicy.

Two major strands of theodicy:
Augustinian theodicies involve the notion of a “fall” of God’s creatures from a state of moral perfection, which in turn leads to the “disharmony of nature” (302).

Iranean theodicies don’t involve – or at least don’t essentially involve -- the notion of a fall; instead, they involve “the creation of humankind through the evolutionary process as an immature creature living in a challenging and therefore person-making world.” (302)

-Hick is offering an Iranean theodicy:

Five main components of Hick’s theodicy:

(i) Epistemic distance and the great good of freely choosing to know and love God
-the world is religiously ambiguous, in order to give us the freedom and autonomy to freely choose to know and love God if we wish.
-it’s logically impossible to freely choose this without epistemic distance

(ii) Original moral imperfection and the great goods of moral development and freely embracing virtue
-Explains the origin of evil, as well as moral evil in general
-Explains moral evil
-Explains why there is natural evil
-it’s logically impossible to get the above-mentioned goods without original moral imperfection

(iii) A universe that results in massive amounts of pain and suffering

-intellectual development can only occur as the result of responding to challenges
-morally significant actions toward others can only occur in a world in which pain and misery are possible

(iv) Continuing moral development in an afterlife

(v) The Universal salvation of humankind

Objection: This Iranean theodicy might plausibly account for the fact that there is some of the natural and moral evils in the world. But it doesn’t account for the sheer quantity, intensity, and indiscriminatory nature of evil.

Replies:
-Once we see what a great good God’s plan is of bringing all persons to a state of moral, intellectual, and spiritual perfection, and that a world of free creatures is necessary to achieve it, then we will see that the quantity of evil is justifiable. For if God fiddled with someone’s free will in any given circumstance, then to that extent he has prevented or delayed bringing about this plan. And it is inconsistent to want that plan to be achieved, and yet want God to interfere with free will when it affects you.

-the intensity of evil is relative: judging one kind of evil as “most intense” is relative to which evils there are in the world. If God removed the most intense evil that exists, then the second-worst would now be the worst, at which point we would find that evil unbearably intense, and thus in need of removal; and if He removed that one, then the third-worst would now be the worst. Thus, if we kept asking God why such intense kinds of pains and sufferings that exist do exist, and He kept eliminating them, then eventually there would be no evil, and God’s plan would be thwarted.

-the indiscriminatory nature of evil events is necessary to achieve God’s purposes. For if it only occurred when people acted immorally, then this fact would become evident to all. But if so, then it would become impossible to do what is right for the right reasons (we’d all be doing good just out of an immature and unhealthy kind of self-interest)

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