Professor John Harwood Hick (born Yorkshire, England, 1922) is a philosopher of religion and theologian. In philosophical theology, he has made contributions in the areas of theodicy, eschatology, and Christology, and in the philosophy of religion he has contributed to the areas of epistemology of religion and religious pluralism.
John Hick was born in 1922 in England to a middle class family. He developed an interest in philosophy and religion in his teens, being encouraged by his uncle, who was an author and teacher at Manchester University
. Hick initially pursued a law degree
at Hull University
, but converted to Evangelical Christianity
, and decided to change his career and enrolled to the University of Edinburgh
During his studies, he was drafted to fight in World War II. However, he objected to the war on moral grounds, and instead enrolled in the Friends' Ambulance Unit.
After the war, he returned to Edinburgh and became attracted to the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, and began to question his fundamentalism. In 1948 he completed his MA dissertation, which formed the basis of his book Faith and Knowledge. He went on to earn a D.Phil. from Oxford University in 1950 and a
D.Litt. from Edinburgh in 1975. jjj
Hick's academic positions have included Emeritus Danforth Professor of the Philosophy of Religion at the Claremont Graduate University
, California; Emeritus H.G. Wood Professor of Theology at the University of Birmingham
; and Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Research in Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Birmingham
. He has also held teaching positions at Cornell
. He is the Vice-President of the British Society for the Philosophy of Religion, and Vice-President of The World Congress of Faiths
Hick delivered the 1986-87 Gifford lectures and in 1991 was awarded the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Religion.
Robert Smid states that Hick is regularly cited as "one of the most – if not simply the most – significant philosopher of religion in the twentieth century". He is best known for his advocacy of religious pluralism
, which is radically different from the traditional Christian teachings that he held when he was younger.
Having begun his career as an evangelical
, he moved towards pluralism as a way of reconciling God’s love with the facts of cultural and religious diversity. He is primarily influenced by Immanuel Kant in this regard, who argued that human minds obscure actual reality in favor of comprehension (see Kant's theory of perception
). According to Richard Peters, for Hick, "[the] construal of the relationship of the human mind to God...is much like the relationship that Kant supposed exists between the human mind and the world".
It isn't fair to say that Hick is strictly Kantian, however. Peters notes "the divide between the 'noumenal' and 'phenomenal' realms (so far as nature is concerned) is not nearly so severe for Hick as it was for Kant". Hicks also declares that the Divine Being is what he calls 'transcategorial'. We can experience God through categories, but God Himself obscures them by his very nature.
Because of his Kantian influences, Hick further holds that religious beliefs invariably are shaped in large part by categories provided by culture. Further, he argues against Christian exclusivism
, which holds that although other religions might contain partial goodness and truth, salvation
is provided only in Jesus
Christ, and the complete truth of God is contained only in Christianity. Robert Smid
states that Hick believes that the tenets of Christianity are "no longer feasible in the present age, and must be effectively 'lowered'". Moreover, Mark Mann notes that Hick argues that there have been people throughout history "who have been examplars of the Real".
Even an inclusive Christian philosophy is invalid for Hick. He feels the many different gods of the world are simply different ways of viewing God through culturally imposed categorical thinking.
Problem of evil
About the problem of evil, he said that all evil finally leads towards a greater good. This type of theodicy
is also known as 'greater good defense'. He rejects the traditional Christian view of a fall in Adam. God is the author of pain and He sends it to humans in order to create a greater good, which otherwise could not exist. We are in this life in a vale of soulmaking and evil makes us better persons. He also believes that ultimately everyone will be saved and there will be no hell (universalism
- Faith and Knowledge, (1st ed. 1957, 2nd ed. 1966)
- Evil and the God of Love, (reissued 2007)
- Death and the Eternal Life (1st ed. 1976)
- An Interpretation of Religion (reissued 2004)
- The Metaphor of God Incarnate (2nd ed. 2005)
Footnotes and references