Many Christians find it hard to explain the problem of evil as it does not seem to correspond to the will of God. Many theistic philosophers have tried to reconcile reality with God’s existence. One of the latest contributions to this topic came from John Hick’s, through his soul-making theodicy.
Although Hick’s theodicy has influenced many people, it has several shortcomings. However, I do not support those that undermine Hick’s project because of these few shortcomings. Eventually, I will argue that everyone who believes in a powerful and excellent God should believe in the soul-making theodicy.
Hick explains Christian theodicy using two key traditions. He borrows the first theodicy from Augustine, which claims that God gave human beings freedom, but they abused it and thus brought evil on creation. Augustine’s theodicy also mentions that some people will get punishment as others receive salvation through Jesus Christ.
Hick opposes some of these claims including the fall of man, association between sin and evil as well as hell being a reprimand for sin. He decides to explain the problem of evil using a different approach from the work of Irenaeus. Irenaeus explains that man’s fall did not come from imperfection, but from immaturity of human beings.
He also explains that God created human beings in his picture and not in his likeness. He explains that human beings should make sure that their moral and spiritual development is perfect to have a personal relationship with the creator. He argues that evil seeks to reconcile human beings with God but not to punish people.
Applying Irenaeus’ work to the current times, Hicks says that we should consider the world as a dell of soul making. He views the purpose of the world as the making of people who are ready to share in the living of their own maker. He argues that God did not define characters of people during creation since characters develop from experience.
Hence, God formed human beings as spiritually and morally undeveloped creatures, who needed to evolve. Based on this story of human evolution, Hick argues that men must go wrong since they first came into a world full of suffering and wrong doings. Therefore, he argues that human souls need perfection.
Moral and spiritual growth can only occur through challenges and thus a paradise with no problems would never create room for these developments. Hick also recognizes Jesus Christ as the person who came to redeem sinners.
I agree with Hick that blaming evil on the fall makes little sense. If God created us in a perfect environment, then we could have no reason to sin. God gave human beings freedom that could only work in the environment where he placed them. Since men were creatures, they lacked control and their freedom could only be decided by the creator.
Alternatively, God would have placed them in an environment where they would never sin. Since God placed men on an environment where they are prone to sin, they are not wholly accountable for their wrong doings.
However, placing men in a sin free environment would not mean that human beings have desirable morals as the environment would not be favorable for them to show their other characters. Besides, human development requires situations that call for choices, and thus Hick argues that we need pain, suffering and evil to develop moral personality that can conquer evil.
After going through Hick’s work, most people wonder the possible meaning of true freedom. Hick’s responds that men can only have freedom when God stays away from them, although men need not stay far from God to act morally. He views men as morally ignorant creatures. Thus, divine awareness would make men avoid sin at all costs.
In other words, Hick argues against men getting force to behave right and supports continuous moral development. However, we cannot claim that we get coercion to do right in this situation. Rather, we would have so much wisdom about doing right that we would have no option but to do right. Hick in this situation seems to liken freedom to ignorance.
Although we accept that coercion is wrong as it makes people work in ways that are different from their will, this is not a concern here as the process involves changing the will of people, which is part of character development. We can also argue that complete awareness of God would trigger moral development among people so that they could act as perfect beings. In any case, an immoral person can have a religious incident and change to a better person.
In conclusion, Hick’s theodicy can explain the problem of evil, although it is prone to much criticism. Hick’s central argument is that human beings became placed in an imperfect world so that they can develop moral characters. Hence, everyone who believes in a powerful and excellent God should believe in the soul-making theodicy.