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John Hick's 'vale of soul making'

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Sophia Jones

on 24 November 2014

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Transcript of John Hick's 'vale of soul making'

"Best goods come from free will"
"Virtues through hardship"
Hick believes that freely developed virtues are infinitely better than any virtues God could have instilled in us from scratch - because we discover them on our own through trial and error rather than having them spoon fed to us.
Hick and Irenaeous both believe in the
'Universal Salvation' -
Everyone will be worthy of a place in heaven at some point.
If you are not then you will continue living under some form till you will be worthy - e.g. reincarnation.

• Hick himself recognizes that this much pain and suffering is simply not needed to bring about the perfected state of human kind .However, he responds that all extremes of evil serve a purpose in God’s plan.
• If we want less evil we must exchange that our free will.
• Hick also recognizes that evils seem to strike arbitrarily /happiness and suffering are not handed out proportionately to good and bad people. In response Hick claims that if such obvious punishing and rewarding took place it would, it would be the same as God giving us direct know ledge of right and wrong which would undermine our free will.
• Some argue that this theodicy is the most comforting and more useful for those with faith than any other theodicy. Here God is an infinitely wise being who understands that although suffering is terrible, it also has the potential to bring out something amazing goods. It might help us , as individuals to cope with our own instances of suffering. The other way of seeing it is that even if I don’t learn from this evil and suffering, someone else might .

Russian writer -epistemic distance(distance of knowledge/between human beings and God:
• Why doesn’t God answer our prayers? only God knows.
• Why doesn’t God perform miracles anymore? God must have his reasons/we just don’t know them.
• Why does God allow small children and the innocent to suffer when they have done nothing wrong? God understands why it all happens. It isn’t for us to question .It could be argued there is no epistemic distance only a distance in existence .i.e .God doesn’t exist but we do.

Soul Making II
Objection: not all suffering leads to sufferer growing morally & spiritually.
Can be replied by claiming that the suffering applies to others around the particular individual who is suffering.
Even though there seems to be suffering which leads to good, Swinburne still says that all suffering is needed for spiritual growth, even if we cannot see the benefit.
If we know that suffering was essential for spiritual growth then we could understand and accept it, this would therefore give proof of God
If this were the case we would have no need for faith or hope as we would the outcome of the suffering .
Hope and faith are therefore required to grow spiritually as we rarely understand the outcome of our suffering.
Virtues are impossible, if there's no evil to respond to - e.g. if there's no threat of danger we can't be courageous or we can't be kind and helpful if no one has needs.
We can grow and become more spiritually mature through suffering. This world is a place of 'soul-making', so therefore both moral and natural evil is necessary
God is good and he wants us to be good. In order to have a world where we can do this, it must contain evil, this makes the world compatible with a benevolent God.

Suffering and evil :
1. Useful as a means of knowledge
2. Character building
3. A predictable environment
John Hick's 'vale of soul making' theodicy
Theodicy rooted from philosophy of Iranaeus (2nd century Christian thinker).
According to Iranaeus - God created the world to be imperfect from the start. The imperfection of the world allows humans to have free will to develop from the image of God and likeness of God.
To be in the
'image of God'
= to have taken God's form, ie to be civilized and rational ect.
To be in
'God's likeness'
= be morally good + spiritually developed.
Humans having freedom gives them potential to grow into likeness of God through their own choices - humans able to make a difference to the environment.
This creates the idea that evil = necessary for good; evil allows us to grow morally and spiritually, it is a 'test' for our souls.

How does he relate to evil?
Epistemic Distance
= The distance in knowledge between God and us

He says that if we knew what God knows then we would be forced to do the right thing (No free will in this case).
Free will is important as it gives us the opportunity to do the right thing and even if we do the wrong thing it gives us the opportunity to learn from our mistakes.
This does not explain/account for the people who enjoy doing the wrong things.

Moral evil is to directly push us to mature morally.
Natural evil is to indirectly help us develop certain skills and qualities.
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