Suffering and Soul‐Making: Rethinking John Hick’s Theodicy

The Journal of Religion, Vol. 90, pp. 313–334

By Mark S. M. Scott

John Hick transformed the shape of thinking about theodicy in contemporary philosophical theology with his conception of the world as a “vale of soul‐making.” Suffering, he argues, enables our development as spiritually and morally mature persons. Without suffering we could not cultivate virtue and character. God designs the world, therefore, not to shield us from hardships, but to facilitate our progress toward perfection through our constant encounters with dangers, difficulties, and misfortunes. Hick grounds his defining contribution to theodicy in the Greek church fathers, particularly in Irenaeus. Most scholars have uncritically accepted Hick’s appeal to Irenaeus, resulting in the establishment of an “Irenaean‐type” of theodicy. Introductions to philosophical theology, philosophy of religion, and the problem of evil replicate his own characterization of the soul‐making approach as an “Irenaean theodicy.” In this article I problematize the deeply entrenched classification of Hick’s “soul‐making” or “person‐making” theodicy as “Irenaean” and suggest it has more affinity with Origen than with Irenaeus. Contrary to Irenaeus, Origen confronts the problem of evil with a cosmic theodicy that anticipates many of the structural features of Hick’s proposal. Moreover, I argue that when we rethink Hick’s theodicy through an Origenian lens, it opens new constructive theological trajectories for addressing the problem of evil and suffering.

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(Something interesting I found)Posted: Tuesday, June 8, 2010 by cait
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