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.
Read the article.
(Something interesting I found)Posted: Tuesday, June 8, 2010