John Hick`s Irenaean Theodicy

To get you thinking...
• How would the
Irenaean theodicy
respond to the suffering
endured by Baby P?
Baby P’s mother and stepfather
failed to overcome the lure of
sin and as such have not
progressed towards the likeness
of God
Hearing about the suffering of
Baby P enables others to
develop essential human
characteristics such as
compassion & sympathy.
Baby Peter was tortured and brutally
murdered by his mother’s boyfriend. He
died in 2008, aged 17 months.
What problems with the Irenaean theodicy
does the suffering of baby P highlight?
Discuss in pairs and prepare to feedback.
John Hick’s
development of the
Irenaean Theodicy
Hick’s development of Irenaeus
• Read the extract from Hick’s ‘Philosophy of
Religion’ carefully and identify the 4 key points
1. Obstacles do not always result in strengthening
the theodicy
– they can be damaging / detrimental
true. Why
2. The
of soul making
to these
if it is to
be successful Discuss in
& note
down your
to the
3. Heaven
be sufficiently
to justify
magnitude of evils
suffered in this world &
4. All human beings must achieve their potential &
become “children of God”
Hick’s theodicy:
According to Hick, human existence is divided into 2 key phases:
Humans are the
culmination of the
evolutionary process –
a creature who has
evolved with the
possibility of existing
in a conscious
relationship with God.
The nature of human
existence as a
necessary pilgrimage
from moral &
spiritual immaturity
into the “likeness of
God” via responding
freely to the
challenges of this
The importance of Free Will
• FW is crucial to moral development enabling
humans to become “children of God”
• Virtues that have been formed as a result of
overcoming evils are more valuable than
those programmed into us from creation
• It is also necessary to enable the filial
relationship that God wills his creation to
enter into with him
• If we had been made robots, there could be
no such thing as genuine love (Free Will
God at an Epistemic Distance
• “In order to be a person, exercising
some measure of genuine freedom, the
creature must be brought into
existence, not in the immediate divine
presence, but at some distance from
God” (J. Hick, ‘Encountering Evil’)
• Humans must seek God through faith – they
have no innate knowledge of God.
• If God’s presence was an overwhelming
reality, humans would be much more likely
to do good, knowing God was watching their
every move.
The Natural World
• If the world was a paradise, there would be no
opportunity for soul-making as there would be
no distinction between good & evil
• Humans would therefore be unable to develop &
grow to become children of God (likeness)
• Counterfactual hypothesis shows that God’s
purpose for humanity cannot be achieved in a
world free from evil & suffering
• The natural world is a world “fit for the purpose
of soul-making”
1st part: Very Similar to Irenaeus
• Humans are born without innate
knowledge of God – they are at an
epistemic distance from Him.
• Evolved animals with the possibility of a
freely chosen, loving relationship with God
• Life is a series of obstacles via which
humans can grow to become “children of
• Evil & Suffering are part of God’s design
of the universe: “good” = fit for the
purpose of Soul Making
Irenaeus & Hick: The Key Differences
(Hick’s ideas about Afterlife are central to his theodicy – you will come back to
them in more detail in the topic Body, Soul& Personal Identity)
IRENAEUS taught that on death the individual is judged and sent to either
Heaven, Hell or Purgatory depending on the amount of progress they have
made towards the Likeness of God.
For HICK, this is unsatisfactory. As illustrated by the example of Baby P, there
are countless instances where people die without having made sufficient
progress through no fault of their own. Indeed, according to Hick, for anyone
to end up in Hell would mean the suffering they inevitably encountered in their
life is unjustified. This means the Problem of Evil has not been resolved.
For Hick, if the evil in the world is to be justified, all must eventually go to
Heaven. This is view is called UNIVERSAL SALVATION. Upon my death, God
will endlessly sustain my existence until I have become a ‘child of God’ (grown
into his Likeness).
The Case of Baby P
• How would Hick each
justify the suffering of
Baby P?
• How is this different from
Irenaeus’ version?
• Is Hick’s justification of evil
any more satisfactory than
Augustine / Irenaeus?
(explain your view)

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