INTRO TO PHIL HOME
|Philosophy 102: Introduction to
Hick, "God Can Allow Some Evil"
1. According to Hick, what is the most powerful positive objection to
the belief in God?
2. On what ground does he refute the Christian Science solution to the
problem of evil?
3. How does he refute the Personalist school solution? The Augustinian
4. What objections have been raised to the traditional Christian
position concerning moral evil? How does Hick reply to these?
5. What objection has been raised to the traditional Christian position
concerning nonmoral evil? What is Hick's reply?
6. What is Hick ultimate answer to the problem of evil?
|1. According to Hick
what is the most powerful positive objection to the belief in God?
- The problem of evil is most often posed as an argument like this one:
|I f God is perfectly good, then He must want to prevent
If God is all-powerful, then He can prevent evil.
Therefore, God is either not perfectly good or God is not all-powerful, or both.
The problem as it stands appears to be a valid argument. Since we want to reject the
conclusion, there must be at least one false premiss (of course, there might be more than
one false premiss).
- Note in the following questions how each proposed solution attacks one of the premisses.
A chart of the objections and counterobjections can be portrayed in a chart of the argument.
|2. On what ground does he
refute the Christian Science solution to the problem of evil?
The Christian Science solution is to reject the premiss that evil exists. What could
this position mean? Possibly, from our limited perspective and intelligence we cannot see
how the parts of the universe fit together for the total harmony of the good. "We can
see the forest for the trees."
Hick's response to the Christian Science position is that this belief contradicts Biblical
Faith--a point of view that he simply assumes to be true without argument. On this
supposition, then, on Hick's view, some other premiss must be false.
|3. How does he refute the
Personalist school solution? The Augustinian solution?
- The personalist School denies the truth of the premiss that God is omnipotent. God is
thought to be the most powerful being in the universe, but He is not all-powerful.
- To say that God is all-powerful is tantamount to committing heresy, on this view,
because I have some power. If I had the power to do something wrong, we would not want to
say God is responsible; we would want to say I did it. So some power in the universe is
John Stuart Mill (who did so much in the 19th century for women's right) has
objected to this view along the following lines
|"In sober truth, nearly all the things which men
are hanged or imprisoned for doing to one another, are Nature's every day performances.
Killing, the most criminal act recognized by human nature, Nature does once to every being
that lives; and in a large proportion of cases, after protracted tortures such as the
greatest monsters whom we read of ever purposely inflicted on their fellow creatures...
All this, Nature does with the most supercilious disregard both of mercy and of justice,
emptying her shafts upon the best and noblest indifferently with the meanest and worst;
upon those who are engaged in the highest and worthiest enterprises, and often as the
direct consequence of the noblest acts...
I will call no being good, who is not what I
mean when I apply that epithet to my fellow creatures; and if such a being can sentence me
to hell for not so calling him, to hell I will go."
- So Mill concludes that God does the best job that can be done in an intractable world.
- The Augustinian Solution attacks the premisses which hold that there is evil to be
prevented. Hence, there is an existential fallacy involving all the premisses in the
dilemma. Augustine sees evil as the absence of goodness or the decay of good; evil is
nothing in and of itself. Like temperature or sunlight exist, but the absence of them,
cold and shadow, do not exist.
- Hick believes that Augustine's view of evil as the decay of good merely raises in a
different form the question of the origin of evil. What is evil? It is important to
- moral evil which is dependent upon persons and their free will (e.g.,
poverty, oppression, persecution, war, and injustice).
nonmoral evil which is dependent upon nature
(e.g., earthquake, hurricane, storm, flood, drought, and blight).
- Note that Hick points out that often it is difficult to distinguish the two kinds of
evil, as in psychosomatic illness where injustice leads to sickness, and so on.
|4. What objections have
been raised to the traditional Christian position concerning moral evil? What is Hick's
The main objection is that God could have created wholly good persons.
Hick's response is that the idea of a person who can be infallibly guaranteed always to
act rightly is a self-contradictory since to be a person is to be a finite center of
freedom. That is, the belief that God could create wholly good persons is a meaningless
conjunction of words, a logical impossibility.
Mackie argues that we could still be free and God could create the world
in such a way that we "happen" always to make the right decision. The idea is
that God could have the world predestined, but from our
point of view we freely decide--the two events simply coincide.
God might see the universe-process without time. On the lower dimension,
think about your path to school as you walk it in time. On the higher dimension think
about your path from the point of view of a map. In you mind's eye you can see the whole
path in "no time." So, likewise, God's view of the universe is outside time.
Hick's response to Mackie is that this kind of free will is not freedom
at all, but is the same sort of delusion that hypnotic suggestions is. We wouldn't be
genuinely free unless we had the possibility of acting otherwise. Hick's conclusion is
that the total answer to the question of the origin of moral evil can only be answered
when we have the answer to the free will problem.
|5. What objection has
been raised to the traditional Christian position concerning nonmoral evil? What is Hick's
- The traditional Christian position is that nonmoral evil serves the purpose of good in
the universe. The main objection is, of course, Dostoevsky's--namely, how can the
suffering or evil be good. Isn't such a position contradictory?
Hick's response is that the world must be seen as a place of soul-making; there could not
be a place for soul-making in a permanent hedonistic paradise.
I.e., the method of Negative Theodicy: a theodicy is the justification of
God's goodness in the fact of the fact of evil. A Negative Theodicy shows that without
evil, we could not have divine purpose.
- If there were no evil, the laws of nature would have to be suspended, and there could be
no science, nor would we have ethical concepts such as right, courage, generosity, and so
on because no harm would come to anyone. There would be no suffering or pain.
For "soul-making" to be possible, we need all the heartaches of the present
|6. What is Hick's
ultimate answer to the problem of evil?
- Moral evil is forever wrapped up in the problem of free will. If a causal explanation
could be given, there would be no free will. It's a mystery.
- Nonmoral evil is a necessary condition for there to be soul-making and ethical concepts.
Even so, evil can only be answered if there is a future good which overcomes it. There
must be something beyond this life which explains it, even though we cannot know exactly
what it is. There is no other way to explain the business of soul-making.
Check your understanding with this section of a test on Hick's essay.