Thursday, February 16, 2012

In Memory of John Hick (oct 22 1922--Feb 9 2012)

John Hick (1922-2012)

John Hick was a major philosopher of Religion. He was the last great Philosopher of what I call the "holders of the fort," the generation right before Plantinga and the back to God movement of the 80s took over the watch and brought Philosophical arguments for the existence of God back onto the battle field with a strong position. That means that Hick made a name for himself in the era when modern secular society and academia had decided that religion was a thing of the passing away. They didn't attack it with belligerence because they felt it was passing away. Other major holders of the fort included Father Frederick Copleston, Arnold J. Toynbee, E.L. Mascall*, Johnathon Wisdom, Etienne Gilson, and of these Hick was on the first rung. These were the guys who one found in undergraduate philosophy textbooks tucked into the section on philosophy of religion. Hick was one of the most often found in those sorts of anthologies.

He made waves in the 1980s when he moved away from Christianity and into a more pluralistic view point. While I can't agree with the Chrirstology that he adopted, I admire and respect his position on enlarging the sphere of faith to include those of other traditions. It's quite sad to see the official John Hick website, once covered with blurbs about his books, now with an obituary article. Hick was bron in Scarborough England, developed an interest in philosophy in his teens. He began at University of Manchester but changed to Edinurgh in 1941 after conversion to Evangelical Christianity. During his career he taught at Claremont Graduate University and University of Bermingham

From Wiki
Hick played important roles in a number of organizations centered around community relations. Non-Christian communities, mostly Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh, had begun to form in this central England community as immigration from the Caribbean Islands and Indian subcontinent increased. Due to the influx of peoples with different religious traditions, organizations focused on integrating the community became necessary. During his fifteen years at the University of Birmingham, Hick became a founder, as well as the first chair, for the group All Faiths for One Race (AFFOR); he served as a chair on the Religious and Cultural Panel, which was a division of the Birmingham Community Relations Committee; and he also chaired the coordinating committee for a 1944 conference convened under the new Education Act with the aim of creating a new syllabus for religious instruction in city schools.[1]
Hick has been hailed as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, philosophers of religion of the 20th century (Smid, Robert (1998-1999). "John Harwood Hick". Boston Collaborative Encyclopedia of Western Theology. Retrieved February 2008.). That doesn't mean his contributions to God arguments are better than Plantingas it means among philosophers who write about the problems of religion in a philosophical way, Hick was the best. Philosophically Hick was influenced by Kant, influences which helped to move him toward his position of religious pluralism.

One of the ideas he explored that was of greatest influence to me and I feel one of his greatest contributions was his answers to the issues of verification and religious faith. He advanced the idea of eschatology verification. Verification has to wait for the end of our lives, but we can falsify various claims. He is the author of one God argument on my life of 42 God arguemnts: No 34, Argument from Personal Origin:

Xenos Christian Fellowship
Theistic Apolgetics Dennis McCallum

The main critique of the cosmological argument is that it involves special pleading.

  1. If everything requires a cause, then God requires a cause. If God requires no cause, then not all things require a cause.
  • However, if it can be shown that the eternal existence of God is different than the eternal existence of the Universe, this argument might hold up.

    John Hick has argued that since God is personal, He is not subject to natural law, (e.g. thermodynamic laws) which apply to the physical realm. Therefore, there are fewer problems with His eternity than there would be with the eternity of the physical universe.[footnote 7] (John Hick, Arguments for the Existence of God. (New York: Herder and Herder, 1971) pp.34 ff. He also gives other reasons for distinguishing between God and the universe in the area of eternalness.)

He wrote a fine book, although short,on the issue of researchers who claim to evoke religious experiences by stimulation of the brain: the New Frontier of Science and Religion I drew upon that work in my research of the topic. As far as I'm concerned he uncovered a huge pool of bad research in atheist claims about brain chemistry and religious experience. His work The Many Faced Argument is one of the most lucid, through, and helpful books on the ontological argument, The Many Faced Argument. Hick rejected the modal argument of Hartshorne on the grounds that it deals with "logical necessity" whereas the faith of the Apostles was about ontological necessity. Whether that's a good argument I have my dobuts. The book is through and includes all the major developments form Anselm to Hartshorne.

Books by Hick

Articles by John Hick

Hick was one of the first great Christian thinkers I discovered early in my Christian Walk. I liked his philosophy and it meant a great deal to me to know that there were fine contemporary philosophers who were Chrsitians and were still writing. Whatever truth was disclosed thorugh the life of thought he lived, he now has eschatology verification. I mourn the loss of his ideas.

*The Wiki article on Mascall says so little about his work I used one that says more about it. For the details of his life see the Wiki article linked here.

(1) Wiki article sites:Hick, John. "A Pluralist View." More Than One Way? Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World. Eds. Dennis L. Okholm and Timothy R. Phillips. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995. 27-59. Print.


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Joe Hinman said...

I'll to do a more in depth post on Hick when I get back. I'm on break right now.