Madden and Hare

A Critique of Hick’s Theodicy


1.       Madden/Hare summary of Hick’s ideas

          a.       His theodicy is a combination of character-building and free will defenses

          b.       Evil serves God’s purpose of “soul making”

          c.       Hick claims that people falsely assume that “God’s purpose in making the world was to create a hedonistic paradise”

          d.       Evil in the world does not serve a hedonistic end

          e.       But it does serve the development of moral personalities in loving relation to God (“soul making”)

          f.       If God forces people to love him or forces them to act rightly such development would not be possible

                    i.        Not genuine love

                    ii.       Not a moral personality

          g.       Only by freedom, suffering and initial remoteness from God (“epistemic distance”), can the sort of person God is looking for come about


2.       THREE FALLACIES (they think Hick’s reasoning involves)

3.       All or nothing

          a.       Something is desirable because its complete loss would be far worse than the evil its presence now causes

          b.       Falsely assumes we must have the thing in its present form and amount or not at all

          c.       But often the case that only some amount of the thing in some form is necessary to achieve a desired end

          d.       Examples

                    i.        Either marry her or stop seeing her.....

                    ii.       Either humans are totally free to do whatever they like or they are puppets

4.       It could be worse

          a.       Something is not really bad because it will be followed by all manner of desirable things

          b.       Fallacy to think that because later desirable things are so good also shows the original evil is necessary

          c.       It only shows situation could be worse if the desirable things did not follow

          d.       To show that it could be worse is not to show that it could not be better

          e.       Examples

                    i.        Its not so bad that your father whips you, because he also buys you presents (like T.V.s and cars)

                    ii.       The suffering of children is not bad because they will be given eternal bliss in heaven

5.       Slippery slope

          a.       If God started eliminating evils in this world he would have no place to stop short of a “perfect” world with only robots and no people with free will

          b.       But this falsely assumes that God would not be able to stop someplace on this alleged slippery slope (and falsely suppose God would have no reason to stop on the slope someplace)

          c.       God or humans can use their intelligence to stop someplace on the slippery slope

          d.       Examples

                    i.        If you let the scientists clone sheep, then they will end up cloning humans

                    ii.       If you legalize abortions (killing human fetuses) then that will lead to legalized killing of insane and demented humans


6.       Hick’s free will solution involves all or nothing fallacy

          a.       Hick allows there is an appalling amount of moral evil in the world

          b.       But argues it is logically impossible for God to achieve his purpose of soul-making by creating puppets who always act rightly

          c.       He assumes that the alternatives are either:

                    i.        Create man as a pet animal in a cage with a life as pleasant and healthy as possible, or

                    ii.       Create men with the unfortunate moral inclinations they have now

          d.       But this is a false dilemma; There are other alternatives

          e.       He could have created people with partial freedom?

                    i.        What would that mean?

                    ii.       Free to choose some immoral acts (like cheat on your spouse), but not extremely immoral acts (torturing children)?

          f.       Mackie’s suggestion that he create people who freely chose to act well


          g.       Analogy: School where children get absolute freedom

                    i.        No student is forced to read texts, each student is left to educated himself as much as possible

                              (1)     Want students to be motivated by love of knowledge, not fear of punishment

                    ii.       Foolish to argue that because rigid regulation has horrible consequences, almost no regulation is the ideal

                    iii.      Dangers in each extreme

                    iv.      Middle ground seems best

          h.       So too it is mistake to argue that because God creating man as robot/pet animal would be horrible that God’s creation of men with the sort of (unregulated) freedom they have now is the best possible choice.


7.       Hick idea that “initial epistemic distance” from God is good

          a.       God deliberately refrains from giving much knowledge of himself to people for fear it would jeopardize the development of “authentic fiduciary attitudes” (that is, trust)

          b.       If you spoon feed creatures, that will prevent them from developing genuine intellectual curiosity and ruin their intellects

          c.       So God barely shows himself to humans at all

                    i.        Evidence is historical records of distant past

                    ii.       Hope of revelation in the future

                    iii.      People before Christ had no evidence at all

8.       It is a good question, why doesn’t God show himself to everyone?

          a.       Is the idea that if God made himself known to all, there would be no choice about religious belief and it is important that we choose God in a situation of uncertainty?

          b.       That faith in this sense is a virtue?


9.       Hick’s it could be worse strategy (w/o heaven)

          a.       In heaven we will (or may) forget our earthly suffering

          b.       Yes, it is better if we do forget, but that doesn’t explain or justify the suffering.....

10.     Hick: “Christian theodicy must point forward to the final blessedness and claim that this infinite future good will render worthwhile all the pain and travail and wickedness that has occurred on the way to it”

11.     Hick must show us how all the suffering in this world is the most efficient way to achieve God’s goal

12.     Merely assuring us that in the future we will regard our present suffering as unimportant is not to explain why we must suffer as we do

13.     Hick is claiming not (only? Or not at all?) that the current suffering will be forgotten or pale in comparison to the future good

14.     But that the future good is infinite and that current suffering is necessary to achieve this future infinite good and therefore justifies it

15.     It is true he doesn’t explain exactly how it is necessary, though he gives us a general story about soul making (even while not being able to account for the soul-making quality of every evil event)


16.     Hick uses the slippery slope fallacy to respond to “excessive” evil or evil that seems to serve no purpose (of soul making)

17.     Hick: “Unless God eliminated all evils whatsoever, there would always be outstanding ones which it could be said he should have secretly prevented. If, e.g., divine providence had eliminated Hitler in his infancy, we might now point to Mussolini....There would be nowhere to stop, short of divinely arranged paradise in which human freedom would be narrowly circumscribed.”

18.     Hick is claiming that there is no way to remove some evils without removing all of them (back to the all or nothing fallacy)

          a.       But this seems clearly to be a mistake

19.     Falsely assumes that God would not be able to precisely calculate the effect of each removal of evil and stop at the point were soul-making was most efficiently achieved

          a.       Men would still suffer and complain about excessive evil, but there would be an explanation of the necessity of this amount of suffering as a means to the end of soul-making


20.     Hicks’s soul making argument for the need for “unnecessary suffering”

          a.       Imagine a world that contained no unjust, excessive or apparently unnecessary misery;

                    i.        Where suffering could always be seen to be punishment justly deserved or part of moral training

          b.       Hick: “In such a world human misery would not evoke deep personal sympathy or call forth organized relief and sacrificial help or service. For it is presupposed in these compassionate reactions both that the suffering is not deserved and that it is bad for the sufferer”

21.     Replies

          a.       One can feel intense compassion for someone even though his suffering is understood to be unavoidable means to a desirable end.

                    i.        Like wife’s labor pains

                    ii.       This point ignores Hick’s sacrificial help or relief point; for one won’t sacrifice oneself to help another whose suffering is deserved or good for him (or unavoidable)

          b.       Even if some undeserved and unnecessary suffering is necessary for compassion to be possible, only a minute percent of the present unnecessary suffering would do the job.

          c.       Unjust suffering produces not just increased compassion, but also massive resentment which probably outweighs the benefits of the compassion.


22.     Hick’s “good will” argument for injustice

          a.       For moral action to be possible (e.g., doing the right thing for its own sake and not in order to get a reward or avoid punishment–“the good will”), we need a world were sometimes the just are not rewarded and the evil are not punished

23.     Replies:

          a.       Ignores that God could reward/punish people on basis of their motives rather simply if they do the right thing

                    i.        God would not reward people for doing the right thing if their motive was to get the benefits or avoid punishment....

          b.       Psychologically, Hick is mistaken: A world where people are rewarded for acting morally for its own sake would tend to encourage such moral action, not undermine it.....

          c.       Even if completely regular rewarding of right behavior would tend to undermine people acting on the “good will” (doing the right thing solely because it is right and not for the benefits)

                    i.        Huge amounts of unjust suffering could be eliminated without this occurring

                    ii.       All or nothing fallacy here again.


24.     One main idea of Madden and Hare is that amount of evil in this world is not necessary for soul making