- Hick's vale of soul making theodicy is a modern presentation of the Irenaean theodicy. This argues that both natural and moral evil are essential to "soul-making" so they have a good purpose.
An all-loving God is therefore justified in making a world such as this in allowing humanity to perform evil acts.
Irenaeus and Augustine both traced evil back to human free will, but where Augustine considered evil to be totally are odds with God's purpose. Irenaeus thought it had a valuable part to play within his plans for humans.
Hick develops this theme into a fuller explanation of the important and implications of evil for both God and humans. Hick's argument is known as the vale of soul making theodicy.
Central Features of Hick's Theodicy
- Instead of creating humans as morally perfect beings from the outset, God deliberately left them imperfect or "unfinished" to enable them to complete the process of creation themselves. Hick followed Irenaeus by arguing that humans are created as children of God in the image of God with the potential to achieve perfection in the future, when they will be in the likeness of God.
- If this likeness of God is to be achieved then Hick had to admit that this makes God partly responsible for the evil in the world. However he argues that God has good reason for allowing evil to stay and it doesn't threaten his perfectly loving nature.
- God needed to allow humans to develop themselves because virtues that have been formed as a result of a person overcoming temptations and challenges are "intrinsically more valuable than virtues created within him ready made without effort on his own part" - Hick
- Hick believed that if humans were not given freewill by God then their decisions and choices would always be a result of determinism and humans would be mere "robots"
- Evil is undeniably unpleasant, but it evil is an essential part of the development of moral perfection, which Hick described as "soul-making"
God is at an epistemic distance
- Hick argues that God could have created humanity directly in His presence so that they were automatically aware of His limitless divine power but if God had done this then the gap between God and humanity would be so small that the latter would have no freedom in relation to God
- God has set this distance so humanity has awareness of God but not certainty
- This is not a spacial distance but an epistemic distance. An epistemic distance means that there is a knowledge gap between God and humans. Humans are not born with the innate knowledge of God's existence and have to seek God through faith. Humans are able to exist as finite beings with the freedom of choice as to whether they acknowledge and worship, or turn away from God
"Humanity is created at an epistemic distance from God in order to come freely to know and love their Maker; and that they are at the same time created…