What is  the problem of evil? How does John Hick explain the presence of evil in a world created by a benevolent God?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

John Hick uses a rather common argument about the presence of evil in the world in regards to the existence of the Christian god. The Christian god is supposed to be an omnipresent deity who is all-powerful, all-knowing, and completely good and pure. As such, many within and outside the Christian faith wonder how this god could be so benevolent and powerful and yet allow so much evil and suffering to occur in the world. Essentially, Hick argues that evil is present in the world to create people of stronger faiths. Their faith in this god is supposed to become stronger and of more substance through enduring the realities of evil in the world. Hick is arguing that it makes sense that a benevolent god would create and allow so much suffering in the world because it creates people of stronger faith in that god, a god who seems more invested in how strongly he is adored and believed in over the reality of immense pain and suffering in the world.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This is a great question. Let me start off with some background information. 

First, John Hick is a longtime professor at the Claremount Graduate school in California. His chief works are in the area of pluralism and theodicy. He is a left leaning evangelical. For much of his academic career he wrestled with the problem of evil. 

Second, he is trying to find a theological and philosophical answer to the following three statements.

  1. God is all powerful
  2. God is good. 
  3. There is evil in the world, hence God must not be either all powerful or all good. 

Hick does not claim to have answered the question to a perfect degree, but he does believe that Christianity does have a good answer. He argues that God is all powerful and good, but he allows evil in the world to mature believers. To be sure it is hard to see this, especially in times of suffering. However, our experiences are not a perfect indicator of what is ultimately happening, according to Hick. 

On a more theological level, he does not interpret Genesis 3 as the fall of humanity from grace. He argues that men were created with freewill to grow. He calls this creational evolvement. All of this akin to a relationship between a parent and an child. In this sense, God uses "evil" to mature people. He follows the theology of Irenaeus, instead of Augustine. 

For more information, read Evil and the Love of God, 1966. 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial