Evil and the God of Love

by John Hick

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

John Hick’s groundbreaking work on theodicy, or the problem of evil, attempts to tackle the origin of sin and evil in a world created by an all-powerful and benevolent God.

The Existence of Evil Despite God's Benevolence

Hick makes a bold argument that St. Augustine, many centuries earlier, was unwilling to make: that evil is not a natural consequence of freedom. Rather, God himself has to allow evil to exist in the world intentionally. If humans were perfect in their creation, after all, then even free humans would still choose to be so—because in Christian theology, those who are perfect will choose a perfect path (and the only one capable of that is Christ). Therefore, God has to allow the choice for evil and essentially creates humans with the capacity for imperfection.

This relates, too, to Hick's argument about God's ultimate benevolence, which is widely accepted in both Christian and broadly theistic communities. God is benevolent, and therefore his actions in creating humanity were good and loving, in spite of his permission of suffering and evil.

A Higher Purpose Than Earthly Pleasure

If God’s intent is for humans to enjoy Earth and have no suffering, then it would be cruel of him to allow evil into the world to destroy the perfection we once enjoyed (according to Genesis). Therefore, Hick argues, that must not be his purpose. Christians know from the Bible that God's purpose is that every human will come to know him and have eternal life with him in heaven. This grand design usurps the need for pleasure on Earth and dictates that the soul must be forged in the fire of suffering. Because of this, it stands to reason that God allowing suffering into the world is his plan to accomplish the purpose of refining our souls so that we will become like Christ and be able to enter heaven.

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