John Hick is a modern theologian who developed his theodicy based on an argument originally put forward by St Irenaeus. Hick’s theodicy is a form of the free will defense with a few particular developments such as his concept of soul making, mans epistemic distance from God and the concept of universal salvation. Irenaeus’ original theory is based on his interpretation of Genesis 1:26 ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness’. From this Irenaeus concluded that first humans were made in the image of God and are only intended to develop later into his likeness through willing cooperation.
This cooperation however requires genuine freedom, as it is not possible to willingly cooperate when something is forced upon us. The freedom is the reason why evil has to exist in the world; our ability to choose to do evil instead of good makes us free. There would be no such freedom if humans were created already perfect and God policed his world continually as there would be no capacity for us to choose evil and so no free will. Therefore, the natural order had to be designed with the possibility of causing harm, humans had to be created only in the image of God, and God has to keep an epistemic distance from his creation.
Eventually, however, evil and suffering will be overcome and everyone will develop into the likeness of God, living in glory in heaven. There are three major points about Hick’s development of Irenaeus’ argument; we had to be created imperfect, we had to be distanced from god and the natural world cannot be a paradise. The first two account for the existence of moral evil in the world and the last accounts for natural evil. Firstly concerning imperfection; Hick argued that man is in a constant state of creational evolvement.
According to the Irenaeun tradition, man is created in two steps, Bios and Zoe. Bios is the physical creation of man in the image of God and Zoe is mans attainment of the likeness of God. Hick calls this the soul making process. Hick suggests that the relationship between man and God is a parent/child relationship on a grand scale; first there is the actual conception and then the parent must teach the child the difference between right and wrong.
Hick argues that creating man perfect would be like God making us a pet in a cage, goodness is achieved over a period of time through trial and tribulation, it involves strength and moral effort. Secondly humans had to be created at a distance from God so that they can decide for themselves whether or not to follow his laws; for humans to be genuinely loving they would have to work at perfection themselves rather than being created perfect. Hick called this an ‘epistemic distance’ and argued it was vital for humans to have free choice.
Lastly Hick argues that the created world cannot be paradise as gods purpose would not be possible in a world completely free from evil and suffering therefore the world must contain natural laws that can produce some suffering. The idea of soul making requires some natural evil as well as moral evil. If the world were paradise there would be no chance of harm, as every human action would result in happiness. No evil means we have no choice and so no opportunity to develop into Gods likeness. So natural evil is necessary for soul making.