Paradox and Promise: Hick’s Solution to the Problem of Evil

  • William Rowe
  • Linda Zagzebski
  • John Hick
Part of the Library of Philosophy and Religion book series


John Hick has written extensively concerning the problem of evil.1 His writings on the problem are set within two general restraints. First, he holds constant the conception of God as omnipotent and perfectly good. Hick does not pursue the question of whether the facts about evil necessitate some drastic revision of our conception of God. In my discussion of his work, I shall accept this restraint. Secondly, Hick distinguishes the question of whether the existence of God is logically consistent with the facts about evil from the question of whether the facts about evil render belief in God unreasonable or irrational. It is the second of these questions that is the focus of Hick’s attention. Some philosophers hold that the facts about evil do not provide any rational grounds or evidence for disbelief in God. Thus, for them, the only serious problem is the question of logical consistency. I side with Hick on this issue. The proposition that a given man is seventy-five years old and has an arthritic knee is logically consistent with his winning the next Boston marathon. But surely the fact that he is seventy-five and has an arthritic knee gives us good rational grounds for believing that he won’t win the next Boston marathon. So too, although the free-will defence may establish that the facts about evil are logically consistent with the existence of God, there remains the serious problem of the extent to which the facts about evil render it unreasonable or irrational to believe in God.


Arthritic Knee Moral Evil Rational Ground Spiritual Growth Reasonable Answer 
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  1. 1.
    See, for example, Evil and the God of Love, 2nd edn; God and the Universe of Faiths; Philosophy of Religion, 3rd edn, ch. 4; and Stephen T. Davis (ed.), Encountering Evil: Live Options in Theodicy (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1981).Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    See G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1903) pp. 27–31.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    Several criticisms have been advanced against Hick’s efforts to explain why God would permit (l)-(4) to obtain. Hick replies to some of these criticisms in chapter 17 of Evil and the God of Love, 2nd edn. For responses to further criticisms and a strong defence of soul-making theodicy see William Hasker, “Suffering, Soul-Making and Salvation”, International Philosophical Quarterly, 28 (1988) 3–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Claremont Graduate School 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • William Rowe
    • 1
  • Linda Zagzebski
    • 2
    • 3
  • John Hick
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyPurdue UniversityUSA
  2. 2.University of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Loyola Marymount UniversityLos AngelesUSA
  4. 4.World Religions and CulturesClaremont Graduate SchoolUSA

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