Wednesday, February 15, 2012


I see, from Dr. Vallicella's blog, that John Hick has died. A quick search reveals he died on February 9 at the ripe old age of 90.

Hick is perhaps best known among philosophers and theologians as the exponent of the classical "convergent pluralist" view of religion. The view predates Hick, of course; it's an intuition that many have arrived at independently throughout the centuries. But in 1989 Hick published An Interpretation of Religion, a philosophical treatise that was inspired in part by the thinking of Immanuel Kant. This book put forth the argument that all religious traditions are culturally mediated responses to the Real: ultimate reality. The Real-as-experienced corresponded to the Kantian phenomenon; the Real-in-itself (ineffable and unexperienceable) corresponded to Kant's noumenon. Hick spent most of the rest of his life elaborating on and defending his "pluralistic hypothesis," which has, if nothing else, inspired and encouraged rigorous thought about the various truth-claims of disparate religions.

I still refer to the later editions of Hick's tiny-but-dense primer, Philosophy of Religion, which remains an excellent general introduction to that topic. Hick wrote on a variety of topics, to be sure; I also have his book on christology, The Metaphor of God Incarnate, which argues for a non-literalist view of Christ.

In recent years, I've drifted somewhat as I've done my own thinking on the question of religious diversity. My other influences include some of Hick's most vociferous critics, such as S. Mark Heim. Nevertheless, I'll always be thankful to Hick for the clarity of his writing, even if I'm no longer entirely in his camp. RIP to one of the great thinkers who has informed my own thinking about the ultimate. It saddens me to know that the man is gone.

UPDATE: Prosblogion's post here.


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