Tribute to John Hick
This letter by Martin Camroux was written for colleagues from our sister organisation Free to Believe. We are grateful to Martin for allowing PCN to reproduce it here.
It is with real sadness that I need to pass on to you the news of the death of John Hick. John was of the most influential philosophers of religion in the English speaking world and arguably the most significant English theologian of the last 50 years, certainly in the Reformed Tradition. He trained for the Presbyterian ministry at Westminster College where he became part of a great tradition of Presbyterian scholarship going back to John Oman and H. H. Farmer. He was a classic liberal who will be remembered, among other things, for his openness towards other religious faiths, his continuation to the problem of evil and his splendid book on Jesus “The metaphor of God Incarnate”. I often find myself Quoting John’s statement on the relation of Jesus to God:
“The heavenly father was utterly real to him – as real as the men and women with whom he interacted every day or the Galilean hills among which he lived. God was evidently so real to Jesus that in his presence the heavenly father became real to many of his hearers”.
Philosophically he was influenced by Kant and especially by his utterly crucial distinction between reality in itself which is unknowable and our human consciousness of it which is formed in terms of the structures of our own minds. All the worlds religions for him were perspectives on the great transcendental reality which is beyond all knowledge.
John was a friend of Free to Believe and kindly contributed a booklet for us. In it he wrote:
So the bottom line, I am suggesting, is this: we should live wholeheartedly within our own faith, so long as we find it to be sustaining and a sphere of spiritual growth, but we should freely recognise the equal validity of the other great world faiths for their adherents, and we can also be enriched by some of their insights and spiritual practices. We should not see the other religions as rivals or enemies, or look down upon them as inferior, but simply as different human responses to the divine reality, formed in the past within different strands of human history and culture. And we should seek a friendship with people of other faiths which will do something to defuse the very dangerous religious absolutism that is being exploited in almost all the conflicts going on in the world today. To support religious absolutism is to be part of the problem which afflicts humanity. But we can be part of the solution by setting an example of transcending that absolutism.
May he rest in peace and rise in glory.