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Posts Tagged ‘John Hick’

Religion explains.  That is its function.  All the great belief systems have their own responses – explanations for the perplexed – to humanity’s great eternal questions, developed and embellished over centuries of exposition. (more…)

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No sooner had I published my most recent posting, on bishops, I saw that John Hick has died.  His obituaries show in detail how he too had to endure his developing views falling foul of church authorities, in his case the United Reform church.  Like Richard Holloway he drifted away from the categorical belief systems to find a mooring in gentler waters.

I met John Hick at a seminar in 1965 and have read several of his books and articles since, always with admiration. He it was who pointed out that all the great religions share at least one moral directive: Do unto others as you would want them to do to you.

“God” may be this or that, or not exist at all as we understand the word ‘exist’, but our obligation is clear, and it is other-directed.  God in us, for God in others.

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Somewhere in her books about God, Karen Armstrong remarks that amongst the great belief systems of humankind, only Christianity agonises about what or who “God” is.  The others give a theological shrug: who can say?  But they all know what the “God” concept is for.  It is to reinforce the idea that it is up to us, all of us, to do what we can foster the well-being of others.  This is the Golden Rule which, as John Hick points out, is to be found in all great religions’ scriptures.  In Christianity, the relevant text is Jesus’ exhortation, Do to others as you would have them do to you (Luke 6:31).

That is not the whole of Christianity, of course, but is surely its tagline; together with the Great Commandment.  If we have got past the idea that God intervenes in the world through signs and wonders, we are stripping the religion down to its core, its essence, its emphasis.  God does not act on earth except through us and the colossal idea that God appeared amongst us as an executed criminal is the relevant object lesson; and perhaps, in some way that I haven’t thought through yet, the true meaning of redemption.

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Learning about modern theology is like being a member of Scott’s expedition to the South Pole in 1911-1912.  You slog across unfamiliar terrain until at last you reach your destination, only to find that another explorer has already got there and planted his flag to mark the spot.  In writing, with some care, my recent posts musing about why we still worship, I have come across a book that not only says all that I wanted to share but also quotes liberally from a host of other thinkers who over the years have ‘got there’, and planted their flags.  She does all this better than I ever could.  I am happy to recommend the book and thereby bring my present thread to a premature but willing close. (more…)

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