The Disintegration Of John Hick’s Christology -- By: Douglas McCready

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 39:2 (Jun 1996)
Article: The Disintegration Of John Hick’s Christology
Author: Douglas McCready


The Disintegration Of John Hick’s Christology

Douglas McCready**

John Hick is one of the leading philosophers of religion of our time. His impact has not been limited to philosophy, however. He is also active in contemporary theology, especially in reformulating the Christian tradition and in redirecting the Christian attitude toward other world religions. The determining factor in this has been Hick’s Christology, a Christology that has changed tremendously over the course of his forty-year academic career. Hick’s early works show him as a Christian philosopher of religion. Since 1970, however, he has been a philosopher of religion who merely happens to call himself a Christian, one who sees himself standing in the line of Schleiermacher, Strauss and Harnack. 1

Today Hick is among the most liberal, if not radical, of Christian thinkers, and by his own account heterodox in his theology. But this same John Hick began his life as part of an InterVarsity group. As he tells it, he was raised in a nominally Anglican family. Along the way, however, he read some theosophy but rejected it as too cut and dried. While studying law he was converted to an evangelical and Reformed faith. Although Hick says he long retained the essentials of his early orthodoxy, he soon parted ways with InterVarsity because he believed it was closed to awkward questions and free inquiry. He says such a move from evangelicalism requires no change in one’s response to Jesus Christ, only a change in the body of theology associated with that response. 2

In World War II Hick, a conscientious objector, served with a medical unit. He used this time to prepare a set of notes that would later become his first book. 3 Although orthodox in its theology, the book presupposed a Kantian epistemology that would increasingly dominate Hick’s theology. At this early date Hick could hold together a theology and philosophy that were fundamentally incompatible. Later, his experience would make that impossible. His theology was neo-orthodox and included doubts about the virgin birth of Christ and the divine origin of the Bible. He also understood religion as a human response to the divine, believed in universal salvation, and understood religious language to be expressed in terms of myth.

* Douglas McCready teaches religion and philosophy at Holy Family College, Grant and Frankford Avenues, Philadelphia, PA 19114–2094.

In Faith and Knowledge Hick accepted the conclusions of the historic creeds about Jesus Christ, but he was less clear about how humans c...

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