Monday, September 13, 2010


I can now officially announce that I have in hand a contract for a book co-authored by myself and John Kronen of the University of St. Thomas (in St. Paul). The contract is with Continuum Publishers, as part of its Studies in Philosophy of Religion book series. Continuum is an important London-based academic publisher (its imprint, T&T Clark, is a venerable publishing house responsible for publishing the English translations of the principal works of such theological luminaries as Karl Barth and Friedrich Schleiermacher, so this puts one in humbling company).

The book, God's Final Victory: A Comparative Philosophical Case for Universalism, argues that a doctrine of universal salvation is a better fit with core Christian theological doctrines than any version of the doctrine of hell.


  1. I don't suppose you have any idea when the book will be published, exactly? I can't wait to read it.

  2. Hell Yes! I mean...hell no....


  3. I suppose that's "that damned book". What an interesting project. And what an important one. Are you going to discuss John Hick's theodicy in it?

  4. I think Hick's theodicy may come up (especially in the concluding chapter in which connections between the problem of hell and the broader problem of evil are made).

    Of course, as always, there is far more to say than there is space to do so in a single book. It might be interesting at some point to devote an entire book to connections between the problem of evil and the problem of hell. In such a book, Hick would be have to be rather prominently featured.

  5. And yes, the contact is for "That Damned Book," which now has the less entertaining working title, "God's Final Victory."

  6. Well done.

    Always a great moment when a book finds a home. All the best with it.


  7. Great thesis, looking forward to the book!

  8. Eric,

    I happen to think that Hick's theodicy is the greatest theistic idea of the last century. I am very keenly interested in it, and I'd like to read what people have thought *against* it. I have recently found out about Nick Trakakis's book (which I haven't yet read). Can you recommend books or papers that are critical of Hick's theodicy? I'd really appreciate it.

    Coming back to your book, I wonder what you think about the idea that God's final victory over evil does not only entail universal salvation and thus universal forgiveness, but also, ultimately, universal "forgetness", i.e. that the state of reality will ultimately be such that even the memory of sin will be vanquished.

  9. Dianelos: Hick is pretty routinely taken up by philosophers pressing the argument from evil, but the responses tend to be quick (as opposed to, say, a book-length critical engagement).

    The "absentee headmaster" analogy offered by Peter Hare and Ed Madden in EVIL AND THE CONCEPT OF GOD is a characteristic line of response, but I think uncharitable. Philosopher Steven Cahn has argued that, parallel to the problem of evil there is a "problem of goodness" (how do we reconcile the existence of goodness with the assumption that the world was created by an omnipotent, omnimalevolent devil?) and that a variant of Hick's theodicy works as well on the problem of goodness--which he thinks shows that neither the claim that there is a sovereign good creator nor that there is a soveriegn evil one has any meaning.

    Michael Martin has in several places criticized Hick in basically three ways: (1) An omnipotent God should be able to design the universe and human persons such that soul-making could occur in the absence of suffering (or at least without the degree of suffering humans actually endure); (2) Natural evils are unnecessary since moral evil provides enough fodder for soul-making; and (3) We observe that some of the evils that occur in the world are "soul-crushing," that is, they shatter the victim so fully that spiritual growth is rendered impossible--and we wouldn't expect to see such evils if the world were a "veil of soul-making."

    There are also several people who mention the problem of animal suffering as an issue for Hick.

    But all of these are fairly brief treatments, and as such don't dig into all the riches of Hick's theodicy to explore and challenge the responses that Hick might make. If there is such a treatment, I haven't stumbled across it--but if I do I'll let you know.

  10. I have yet to read Nick Trakakis's THE GOD BEYOND BELIEF, but I'm sure he does take up Hick. Whether his treatment of Hick follows a path different from the ones sketched out above, I don't know.

  11. Eric,

    Thanks very much for the info, I appreciate it. How strange, or perhaps telling, that there is no serious engagement with Hick’s theodicy, neither from the atheistic nor from the theistic side.

    I understand Trakakis’s book is one of the best recent discussions of the problem of evil. (Trakakis is a theist by the way.) I managed to read online some of the relevant pages where he discusses Hick’s theodicy, and it seems he is using the “natural evil is not necessary for soul-building” argument. I haven’t really studied or thought about this idea, but I can’t now see how you can have moral evil without natural evil. For a murder to take place one doesn’t only need an evil will but also a natural environment in which that evil will can be realized.