by David Storey
from Signs of the Times No. 67 - Oct 2017

 My reaction on getting home from Modern Church's 2017 conference and looking at my bookshelves was to say where was John Hick?

To me he has been the primary source on Philosophy and the Church. I picked up his The Fifth Dimension (1999/2004 One World Publications, Oxford). Turning to chapter 25, ‘What we don’t need to know’, there is a good introduction of how faiths have developed and aspects that we should now grow out of, but then moving to ‘What then do we need to know?’ starting with ‘how to live here and now’. Whilst speculations divide, considerations of moral principles unite. We need a world as near as heaven as we can create, along with the world’s creator.

Then I picked up Adrian B. Smith’s The God Shift: Our Changing Perception of the Ultimate Mystery (2004 The Liffey Press, Dublin). Adrian was a retired Catholic priest whose first life’s work was in Africa, who used the next part of life to help those who had problems staying in the churches understand their problems and give insights to the way forward. Here he helps us understand the views that the different religions of the world espoused, and the cosmos in which we find ourselves, eventually to empower us to achieve a way forward. Society may have begun with ideas of God beyond us, and moved on to an era of God among us, but now offers an era of God within us.

Many other of Adrian Smith’s books are worth exploring. But so also those of John Hick. Who or What is God? and Other Investigations is worth looking at as it is making available a set of papers that otherwise people might not have found. It is particularly relevant for papers on interfaith matters. I was particularly impressed by his summary at the end of his paper Is the doctrine of the Atonement a mistake. His autobiography, John Hick: an autobiography (2003), is insightful and explains a lot about the churches as well as his development.

At the conference I was interested to hear someone still concerned about God creating evil. That view for me is answered by understanding that God’s nature includes the gift of free will to his creation, which includes pre-hominid creation. That way we are clearly involved in the nature of what we create, and it can be to create hell or heaven.

Hell and heaven are truly manifest as human constructs in two senses. Hell is not a divine creation.