Thursday, February 16, 2012

Telegraph Obituary of John Hick

Tomorrow's Telegraph has its obituary of John Hick:

Professor John Hick
Professor John Hick, who has died aged 90, was one of the most influential philosophers of religion of his time; he was HG Wood Professor of Theology at Birmingham University from 1967 to 1982, and before that taught at Cambridge.
He was, however, more widely recognised in America, where he held chairs at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1959 to 1964 and at Claremont Graduate University from 1979 to 1992. He wrote nearly 30 books, which, unusually for philosophy, included several bestsellers . . . .


Jim Deardorff said...

I have long appreciated John Hick as the only respected biblical scholar I knew who had the courage to look somewhat seriously into the evidence supporting the reality of human past lives and then report his conclusions. This he did in his 1976 book Death and Eternal Life, for one, where he couldn’t deny that Prof. Ian Stevenson’s careful analyses of the multiple statements from certain young children that led to identity of the most recent past life of each beyond reasonable doubt, had been meticulous and extensive. The child’s memories of his/her past life events usually faded away by age 6 to 8.

However, Hick downplayed the significance of Stevenson’s findings by stating why he did not care for the concept of karma, and by speculating that perhaps only certain children have had past lives while the rest of us have not, if we cannot remember them. At that time he had not, of course, examined much further evidence presented by Stevenson, and many follow-up studies by others who verified the rigor of Stevenson’s research and presented many new “childhood cases of the reincarnation type.”

Hick also omitted mention of the considerable number of cases of past lives revealed through hypno-regression that have been verified beyond reasonable doubt. These have been more easily dismissed, since some 20% of such cases have been found to represent metaphor or fanciful elaboration, on the average. Nevertheless, Hick’s conclusions have helped justify biblical scholars’ tendencies to ignore the likelihood that certain biblical passages, before redaction, referred to rebirth or karma.

Jim Deardorff said...

Upon reading one of Hick’s later articles, “Reincarnation and the Meaning of Life” in his website, I may have underestimated his later understanding of the evidence supporting reincarnation. There he states, “given the possibility of more life than the present one, then from a religious point of view the eastern model [a journey through many lives] is to be preferred [over the western model of eternal heaven or hell].” This seems to represent a change in his outlook, occurring possibly from having studied more of the past-life evidence that accumulated 20-30 years following his writing of Death and Eternal Life (1976).