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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; Reissue edition (9 April 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230252796
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230252790
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 2.4 x 21.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 365,484 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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'A masterly book which is bound to become a standard work.' - Ian Ramsey, View Review

'The most exciting work of its kind that I have read for several years.' - John Raymond, Sunday Times

'A major contribution to the discussion of theodicy.' - Times Literary Supplement

'The most satisfying book I have read on the reconciliation of the enormous fact of evil with our Christian belief in the enormous love and power of God.' - T.E. Jessop, Methodist Recorder

'Deep learning, clear thought, and a profoundly Christian mind...a really important book.' - Church Times

'I do not know of any contemporary work which deals with [the problem of evil] either so thoroughly or so profoundly.' - Hugo Meynell, Catholic Herald

'A very important book, admirable for both its courage and its clarity.' E.L. Mascall, Clergy Review

'The most considerable [book] on the problem of evil to appear in English for a generation.' - W.D. Hudson, Theology

Book Description

A modern theological classic, widely viewed as the most important work on the problem of evil to appear in English for more than a generation

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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful By MWin on 17 Feb. 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is 400 pages and is a well-written survey of Western theodicies (i.e. defense of God's goodness and omnipotence in view of the existence of evil) since the time of Socrates until the twentieth century. Especially the Augustinian concept of 'privatio boni' (the illusory existence of evil) is thoroughly criticised. Hick is brave enough to propose a theodicy of his own. He draws largely upon Irenaeus (c.120 to 140-c.200 to 203) who proposed a different solution than the Augustinian. Irenaeus suggested that man's condition in Paradise was a childish wholeness rather than a perfect wholeness. Instead, inside man resides the image of God whom humans try to manifest during their lives. So Irenaeus view of man is more positive than the traditional Christian which argues that man, after the fall, is a mere sinful and helpless being, bowing down to a perfectly good and very remote God. In Irenaeus view, there remains the possibility of man restituting paradisal wholeness again by striving to manifest that inner image of God. In this view, man is closer to God and, surprisingly, it tallies finely with our modern psychological and anthropological worldview. I think it's good to hear that, within Christian theology, there exists alternatives to the boring harping on man's miserable condition. Man's condition after the fall is still meaningful since we can strive to attain paradisal wholeness again, although not a childish and naive wholeness like before.
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Format: Paperback
Hick begins by pointing out that the 'problem' of evil only arises out of a belief in a good God. One answer is dualism, another is monism, in which a good God allows evil to be because of a greater purpose.

Hick traces the history of thought about theodicy, first by looking at the Western teaching largely started by Augustine. It sometimes seems as if a lot of our present problems with Christianity are Augustine's fault - his views on sexuality in particular. Augustine's universe is one that is good. Evil is the absence of good and has to be there if man is to have the capacity of moral choice. In the grand scheme of things, evil is good in that it enables greater good, that which is freely chosen - hence the 'felix culpa' of Adam. The surgeon has to cut into that good may come out of it. Obliteration bombing was necessary in Dresden in order to get at military establishments flesh - the end justifies the means. Put like that, the view becomes, to me, repugnant. The universe appears to be run by a calculating deity who gets his sums right but causes a lot of pain on the way. It might work out OK for God but we don't see the whole picture (yet?) and the sum is far from being balanced for us, from our perspective.

I can see that no better universe might be possible. If there were no pain or evil, we would be like puppets and could not choose. There would be no heroism, no medical advance because it was not needed. But it doesn't work for the individual who feels pain - you can't tell him that he is suffering so that my best qualities can be brought out by my caring for him. Nor can I necessarily see the sufferer's best qualities being brought out - there is as much degeneration through suffering in some as there is heroism and spiritual development in others.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Oliver W. Davies on 19 May 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Compulsory reading for anyone interested in the questions of suffering and theodicy. A staple in the repertoire by one of Britain's great living philosopher-theologians.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Heather W on 11 April 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
John Hick discusses two alternative responses to the question, "How can a loving and powerful God allow suffering in the world which he created?" The book is fairly easy to understand and explains its theology well. It goes deeply into the subject. It would be very helpful to anyone who is worried by that question, and also useful in pastoral work.
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Amazon.com: 8 reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
An intelligently argued work but for me not the answer 1 Jan. 2007
By Shalom Freedman - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Probably the major question the great monotheistic religions must deal with is the question of how an omnipotent omnibenevolent God has created a world in which there is Evil. Another way of saying this, is given by the Psalmist ' A righteous man and bad for him, an evil man and good for him.' Or in G.H. Hopkins version , "Why do sinners ways prosper, and all I endeavor disappointment end?'
Hicks tries to provide an answer through a reading of the work of the Christian theologian Ireneaus .Essentially Hicks maintains that God aims to provide goodness and perfection for His creatures. And that Evil is that which impairs this process of perfection. The ultimate answer to this as Hicks sees it can only be given in the world- to - come.
To my mind this answer does not even begin to answer the first question of Theodicy i.e. why is there even one suffering child in the world, one person in pain who knows tremendous suffering though they are not responsible for it.
Hicks restates his central argument as follows:
"I have been arguing... that the actual universe, with all its good and evil, exists on the basis of God's will and receives its meaning from His purpose. However, these two conclusions do not stand in simple contradiction , to one another. The one says that evil is bad, harmful, destructive, fearful and to be fought against as a matter of ultimate life and death. But the other does not deny this. It does not say that evil is not fearful and threatening, inimical to all good and to be absolutely resisted. It says that God has ordained a world which contains evil- real evil- as a means to the creation of the infinite good of a Kingdom of Heaven within which His creatures will have come as perfected persons to love and serve Him through a process in which their own free insight and response have been an essential element.
The bridge between the two standpoints is provided by the Christian hope of the Kingdom of God. The compatibility between the 'existensial' view of evil as utterly malevolent and harmful and the theological view of it as divinely permitted and over- ruled ,is a form of the compatibility between the temporary process which we know by our own present immersion within it, and the future completion and transformation of it which we affirm by faith."

This is an interesting answer but it does not answer for me the question of the suffering of the innocents, the pain they go through. It too does not address the fact that there are evils so horrible that they would seem to be all out of proportion to any possible compensation or overcoming.

Nonetheless this work is a carefully argued exposition of a problem of great importance to very many religious believers.
A work which addresses the subject from the perspective of the Jewish Tradition is David Birnbaum's 'Evil and God'
35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
Capricious Omnipotent Overlord or Challenging Parent? 13 Mar. 2001
By Elderbear - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It's been 20 years since I first read Hick's book. Looking back, that experience proved to be a definitive turning point in my life.
John Hick presents two philosophies which Christians have used to explain the existence of evil in a universe created by a "good" God. The first philosophy states that God's plan is ineffable--we ought to have faith & not question. What we see as evil, with our limited, mortal vision, is just one feature of God's marvelous plan for the cosmos.
The second philosophy seeks to find reason in the occurrence of evil. Hick echos Ortega y Gasset's philosophy that growth does not happen in comfort, but rather when challenged. Hick adopts this second philosophy, tracing it back to Origen.
Since growth, or soul building, is the purpose of life, Hick argues that God must ensure that everybody achieves the growth necessary for "paradise." This leads to espousing reincarnation, where the soul continues to evolve, until maturity.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Good Analysis, Flawed Response 11 May 2012
By Russ White - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Written in 1966, this is a classic treatise on the various theodicies proposed by Christian thinkers through the last two thousand years. (A theodicy defends God against existence of evil). The author divides his work into four parts; an introduction, Austinian theodicies, Irenaean theodicies, and finally a new proposal.

Dr. Hick begins by explaining the problem --the explanation of the problem of evil here rivals that of Plantinga's. He doesn't break the problem down in quite the same way, but the explanation offered is easier to grasp on an intuitive level. From the definition, the author moves into two general classes of response, a monistic response and a dualistic response. Essentially, monistic responses posit that there is one all-powerful god, while dualistic responses argue there are two gods, or two divine beings, at war, one of which is good, the other of which is evil. These two classifications underlie Dr. Hick's evaluation of the two answers to evil within Christian thought.

In the second part, Dr. Hick lays out and analyzes the theodicy of Augustine. According to Dr. Hick, Augustine argues from the perspective that evil is deprived good, or that which falls short of the best possible fulfillment, and evil exists because of the free will choices of men who do not fulfill God's original intent for their lives (and race). From here, the author shows that the Augustinian method ultimately rests on the theory that this is the best possible world --that no better world could have been created by God.

Essentially, Augustine posited that man was created in a state of perfection, then fell because of the original sin of willfully disobeying God, and God has repaired the breach through Christ. In the Augustinian mold, God did not create evil, per se, but evil is a byproduct of the Fall, and therefore all evil can be traced back to sin in general (if not a specific sin). God could not have created a world with less evil than he actually created; this is the best possible world, either in terms of producing the most good, or in terms of most fully showing God's creative powers.

He then analyzes the problems with this view, first showing that the origins of the best possible world defense are neo-Platonic, rather than Scriptural. The best possible world defense suffers from various problems in limiting the power of God, and in trying to have God as the sole power in the universe without imposing on God the origin of evil itself. He also lays out the connection between the best possible world defense and the idea of strict predestination, or election, and the problems resulting from this connection.

"Perhaps the most fundamental criticism to be made of the Augustinian type of theodicy concerns a pervasive presupposition within it. This is the impersonal or subpersonal way in which God's relationship to His creation is prevailingly conceived." -page 199

In the third section, Dr. Hick presents what he terms an Irenaean form of theodicy, which is based on the idea that man was created "like a child," and God is working, through history, to bring man to a full relationship with himself, or rather to maturity (as a parent raises a child). Within this theodicy, man wasn't created perfect, in the sense of being morally perfect, but rather perfect in the sense of being best fit for the goal God had in mind. Just as a parent refuses to shield his child from all the possible evil in the world, in order to teach bravery, or compassion, or some other character trait, God actually created evil in the world to teach these very same lessons to humans.

"To use the distinction that Irenaeus and others of the Greek Fathers used, man has been created in the `image' of God but has yet to be brought into the divine `likeness' revealed in Christ.1 Now if man has been so created that his perfection lies before him in the future rather than behind him in the past, his present imperfection belongs to his God-given nature. His imperfection (which issues directly in sin) and his redemption both have their place in the divine plan, and belong together, so that the latter does indeed, as Schleiermacher contended, presuppose the former." -page 238

Dr. Hick then examines various problems in this theodicy --though he doesn't entirely undermine this one, as he does the Augustinian theodicy (the reader will understand why momentarily).

In the final section, the author outlines what he considers to be a new defense against the problem of evil. He bases this defense largely on what he terms to be the Irenaean theodicy, the idea that God created this world with the final goal of creating completed, or mature, souls that could love and trust him without resorting to coercion. He has a brilliant section comparing predestination to hypnosis here.

This new theodicy breaks on the rocks of the Scriptures, however --the only way Dr. Hick can maintain his defense against the problem of evil is to abandon Paul entirely, abandon most of Genesis (and the rest of the Pentateuch), and focus only on John among the Gospels. These moves are classic higher criticism, pitting science against the Scriptures and simply declaring science the winner. No true Scotsman fallacies run rampant through his thinking starting in his examination of what he calls an Irenaean theodicy and intensifying as he explains his own defense against the problem of evil. The author's view is closely tied to Postmillennial thought from before the World Wars; he is, in many ways, trying to rescue Postmillennialism from the wanton slaughter of the wars and the atrocities committed during those wars.

This classic work is must reading if you want to understand the underlying problems with the Augustinian view of evil and predestination. It is rare to see the defense against evil, the best possible world theory, and predestination so clearly tied into one larger system. The section on the Irenaean defense against the problem of evil is interesting, if not as well developed. The reader could skip, however, the entire final section, and not miss anything of real value.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A less than convincing theodicy 30 April 2013
By Doug Erlandson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The best reason to read "Evil and the God of Love," the classic treatment of the problem of evil by John Hick, is that he does a good to excellent job of summarizing various theodicies, including those of Augustine and of Irenaeus, as well as the classic freewill defense. Its information on the history of the problem makes it a worthwhile read. (This is why I have given it four stars.)

Less compelling is Hick's attempt to present a viable theodicy. Crucial to his view is his belief that God created human beings at an "epistemic distance" in which His presence is not overwhelming evident but neither is it entirely absent. If there were no evil in this world, it would be a paradisal realm, and God's presence would be so evident that human beings would be compelled to fall down in worship. But that's not what God wants, according to Hick. Instead, God has intentionally created a world that is a mixture of good and evil so that human beings will freely develop faith, trust, and love in Him. (Hick labels these the "fiduciary attitudes.") If this world were perfect, human beings in effect would be forced to worship God and we could not really speak of them having faith in and trust in God.

Moreover, God has created this world as a place of "soul making." Part of the soul-making enterprise is the creation of positive virtues such as courage, fortitude, compassion, and sympathy. It is hard to see how these could develop except against a backdrop of hardship (in the case of fortitude), danger (courage), and suffering (compassion, sympathy). If we are to truly develop our moral character in this life, this world cannot be a paradise but must contain suffering and well as good.

An initial problem with this attempt to explain the existence of evil is the disteleological effect of evil, something that Hick tends to downplay. For many, the tragedies of this life are precisely what keep them from trust in a good and loving God. Moreover, the evil in this world is as likely to create cowardice, a defeated spirit, and hardheartedness as the opposites.

More importantly is the criticism I initially brought up in a paper I read at a convention of the American Philosophical Association in 1976, entitled "The Theodicist's New Clothes." (I later made this criticism in "Heaven and Theodicy," published in "Philosophical Studies" c. 1980, and "A New Perspective on the Problem of Evil," published in "Antithesis" in 1991.) This criticism is one I call the "eschatological objection." Hick treats the fiduciary attitudes and the soul-making characteristics as "greater goods" that justify God creating a world with a significant amount of evil in it. Now, for a greater-good defense to work (and this is what Hick's theodicy amounts to), the greater good must have two characteristics. First, it must be of sufficient value as to outweigh the evil necessary to its attainment. Second, it must not be possible to create a world in which such greater goods exist but in which there is no evil (or a minimal amount of evil).

Now, according to Hick, this world is prelude to an eschatological realm in which evil will no longer exist. But this leaves us wondering what is the purpose of attaining these fiduciary and soul-making characteristics. For if they can be exercised only against the backdrop of evil, then there will be no need for them in that eschatological realm. If, on the other hand, it will be possible to exercise faith and trust, courage, fortitude, compassion, and sympathy in a realm without evil, then it would seem that evil is not necessary for the attaining of these fiduciary and soul-making characteristics. If this is so, then God could have created a world in which these traits could become part of our makeup but have done it without the evil we see in our present world. And the question remains, "Why wouldn't a loving God have done this?"
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
By Steven H Propp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
John Harwood Hick (1922-2012) was a philosopher of religion and theologian who taught at a number of universities, and wrote/edited many other books such as The Existence of God, The Myth of God Incarnate, Philosophy of Religion (4th Edition), etc. He wrote in the preface to the revised (1977) edition of this book, "In the debates and discussions about [religion] the problem of evil continues to have a crucial place. It has always been seen by sensitive spirits and perceptive minds to lie at the heart of the God-question... This book is one of many which attempt to face this problem from the Christian point of view."

He initially clarifies, "The setting within which the subject is to be treated is, quite explicitly, that of Christian faith. No attempt will be made to establish the truth of the relevant Christian beliefs; they constitute the starting-point of our inquiry." (Pg. 3) He also notes, "It will be noted that I have not thus far mentioned Satan and the satanic kingdom, in spite of the fact that they play such important roles in many of the main systems of theodicy." (Pg. 13)

He argues, "There is, however, a fundamental objection to ... the Augustinian tradition... namely, that no alleviation of the dark mystery of evil is obtained by pointing back to its origin in a fall of man, or even beyond this in a fall of Satan and his angels... considered as a contribution to the solution of the problem of evil it only explains [the obscure by means of the more obscure]." (Pg. 173-174) Later, he admits, "we can no longer share the assumption, upon which traditional Christian theodicy has been built, that the creation-fall myth is basically authentic history..." (Pg. 248)

He observes, "Belief in an after-life is ... crucial for theodicy... the question whether human sin and suffering are finally evil and inimical to good depends upon their eventual furtherance or prevention of the fulfillment of God's plan for His creation. If man's pain and sin are revealed in the final reckoning, at the end of human time... [to] have played a part in the fulfillment of that purpose, then in the ultimate perspective they have contributed to good." (Pg. 338-339)

He affirms a near-Universalist perspective: "God will never cease to desire and actively to work for the salvation of each created person. He will never abandon any as irredeemably evil. However long an indivdiual may reject his Maker, salvation will remain an open possibility to which God is ever trying to draw him." (Pg. 343) He rejects Hell, stating, "we shall find incredible and even blasphemous the idea that God plans to inflict perpetual torture upon any of His children." (Pg. 346) He even endorses an idea of "purgatory or progressive sanctification after death." (Pg. 348)

Although more traditional Christians will be horrified at some of Hick's positions, this book is an excellent treatment of the subject, and will be of considerable value to anyone studying the philosophy of religion.
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