Hints for Hick sample essay questions.
Make sure that you have looked at the question and thought about it for yourself FIRST before you look at the hints.
Whenever you get a question you should do the following:
- Read the question more than once.
- Identify the topic (i.e which section of the course it is in).
- Identify the 'debate' (i.e. the two sides of the argument).
- Work out the main points that each side would make to support their case.
- Consider what evidence/reasoning they would use.
- Work out which side you agree with and why.
- Look back through your notes and find more material/details to include in an essay.
- Plan your essay.
- Write your essay.
To what extend do Hick's teachings about religious experience and his use of Kant embrace a postmodern world view?
They do embrace the postmodern world view: By using Kant and my stressing that religious experience is subjective and not a basis for absolute truth Hick's views embrace the postmodern emphasis on the subjectivity of experience.
They do not embrace a postmodern world view: Unlike many postmodern thinkers, Hick's thought is foundationalist. There is absolute truth - it is just not accessible to people. This goes against the Postmodern view that there is no capital T truth at all.
Go back to your notes:
Make sure you can clearly explain how Hick uses Kant and be able to relate this to religious experience.
Look up the key aspects of postmodern thought and work out which areas of thought fit with Hick and which do not.
Plan the essay:
Introdution: Set out the debate and state your line of argument.
- Paragraph 1: Explain how Hick uses Kant (noumena/phenomena) and how this explains the diversity of religious experience (elephant analogy/the Real). Link to non-realism.
- Paragraph 2: Initially this appears to embrace the postmodern world view. Accepts that access to truth is relative, experiences are subjective, questions metanarratives and encourages tolerance (Copernican Revolution).
- Paragraph 3: However, unlike many postmodernists Hick does still believe that there is some form of basis of Truth (the Real). He is not non-foundationalist. His concept of global theology and the 'critically sifting' that will be involved in developing it implies that he does think that we can get closer to Truth.
- Paragraph 4: (Analysis) Hick does include Postmodernist elements and he is certainly closer to postmodernism than to modernism. However, he does not fully 'embrace' postmodernism to the extent that Cupitt does (reality is created through language, no 'outside' to experience, no truth at all, all subjective).
Conclusions: Hick uses postmodernism but he does not fully embrace it. He falls short of rejecting the idea that there is some basis for knowledge.
'By rejecting the divinity of Christ Hick undermines Christianity.' Discuss.
Agree: He does undermine it because he removes the basis for Christian authority. Without the incarnation, Christianity is not distinctive. (Barth/Rahner)
Disagree: The ethics of Christianity can still be relevant (Cupitt)
Go back to your notes:
This is quite a straight forward question, so you need to do it really well! Make sure you can explain exactly why Hick rejects the divinity of Christ and link it to the principle of demythologising.
Look back over your Barth, Rahner and Cupitt notes too to consider how you might use them to evaluate Hick.
Plan the essay:
Introduction: Set out the debate and state your line of argument.
- Paragraph 1: Explain why Hick rejects the divinity of Christ (change in the meaning of the term 'son of God'/impossible for modern day people to believe/demythologising).
- Paragraph 2: Many exclusivists and inclusivists would argue that this undermines Christianity. Removes the possibility of salvation (death = atoning sacrifice) link to Barth's teachings about predestination and Rahner's teachings about Grace.
- Paragraph 3: However, Hick believes that the ethics and ceremonies of Christianity could continue to be influential. Cupitt would agree. Kingdom theology/ethic.
- Paragraph 4: (Analysis) Whilst Hick/Cupitt do demonstrate that Christian stories could still be inspiring without the divinity of Christ Hick's views do still undermine Christianity. Why follow Jesus' teachings if he was not God? Jesus' death would mark failure and the resurrection would be called into question.
- Paragraph 5: Hick does not accept this. He thinks that Christianity will die out unless Christiainity is demythologised. Thus the good points of Christianity are undermined by insistence on the divinity of Christ. Good teachings remain good teachings if said by a good person rather than by God - thus can still be influential. Part of copernican revolution which is necessary in a postmodern world.
- Paragraph 6: Inclusivists like Rahner offer a different way for Christianity to survive in a Postmodern world and people like Barth emphasise the importance of faith. Many people do still believe Jesus = God incarnate - thus it is not impossible to believe.
- Paragraph 7: (Analysis) There is evidence to suggest that Hick is right, people are more likely to view Jesus as an ethical teacher rather than God. However, this does not alter the fact that changing Jesus' status DOES undermine Christianity. Hick's own idea of the Copernican Revolution demonstrates this. Christianity not at the centre.
Conclusion: It does undermine it in that it takes away some of its authority, but it does not destroy it and it may well be necessary to do it.
Assess Hick's teachings about the relationship between religion and the Real.
When a question asks you to 'assess. [N's] teachings...' it is more difficult to identify a debate. However, the question is basically asking you whether or not their teachings are coherent/logical/useful etc. You should still be able to identify the different ways in which people might respond to the issues in the question.
Many pluralists find Hick's teachings about the relationship between religion and 'The Real' to be a very helpful way of explaining how all religions can contrain truth and yet be so different.
However, others think that his teachings are incoherent or illogical. Feuerbach would say that he is wrong to suggest that 'the Real' exists at all whilst many exclusivists would say that he downplays the important differences between religions.
Go back to your notes:
Make sure that you know what 'The Real' is and why Hick uses that term rather than the term 'God'. You need to be able to explain that religions are responses to different human experiences of the Real. To explain that fully you will need to refer to Hick's use of Kant's noumena/phenomena distinction to explain why different experiences can be understood at different interpretations of the same thing. You will probably also want to explain why Hick's views on religion/the real lead him towards a Copernican Revolution in theological thinking and towards global theology.
To assess his views you will need to compare his ideas to others and decide who has the better argument. Feuerbach, Cupitt, Barth and Rahner would all be relevant contrasts.
Plan the essay:
Introduction: Outline main areas of Hick's thought and the key challenges.
- Paragraph 1: Outline/Explain what Hick teaches about the link between the Real/Religion.
- Paragraph 2: One challenge to this view might come from Feuerbach. Feuerbach would argue that different religious experiences result from different needs. They are not different impressions of 'the Real'. There is no Real.
- Paragraph 3: (Analyse) Is Hick right or is Feuerbach right? Feuerbach is perhaps too dismissive of religious experiences. Some religious experiences seem to involve miraculous elements - not just a reflection of desires. Not all religious ideas are comforting (thus hard to account for as a 'projection of desire'). Religious people are not stupid - can tell the difference between imagination/reality. Conversion experiences.
- Paragraph 4: Another challenge might come from Barth/Rahner. Different interpretations of 'the Real' are not equally valid. Some are right and some are wrong. Theology should be Christocentric - the Copernican Revolution is unChristian.
- Paragraph 5: Exclusivist challenges are problematic as there is no clear way for Christians to know that their views are right. Revelation cannot be tested, Bible written a long time ago. Divinity of Jesus challenged etc. Thus impossible to tell who is right - thus Christocentric approach is flawed.
Conclusions: Hick's approach is not without issues, but it is more satisfactory than the exclusivist approach and less simplistic than Feuerbach's.