The Trinity: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Trinity

By Stephen T. Davis; Daniel Kendall et al. | Go to book overview

10 John Hick on Incarnation and Trinity

Stephen T. Davis


I

This paper is a critique of John Hick's recent arguments against the orthodox Christian notion of incarnation, and by implication his understanding of the Trinity. Hick's career as a scholar has spanned some forty years, and many of his opinions have changed and developed during that time. This is certainly true of his christological views. I will concentrate on recent writings that surely contain the views on christology for which Hick will be remembered. 1

As is well known, Hick rejects orthodox or Chalcedonian christology. Briefly, this is the claim that Jesus Christ is 'truly God and truly human' and is 'one person in two natures'. Let us call this claim the 'classic doctrine' of the incarnation. Hick has three main criticisms of it. First, Jesus himself did not teach it. Second, Christian belief in it has had dire historical consequences. Third, it has never been spelled out in a way that is both philosophically coherent and religiously acceptable. Unable for these reasons to accept the classic doctrine, Hick argues in favour of understanding incarnation metaphorically rather than literally, i.e. as a way of pointing to Jesus as one who was radically open and responsive to God and who 'embodied a love which is a human reflection of the divine love'. 2

In this paper I want to comment on all three of Hick's criticisms, on his specific objections to kenotic versions of orthodox christology,

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