Hick on Resurrection

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Last updated: April 6, 2019

A. Contemporary science and western philosophers tend to view the self as a psycho-physical unity. (Cf.

Badham’s critique of the soul doctrine)B. Disembodied soul theories require the appearance of a body and physical environment.3. The Basic Idea of ResurrectionAccording to the doctrine of bodily resurrection, human beings are by nature mortal. But all people who have died will be reconstituted (by God) as a psycho-physical unity at some point in the future. They will live again in bodily form. Most theories hold that the resurrection body will be very similar to the pre-mortem body, but some relevant differences remain.

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It may be similar in appearance. The person will retain her “dispositional characteristics” and “memory” once associated with the previous body. The resurrection doctrine involves a single resurrection, not a succession of resurrections. The latter approaches the idea of reincarnation.

4. Hick’s “Replica” TheoryHick uses the idea of a “replica” to explain the coherence of bodily resurrection. Unlike the normal use of the term replica, Hick uses it in a way that rules out a contemporaneous counterpart. The term is intended to signify the reappearance of a person (usually in a different space) identical to a person who has died (in some previous space). The second person is said to be a replica of the first.The significance of the replica theory is that it is a model that can allow us to determine whether resurrection is coherent. A basic question in philosophy of religion is whether a bodily resurrection is possible. If there is a model that is sufficiently similar to resurrection that is coherent, then resurrection itself is coherent.

Hence, Hick aims to show that there is a coherent model of the resurrection.5. Three CasesHick claims that the following situations are coherent and hence lend support to the idea of a bodily resurrection.A.

A man A is in London and suddenly disappears. Another man B suddenly appears in New York. The New York, B, has the same memories, personality, and physical features as A. They are physically and psychologically the same. It is coherent to suppose that A and B are the same person for we can make sense out of a replica being who replaces a person who has disappeared.B.

A man A is in London and dies. Immediately thereafter, another man, B, suddenly reappears in New York. B has the same memories, personality, and physical characteristics as A. It is coherent to suppose that A and B are the same person for we can make sense out of a replica being who replaces a person who has died.

C. A man, A, dies in London and his replica appears in another world (or universe), a place not connected to the space of the world in which he died. Hick thinks that if the first two scenarios are coherent, then this one is too, though it is a bit more problematic.i.

He would know himself to be the same person. It would be like waking up from sleep.ii. He would likely know that he now inhabits a different world if the world has qualities inconsistent with the previous one.

Of course, the replica could appear in the same space, e.g., somewhere else in the Universe.

A man who dies on earth could be resurrected in a different region of the Milky Way, or in some other galaxy.6. Two ObjectionsA. If a person is resurrected in another space, this event could not meaningfully take place after a previous embodied existence.

If space and time are symmetric, then a different space would involve a different time, so could not – strictly speaking – be before of after the previous life in a previous space.Hick responds by saying that though we couldn’t synchronize the clocks or calendars of each world, there can still be a single time sequence that contains the timelines of both spaces. (Distinction between metric and topology of time might be helpful here).

B. If it is coherent to suppose that God might create a second-space reproduction of Mr. X, then it makes to suppose that he might create two or more Mr. X’s.

But since this latter scenario is not possible, then neither is the former.Two might be a logical impossibility, but one isn’t. In other words, there may be independent reasons for supposing that there can’t be two or more of the same person, but these reasons would not apply to single replica.7. Further ConsiderationsA. It might be objected that resurrection, though it fits well with the view of the human person as a psycho-physical unity, does not fit well with bodily continuity, which may reasonable be thought to be a necessary condition for continuity of self. Even if the post-mortem body is very similar to the previous one, there has been some gap in the history between the first body and the second one.

This gap, though not terribly significant in the cases Hick provides, would be significant for most people since their bodies have been buried or burned.B. Would the resurrection model provide an adequate framework for resolving the problem of evil? In other words, let us suppose that the higher goods that would justify evil in our earthly lives are not acquired in our life-time. What would we have to say about our resurrected lives to ensure that such goods were achieved in the next life?

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