The news has been going aroud for a few days now that the philosophy and theologian John Hick has died over the last week. Hick’s breadth of topics were wide for a philosopher and the serious interplay between being a philosopher and a theologian (as opposed to one merely interested in issues of philosophy of religion) is very rare these days. My experience with Hick’s work came from his Christology and Eschatology initially when educated by the Jesuits.
At university, many people I was around would often speak of the ‘elephant’ analogy in casual, interfaith and non-theistic circles. The agenda of theologians and religious officials to take seriously the issue of pluralism and the engagement with other faiths was one taken seriously by one of my own theology lecturers at the time, Gavin D’Costa. The issue of other forms of Christianity as well as non-Christian religious believers reflects the ways in which diverse people engage and find common ground between each other, as well as within their own framework of belief, try to establish an understanding of their beliefs in relation to others. By taking a serious interest in the issue of religious pluralism as well as the great influence of his ideas, even among those who would vehemently disagree, Hick has made his historical mark as a prominent philosopher/theologian.
After university, I came across the issue of religious again, as I worked for a period in an interfaith setting, from the initial level of theoria to praxis, I found myself engaging with people who genuinely do find common ground yet disagree, and in their work on the ground in urban areas attempt to address the issue of how to deal with those of different faiths. I heard many experiences of how many faith, cultural and community representatives have come to deal with awkward disagreements or innocent questions from people unfamiliar with their religion. Although many of the people I worked with engaged with vastly different approaches to religious pluralism to the likes of Hick, his ideas were often in the background.