Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Soul-making as Evidence for Immortality

Theologian John Hicks on Soul-making, or what he calls 'person-making' as the aim of life, and as an evidence for immortality of personal consciousness:

“The broad picture of man and his place in the universe on which the present speculation is based is teleological, presenting our life in time as a movement towards a goal. The telos to which our existence is directed can be formally described as human perfection, man’s full humanization, the total realization of the potentialities of finite life or, in the daring language of eastern orthodox Christianity, man’s divinization.

We can only experience the nature of this human fulfillment as we come to participate in it; but we have anticipatory glimpses of aspects of it, under the special conditions of this world, in the lives of the great saints of the various religious traditions [and mythologies]. Life, then, is a soul-making or person-making process. We exist in order to grow through our free interactions with a challenging environment towards a human perfection which lies far beyond our present state.

It is evident that such a completion is very seldom (if ever) achieved in the course of this present life. Generally the varied experiences of life bring some growth in understanding in oneself in acceptance of others, in willingness for sacrifice, and some expansion in the capacity to love and be loved. Very often, in these ways men and women take in the course of their lives a smaller or larger step towards their full humanization.

But too often people are so treated by life that they never have the opportunity, or sufficient opportunity, to develop their properly human potential, and end their lives as hard, selfish, embittered personalities who have turned their back upon the possibilities of human fellowship.

Or worse, men become possessed by evil and perhaps live and die violently as enemies of mankind. Thus in this life a few men and women advance a great deal and may come to be recognized as saints; most perhaps advance a certain amount; whilst yet others fail to advance at all, or even degenerate towards a sub-human condition.

Accordingly, it seems clear that if we do indeed exist under the aegis of a cosmic person-making purpose, that purpose must hold us in being beyond this present earthly life.”

Death and Eternal Life, John Hicks, pp. 407-408

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