Soul-making is the theory that evil has to exist so that humans can develop their souls by living and becoming good, moral people.
Augustine believed that all humans were created perfect and that they were given free will. However, humans use that free will to turn away from God and chose to sin. God foretold that this fall would happen and therefore sent his son, Jesus Christ, so that humanity may be reconciled with God. Augustine’s theodicy bases the origin of evil and suffering on humanity and takes that responsibility away from God.
In his document on faith, hope and love called The Enchiridion, Augustine stated that the definition of evil is the ‘privation of good.’ (3:11) This means that evil does not exist in the same way that good exists, but rather that evil is the absence of good. Evil does not have to exist in order for good to exist. There does not need to be an opposite.
This doctrine allows for God to exist as an omnibenevolent being. This is because God is not responsible for creating evil, as evil itself as an entity does not exist.
Irenaeus stated that God made humans imperfect and is therefore partly responsible for the existence of evil. To make humans perfect would take away their freedom to live in accordance with God’s will. By creating imperfect humans, individuals are given the chance to develop and grow through a soul-making process into children of God. Irenaeus stated that eventually good will overcome evil and suffering.
Hick's theodicy is based on the same one as Irenaeus. However, Hick further developed the theory, called the ‘vale of soul-making.’ Hick agreed that humans were created as imperfect from the start, so that they could grow and develop into the ‘likeness’ of God. He developed this further by explaining that through hardships and life, humans develop virtues, and these virtues are more meaningful than if they were simply graced to us by God.
These good, moral traits are best as they come from free will. Unlike Augustine, who claimed that humanity destroyed a perfect world, Hick and Irenaeus say that the perfect world is one to look forward to. Hick believes that everyone has the chance to achieve eternal life.