single factor is invoked more often in people turning away from God,
or in their failing to believe in Him,
than the occurrence — note that I do not say
of evil, especially as it manifests itself in
The occurrence of evil appears incompatible
with God, or at least a coherent conception of God as both — and simultaneously
— absolutely good and absolutely powerful. That God and
the occurrence of evil should coexist appears logically contradictory
and ontologically incompatible. The one is effectively the abrogation
of the other. The existence of God, it is argued, precludes (or ought
to preclude) the occurrence of evil and the occurrence of evil precludes
(or ought to preclude) the existence of God.
While we can readily adduce empirical
evidence, that is to say, tangible instances, of evil to discredit
the existence of God, the availability of evidence to corroborate
the existence of God, on the other hand, is so exiguous that even
when such instances are invoked they are deemed extraordinary events
in the affairs of men; indeed, events so far from commonplace that we
call them miraculous — that is to say, inexplicable interventions conditionally
attributed to God in the absence of alternate explanations that may
yet be forthcoming. Whether or not this is a sufficient, if concise,
summary, the general implication is clear: evidence of evil overwhelmingly
exceeds evidence of God. If sheer preponderance is the criterion to
which we appeal, God loses.
Evil comes as a scandal to the believer who asks, “How can this be,
given the existence of God?”
To the disbeliever no such scandal arises — only scorn for the
believer who is left in perplexity, unable to deny the existence of
God on the one hand while equally unable to deny the occurrence of evil
on the other.
We appear to be consigned to either
nihilistic resignation in the one camp (evil is somehow ontologically
inherent and rampant in the universe although we cannot explain why),
or an unreasoned and therefore untenable affirmation of the existence
of God — despite the contradictory concurrence of evil — in the
other. Both appear to be damned to perplexity.
Neither has satisfactorily answered the question implicit within every
occurrence of evil: “Why?”
The Problem ...
and why we must respond to it
we begin our attempt to arrive at an answer to the problem of evil,
we must first clearly summarize and completely understand the nature
of the problem itself.
While this may appear obvious, all too often our efforts to make sense
of the experience of evil in our lives and in the world fail to adequately
address implicit or unstated premises apart from which no answer
is either forthcoming or possible. Failing to follow the premises, we
fail to reach a conclusion. Instead, we reflexively seize what is incontrovertible
(the occurrences of evil) and, understanding nothing of its antecedents,
satisfy ourselves that it is entirely a mystery — in other words, utterly
incomprehensible to us — in fact, so opaque to our ability to reason
it through (which we do not) that we throw up our hands in either frustration
or despair, declaring that either it is the will of God in a way we
do not understand, or that there can be no God in light of the enormities
that we experience. In either case — whether we affirm that God exists
despite them, or deny that He exists because of them —
we confront the experience of evil as an impenetrable mystery. Such
a facile answer, I suggest, is not a satisfactory state of affairs at
We can only speculate upon the pre-Adamic
origin of evil. That evil preceded the creation of Adam
and Eve in the Garden of Paradise is clear. We are given no explanation
of the genesis of evil as it predated the creation of man. We only know
that it had already manifested itself in the Garden — as something
already extrinsic to — and antagonistic toward it. That
is to say, in the Creation Narrative, we encounter from the outset the
parallel existence of the serpent (an embodiment of evil) with man prior
to the Fall (I say parallel, because the serpent possesses a
supernatural existence not in kind with,
but parallel to and contemporaneous with, the created
nature of man, much in the way that the supernatural
being of Angels coexist with the natural being of men).
While we are unable to explain evil prior
to the creation of man (simply because no narrative exists to which
we can appeal apart from one utterance of Christ 1), we are
not, however, for this reason absolved from explaining not only how
evil came to obtrude upon the affairs of men, but why it is not
incompatible with our conception of God as all-good and all-powerful.
Philosophy calls this endeavor a theodicy. We needn’t be intimidated
by this, nor think ourselves unequal to it, as we shall see.
To further compound the issue, the problem is no mere academic matter
from which we can stand aloof as so many theorists to hypothetical abstractions.
It is a problem that vexes us, lacerates us at every turn, believer
and unbeliever alike. It has a direct and painful bearing upon us; it
affects us, afflicts us, and, yes, sometimes crushes us. Despite the
refuge that the believer has taken in the notion of mystery, or the
cynicism to which the unbeliever consigns himself in hopeless resignation,
each cry out, equally and withal, “Why … ?” — especially
when the evil experienced or perpetrated is an effrontery to justice,
or a violation of innocence.
The skeptic, most often a casualty of evil, cannot reconcile
the occurrence of evil with the existence of God. The two appear to
be not just rationally incompatible but mutually exclusive. What is
more, the empirical evidence of evil is far more preponderant and far
more compelling than any evidence that can be readily adduced to the
existence of God. The believer, on the other hand, is painfully perplexed,
and sometimes deeply scandalized, by this seeming incompatibility which
often buffets the faith which alone sustains his belief — the faith
that, somehow, the occurrence of evil and the existence of God are not,
in the end, irreconcilable.
First and foremost, then, it is critical to be clear about the context
in which the problem first occurred, and from which all subsequent instances
follow. Even before this, however, and as we have said, we must be absolutely
clear about the problem itself which, in summary, follows:
The Problem Summarized:
We understand by God an absolutely omniscient Being Who is absolutely
good and absolutely powerful.
A being deficient in any of these respects — that is to say, wanting
in knowledge, goodness or power — we do not understand as God, but
as less than God.
An absolutely good, absolutely powerful, and absolutely omniscient
Being would know every instance of evil and would neither permit
it because He is absolutely good, or, because He is absolutely powerful,
would eradicate it.
Suffering and evil, in fact, occur.
Therefore, God, from Whom evil cannot be concealed, cannot be absolutely
good AND absolutely powerful.
If absolutely good, God would eradicate all evil and suffering —
but does not, and therefore, while all-good, He cannot be all-powerful.
Conversely, if absolutely powerful, then God could abolish evil
and suffering, but does not, and therefore, while all powerful,
He cannot be all good.
Hence, there is no God, for by God we understand a Being perfect
in goodness and power.
Until we are perfectly clear about this,
we can go no further. Unless we fully grasp the magnitude of this problem
we cannot hope to understand the reasons why men either fail to believe
in God, or having once believed, no longer do so. The occurrence, the
experience, of evil, as we had said in our opening, appears as nothing
less than a scandal to believers, and the cause of disbelief in unbelievers.
It need not be so.
For our part, we
must be prepared to follow St. Peter’s exhortation, “being ready always
to satisfy everyone that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in
you” (1 St. Peter 3.15). Hence, we begin.
The Solution to the Problem
mentioned earlier, any attempt
to come to terms with the problem of evil vis-à-vis the existence of
God inevitably entails linguistic and conceptual complexities especially
in the way of suppressed premises, or unstated assumptions. It is absolutely
essential that these latent features, these uncritically assumed concepts
long-dormant in language, be made manifest.
What really is the problem of evil,
and what really is the nature of God in its simplest formulation?
Can God really be exculpated? Can He be exonerated of this ontological
cancer that we call evil? And what is the real nature of evil itself?
All too often we are facile with our answers through some articulation
of faith that we are not adequately prepared to defend.
Our confrontation with the problem
of evil is the greatest confrontation of all — for it is, in the end,
not only the genesis of all that we suffer, but remains the apocalyptic
culmination of all that has been and ever will be.
The Solution Summarized
problem of evil and suffering is a moral problem with existential
consequences that extend to, and are manifested within, the universe
The universe of moral discourse within the context of which alone
a discussion of the notion of evil is possible, is not coherent
apart from the notion of volition (the will; specifically the free
Evil, therefore, cannot be understood apart from moral agency, especially
as it pertains to man of whom it is predicated as either an agent
or a casualty. That is to say, man either causes evil, is a casualty
of evil, or both.
An all good and all powerful God would not create man imperfectly.
If He chose to create an imperfect man, He would not be all-good;
if He was unable to do otherwise, He would not be all-powerful.
Free will is a perfection in man. If we do not concede that free
will is a perfection, then we cannot not concede to this concession,
which is to say we cannot hold ourselves free to disagree with it,
and deem this better (the penultimate of the superlative perfect)
than to be free to disagree with it. In a word, if free will is
not a perfection, then it pertains more to the notion of perfection
that the will not be free. However, apart from free will there is
no universe of moral discourse; nothing meritorious and nothing
blameworthy, no intention, action, or event in the affairs of men
that is susceptible of being construed as either good or evil —
and no action is good, and conversely, none is evil — for there
is no evil and no good pertaining to the actions of men.
But there is evil.
And there is good.
What is more, if I am not free not to love God, then my loving God
— or anyone or anything else — is without value, for we do not ascribe
the notion of valuation to that which proceeds of necessity. That
the sum of the interior angles in any triangle is 180 degrees possesses
nothing in the way of valuation. We do not say that it is good or
evil. It is geometrically necessary. If we agree that free will
is a perfection (that it is better to possess free will than not
to possess it), then in creating man, God would have deprived man
of a perfection in his created nature — a notion that would be inconsistent
with either the goodness or the power of God, or both. Eve already
knew, was acquainted with, good, for the Garden of Paradise was
replete with everything good, and devoid of anything evil. Eve experienced
no want, no privation.
Eve chose to know good and evil.
Eve, by nature created good, therefore chose not to know good, the
first term, with which we was already naturally acquainted, but
the second term, evil. Eve already knew good but she knew nothing
of evil, for only good existed in the Garden of Paradise, and she
herself was created good.
Now, it is not possible to know evil without experiencing evil,
anymore than it is to know good without experiencing good. We cannot
know, understand, comprehend, pain and suffering without experiencing
pain and suffering, any more than we can know, understand, and comprehend
the color blue without experiencing the color blue.
In choosing to know evil, therefore, Eve inadvertently, but nevertheless
necessarily and concomitantly, chose to experience evil of which
she erstwhile knew nothing. It was not the case that Eve was conscious
or cognitive of the deleterious nature of evil (for prior to Original
Sin, as we have said, Eve had only known, experienced, good).
What is more, no one chooses what is evil except that they misapprehend
it as a good, for every choice is ineluctably a choosing of a perceived
good, even if the good perceived is intrinsically evil.
The most evil act is latently a choice of a good extrinsic to the
evil act. Man only acts for, and is motivated toward, a perceived
good, however spurious the perception or the perceived good. It
is impossible to choose an intrinsically evil act apart from a perceived
extrinsic good motivating the intrinsically evil act. Eve’s
choice, while free, was nevertheless instigated through the malice
and lie of the evil one who deceived Eve that an intrinsic evil
—explicitly prohibited by God — was in fact an intrinsic good, which
it was not. The susceptibility to being deceived does not derogate
from the perfection of man, for the notion of deception is bound
up with the notion of trust, which is an indefeasible good. The
opposite of trust is suspicion which already, and hence anachronistically,
presumes an acquaintance with evil.
In choosing to know evil, Eve’s choice necessitated, precipitated,
those conditions alone through which evil can be experienced, e.g.
death, suffering, illness, pain, etc. Her choosing to know evil
biconditionally entailed the privation of the good, the first term,
through which alone we understand evil, the second term. Evil is
not substantival, which is to say, evil possesses no being of its
own apart from the good of which it is only privative, a negation
in part or whole. For this reason we see the two terms conjoined
in Holy Scripture in, “ligno autem sciéntiæ
boni et mali”, or “the tree of knowledge of good and
The existence of the good, does not, as some suggest, still less
necessarily entail, the experience of evil. Adam and Eve in the
state of natural felicity in the Garden of Paradise knew good apart
from any acquaintance with, or any conception of, evil.
Evil necessarily implicates good, but good in no way necessarily
implicates evil. The notion of knowledge by way of contrast and
opposition is confined to relatively few empirical instances, and
always yields nothing of what a thing is, only that in contradistinction
to what it is not. To know what a thing is not, tells us nothing
of what it is. We do not know the color Blue by its opposition to,
its contrast with, or in contradistinction to, a Not-Blue, for there
is no existent “Not-Blue”. There are only other colors we distinguish
from Blue — but we do so without invoking the notion of contrast
or opposition. I do not know Blue as “Not-Red” (or, for that matter,
through invoking any or all the other colors). I know Blue in the
experience of Blue only. If there is an “opposite” of Blue, or a
corresponding negative to Blue, it can only be the absence of color
— not simply another color that is “not-Blue”, for in that case
every other color would be the opposite of Blue — and the opposite
of every other color as well.
Once again, in Eve’s choosing to know evil, she consequently and
concomitantly chose the conditions under which alone such knowledge
was possible. Among the conditions informing such knowledge were
death, suffering, pain — and all that we associate with evil and
understand by evil.
Far from being culpable, God warned Adam and Eve to avoid the, “the
tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
To argue that the goodness of God is compromised by His injunction
against the plenitude of knowledge through His forbidding them to
eat of the “tree of knowledge of good and evil” is spurious inasmuch
as it holds knowledge, and not felicity, to be the greatest good
possible to man. In withholding complete knowledge, it is mistakenly
argued, God deprived man of an intrinsic good.
Felicity, or complete happiness, not omniscience, or complete knowledge,
is man’s greatest good, and only that which redounds to happiness
is good for man, not that which redounds to knowledge, and the two
do not entirely coincide.
To maintain that to know evil, suffering, illness, death … and unhappiness
… redounds to man’s happiness is an irreconcilable contradiction.
Evil is a privation of the good; consequently, to choose evil is
to choose a privation of the good, specifically that which vitiates
or diminishes the good.
To maintain, furthermore, that man can know evil, suffering, illness,
and death without experiencing evil, suffering, illness and death
is equally subreptive. By this line of reasoning, one whose vision
is color-deficient can know the color Purple without ever experiencing
the color Purple; know what is bitter without experiencing bitterness;
know “hot” without experiencing hotness. Purple, bitterness, hot
— evil, suffering, illness, death (all that we understand by “evil”)
are not concepts (in the way, for example, that a simple binomial
equation (1+1=2) is a concept independent of anything existentially
enumerable) but experiences, the knowledge of which demands the
experience and cannot be acquired apart from it anymore than pain
can be known apart the experience of pain. Pain, illness, suffering,
death, etc. are in no way inherently, intrinsically good. No one
who has experienced the death of a loved one, the pain of an injury,
or illness of any sort will maintain that such knowledge acquired
through these experiences redounds to their felicity; that their
“knowledge” of any of these evils either promotes or contributes
to their happiness.
God, then, is in no way culpable of, nor responsible for, the existence
of evil. The occurrence or experience of evil derogates neither
from His goodness, nor detracts from His power.
If God is all good, He would confer the perfection of freedom upon
man in Adam and Eve. If He is all powerful He would permit the exercise
of this freedom.
To confer the perfection of freedom of will upon man does not eo
ipso imply that the exercise of the will necessarily involves a
choosing between the good and the not-good or the less good, still
less a choice between good and evil. Presumably the exercise of
this freedom prior to the Fall was exercised in choices between
things of themselves inherently good, albeit distinguishable in
attributes. The fig and the pear are equally good in nature, but
differing in attributes, and to choose the one over the other is
not to imply that the one is good and the other not-good or even
less-good. The choosing to eat the one and not the other is a choice
among alternative goods.
Nor is the thing not chosen “less good” in itself than that which
is chosen. It is good proper to its nature. The pear and the fig
are equally nutritious.
The notion of choice is only coherent in the context of right reason.
Choice (the exercise of free will), is never gratuitous, but is
always in accordance with reason which alone mediates the choice
to a coherent end. What we choose, we choose to coherent ends. In
other words, we choose for a reason — and not spontaneously or gratuitously.
Choices are always ordered to ends, however disordered the choices
themselves may be.
One does not, for example, choose as the means to nutrition, a stone
rather than a fig. The choosing of the fig does not imply that the
stone is not good. On the other hand, one does not choose figs to
build a house, rather than stones. This does not imply that the
fig is not good. The nature of the fig redounds to nutrition, while
the nature of the stone does not, and the nature of the stone redounds
to building while the nature of the fig does not. One can still
choose to eat stones or to build with figs, but such choices do
not accord with ordered reason, which of itself is also an intrinsic
Only God can bring good out of evil He does not will but nevertheless
permits through having conferred the perfection of freedom upon
man. While God could not have endowed man with this perfection without
simultaneously permitting the consequences necessary and intrinsic
to it, He is not Himself the Author of the evil but of that perfection
in man through which — not of necessity (for man is never compelled
to choose inasmuch as compulsion by definition abrogates choice)
— man chooses evil and subsequently becomes the agent of it.
The occurrence of evil, consequently, is neither inconsistent
with nor contrary to the notion of God as absolutely good
and absolutely powerful.
The Scriptural Narrative as the Logical Antecedent:
“And He commanded him, saying:
Of every tree of paradise thou shalt eat: but of the tree of
knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat. For in what
day soever thou shalt eat of it, thou shalt die the death.”
(Præcepítque ei, dicens: Ex
omni ligno paradísi cómede; de ligno autem sciéntiæ boni et
mali ne cómedas: in quocúmque enim die coméderis ex eo, morte
“Now the serpent was more subtle
than any of the beasts of the earth which the Lord God made.
And He said to the woman: Why hath God commanded you that you
should not eat of every tree of paradise? And the woman answered
Him, saying: Of the fruit of the trees that are in paradise
we do eat: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst
of paradise, God hath commanded us that we should not eat; and
that we should not touch it, lest perhaps we die. And the serpent
said to the woman: No, you shall not die the death. For God
doth know that in what day soever you shall eat thereof, your
eyes shall be opened: and you shall be as gods, knowing good
(Sed et serpens erat callídior
cunctis animántibus terræ quæ fécerat Dóminus Deus. Qui dixit
ad mulíerem: Cur præcépit vobis Deus ut non comederétis de omni
ligno paradísi? Cui respóndit múlier: De fructu lignórum, quæ
sunt in paradíso, véscimur: de fructu vero ligni quod est in
médio paradísi, præcépit nobis Deus ne comederémus, et ne tangerémus
illud, ne forte moriámur. Dixit autem serpens ad mulíerem: Nequáquam
morte moriémini. Scit enim Deus quod in quocúmque die comedéritis
ex eo, aperiéntur óculi vestri, et éritis sicut dii, sciéntes
bonum et malum.)
Genesis of Evil
one reader pointed out,
the argument above does not address the genesis of evil ab initio:
It “does not address the idea of the
origin of evil. It does not explain how evil came about. It does
not exonerate God or vindicate the assertion that He is not responsible
in some way, either directly or indirectly, for what we call “evil”.
This is a point well taken. The argument
thus far articulated is clearly framed within the Biblical context in
which it first presents itself to us, and as such may be understood
as a type of epoche, or bracketed narrative, the authenticity
of which we assume as Catholics — not necessarily apart from discursive
reasoning, but not articulated exclusively or even largely in terms
of it either. Whatever we can speculate upon regarding the origin of
evil, of one thing only can we be certain: that the origin of evil
is radicated in the will.
If we seek an ontological genesis of evil we shall not find one simply
because what we understand as evil is a privation of being and not constituting,
let alone instantiating, a being itself whose ontology is tautologically
reciprocal with evil. In the strictest sense, there is no purely evil
being. This is tantamount to saying there is a being nothing, or, alternately,
a nothing being. It is an oxymoron. This is also not to say that there
is no single being, or categories of beings, from which the good has
been exhaustively, but not totally, deprived, and we understand such
beings as evil not in the sense of what they possess in their being
but in the sense of what is deficient in their being: specifically the
good in whatever measure — and precisely by that measure are they construed
as evil. In that inverted and ever mimicking world of evil, just as
there are differing magnitudes of goodness in the holy, there are differing
magnitudes of the absence of goodness in the evil. As some are to greater
or lesser degrees holy, so to greater or lesser degrees are the evil.
The ultimate expression of this near total privation of the good is
personal because it pertains to a will, and the person in whose will
we find this nearly ultimate extinction of the good we understand as
s@^@-, or the devil.
Apart from a coherent notion of the will we find nothing to which we
can assign moral predicates, nothing inculpatory or exculpatory, praiseworthy
or blameworthy, no sanctity and no sin; we find no world of moral discourse.
Just as the will is the radix bonorum, it is the radix malorum
To speculate upon the radix malorum ab initio (the root of all
evil from the beginning) is to speculate upon the first instance of
the corruption of the will. We have no Scriptural narrative to which
we can appeal in answering this and thus no phenomenological bracket
(epoche) in which to address it as Catholics. Consequently, every
effort will be, at best, conjectural. We at least know that it pertained
to freedom, specifically freedom of the will apart from which there
is no moral discussion. We have no narrative through which we can answer
the question of why, in the first instance, satan sinned through a willful
refusal to cooperate with God. It has been speculated upon by theologians
throughout history as attributable to pride (e.g. concerning the Incarnation
of Jesus Christ in the Immaculate womb of Mary and the angelic pride
this instigated through the refusal to worship God Who became man (Verbum
caro factum est
4) — man who was created less than the angels 5
— for the sake of our salvation 6 and to Whom, as True God
and True Man,7 worship is due), itself an expression of the
will. Thus, while the circumstances surrounding the first defection
of the free will from the supremely good will of God can only be speculated
upon, the free will of satan nevertheless is resolved into a causa
sui, a cause in and of itself originating from no prior cause that
would subvert or attenuate the notion of the authenticity of the free
following questions were submitted and the line of reasoning is instructive
in further elaborating the problem of evil and a coherent response to
it. I have abbreviated the questions
redundancies in them for the sake of concision and clarity. Because
they are common objections, it is well to state them and answer them
Why does evil exist at all?
don’t think it's necessary as such to pin-point the precise time or
place when the first evil thought or act occurred: we should only really
be concerned about why it exists in the first place.”
(not the actuality) of evil understood as the privation of good
is the condition of the free will. To argue that evil “exists” as
a necessary condition to our understanding or apprehending the good
(analogous to the proposition that, “unless we do not know (experience)
pain we cannot know (experience) its presumed opposite, pleasure
— which is a discredited argument, for we do not, in fact, know
(experience) pleasure merely in contradistinction from pain. There
are many types of pain. Does each have its opposite in pleasure
as a necessary condition to experiencing that pain? If, so, then
please tell me what the opposite and corresponding pleasure is to
having forcefully struck ones thumb with a hammer and experiencing
the resulting pain. Is it is pleasurable thumb? Of course, this
is a reduction ad absurdam and need not be pursued.
II: The Paradigm of the Perfect Programmer
we can look at this situation in an analogous way, God could be likened
to a programmer, they create something. The programmer has the knowledge
and certain foresight to predict how his program would run, he creates
his program so that it is safe for the user to run, he has safe-guarded
it against attacks as best as he knows how, but eventually
over time, due to his finite knowledge, a loophole is found and another
user hacks it, or renders it into something for malicious intent.
Your analogy fails altogether. Programmers
do not create — nor is their “knowledge” in any way possessed
of the apodictic certainty that we find invested in, say, analytical
propositions such that any possible outcome must follow — and
necessarily so — from irrefragable premises. Programmers do
not bring something into existence ex nihilo; they merely
synthetize, constructing source code from already existing binary
information into object code. Yes? This is no mere carping. Linguistic
precision is absolutely necessary to any plausible explication of
the problem evil. You could as well have used a child with Lego’s
and wheels as your analogue. This is not being unkind. It is merely
being necessarily clear.
Nor is it the case that God is not omniscient, unlike the programmer.
I earnestly suggest you read David Hume’s analysis of the Problem
of Induction in his Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding
— it is first year freshman philosophy, and very accessible — understanding
this will help you see in the problem inherent in your argument.
In so many words, all the possible combinations considered by your
hypothetical programmer not merely cannot be logically anticipated,
but even the first presumed causal nexus between the source language
and the low level compiler is only probable at best in resulting
in any intended executable — and may result in something quite different
in the next instance.
Objection III: The Omniscience of God Necessarily Implicates God in
“God is omniscient, He knows the results
of his actions over an infinite period of time, He knew when that first
instance of evil would arise, so in a sense they [the programmer and
God] are very alike, but yet very different because God should by definition
have (or be able to) create a scenario( program) where no fault arises
In other words,
God could have created a non-moral universe … and such a universe
would be the best of all possible worlds … This is a very old argument
that would be tiresome to recapitulate, and I suggest that you read
it at your leisure. To cut to the chase, God could have created
a world of automatons, in your estimation, incapable of choosing
evil because there would be no evil from which to choose. Essentially
it is a universe without moral predicates — which would, eo ipso,
be a universal within which there would be no will or volition to
which alone moral predication is coherently both ascribable and
attributable. But a world without will or volition is not a moral
world. There still could be choices between competing goods, but
we could not say of such choices that they possess moral predicates.
We could still choose, but we could only choose good, which is tantamount
to saying that we have no moral choice. All possible choices would
be good. What is chosen would always be good — but we have argued
that evil is radicated in the will. Then every will would necessarily
be good and incapable of evil. A necessarily good will would necessarily
always choose the good even were the good to coexist with evil (even
understood as something substantival, which it is not, rather than
as a privation of the good, which it is). So, once again, a notion
of authentic choice is essentially subverted. What is chosen would
always be good and the will which chooses would be indefectibly
good. A coherent concept of moral agency under such conditions is
impossible. No choice is laudable, because it is necessary, and
nothing chosen is other than good.
To understand the will as the origin of all moral agency, even as
it expresses itself materially, and at that the same time also ask
what is the origin of the free will is to ask what is the origin
of the origin. This question results in an absurd tautology. “What
motivates the will to will?” is a question
that is regressive ad infinitum unless
the will is understood as the motivating
agency itself capable of appropriating distinguishable choices freely.
Objection IV: Evil is not in the Will
also do not agree with your statement:
the origin of evil is radicated in the will.“ - I think the original
of evil maybe realized through free will, but not radicated. For evil
cannot occur without there having been a framework for it to occur,
in other words the potential for evil to occur must exist for it to
have any chance of it existing, and that potential has existed with
creation, and hence the creator's hand has been explicitly and solely
a part of that.“
framework we understand to be libero voluntate, the freedom
of the will, which is recognized as a perfection accorded man by
God; id est, to be endowed with, rather than deprived of,
freedom is conceded to be an eminent good redounding to the perfection
of man. Moreover, evil is a privation of the good, and the “framework”
for the very possibility of evil is the good of which alone it is
privative. To argue that there can be a “framework” apart from the
good in which alone evil can occur is contradictory since it is
precisely a privation of the good by which we understand the concept
Objection V: Evil Contradicts God's Omnipotence
God has had no hand in creating evil, then that implies that's an element
of creation that he has had no control over and that ultimately in his
will to create something good he had to have evil necessarily tied in,
which contradicts omnipotence, and necessarily implicates him as culpable.“
Evil, as we
have repeatedly said, is ontological privation — not, as you appear
to suggest, a being of some mysterious sort. It is a privation of
what should be. It is much like asking why God created nothing,
or the absence of something that should be. One cannot — even God
—“create” nothing. God can choose not the create something, but
He cannot chose to create nothing, for nothing is the negation of
something, and even if it were possible for nothing to be created
without contradiction, what would we call it? Nothing. It is a circular,
contradictory argument. What is more, all that God created is good
according to the Genesis account.
Objection VI: The Omnipotence of God and Evil in the Fallen Angels
consider the practically observable source of evil, I take it that the
rebelliousness of man is the result or at least a part of the actions
of Lucifer? If God is omnipotent and omniscient, then He would have
foreseen the actions of Lucifer before creating him. Given the infinite
powers of God as implied by Scripture, it would have been possible for
him to create an angel like Lucifer that he would have known would not
“… practically observable source
of evil … ”? I do not understand this statement, so cannot answer
it. I will conjecture that you are suggesting that God could have
created the angels less perfectly, or possessed of
a lesser degree of perfection than we find in the perfection of
free will with which He endowed them? But then God would not be
perfectly good were He to withhold a perfection in justice due the
created nature of a being.
St. Luke 10.18
2 Apart from the diabolical, by whose instigation Eve was deceived.
The provenance of this primeval malice which antecedes the creation
of man is the topic of another subject. Evil was in no way intrinsic
to the Garden of Paradise. Happiness was. The intrusion of evil upon
nature through supernatural artifice only indicates the pre-existence
of supernatural evil apart from nature which was created
good. While chronologically antecedent to nature it was not manifest
within it, even while concurrent with it, for the two — the natural
and the supernatural — are ontologically distinct. The present argument
purposes to explain the origin of evil as it touches upon human existence
enacted in nature, not the provenance of evil as it pertains
to diabolical being enacted in the supernatural.
3 De Divinis Nominibus 4.31, (Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite);
Summa Theologiae, Question 103 Article 8 (St. Thomas Aquinas),
St. John 1.14
5 Hebrews 2.7 &
6 Philippians 2:7
— Nicene Creed — circa 325 A.D.
... by one man's offence death reigned ...”
God created man incorruptible, and to the image of His own likeness
he made him. But by the envy of the devil, death came into the world.”
Geoffrey K. Mondello
The Metaphysics of Mysticism: A Commentary
Evil is not substantival; it has no existence, only occurrence.
It is, as we have seen, the privation — in whatever measure —
of a good, of that which is an existing good.
essem párvulus, loquébar ut párvulus, cogitábam ut párvulus. Quando
autem factus sum vir, evacuávi quæ erant párvuli.”
(I Corinthians 13.11)
Totally Faithful to the Sacred
Deposit of Faith entrusted to the Holy See in Rome
opera tua ... quia modicum habes virtutem, et servasti verbum
Meum, nec non negasti Nomen Meum”
know your works ... that you have but little power, and
yet you have kept My word, and have not denied My Name.”
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