Updated June 25, 2016
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 suffering. 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 inconsistent. The one is 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.
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 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,
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 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:
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 with man prior to the
Fall (I say parallel, because the serpent possesses a supernatural
existence not in kind with, but parallel to and contamporaneous
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 account 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:
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 either 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
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.
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 every one 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 of
As 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 prepared to defend.
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 of experience.
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 will).
cannot be understood apart from moral agency,
especially as it pertains to man of whom 2
it is predicated as either an agent
or a casualty. That is to
say, man either causes evil, is a casualty of evil,
all good and all powerful
God would not create man imperfectly. If He chose to
create in imperfect man, He would not be all-good; if
He was unable to do otherwise, He would not be all-powerful.
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
(a cognate of 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.
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.
chose to know good
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
is not possible to know evil without experiencing
evil, anymore than it is to know good without experiencing
good. We cannot know, understand, pain and suffering
without experiencing pain and suffering, any more than
we can know and understand the color blue without experiencing
the color blue.
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).
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 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. 2 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
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,
autem sciéntiæ boni et mali”,
tree of knowledge of good and evil.”.
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, any conception
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.
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.
being culpable, God warned Adam and Eve to avoid
“the tree of knowledge of good and evil.”
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.
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.
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
is in no way culpable of, nor responsible for, the existence
of evil. The occurrence or experiencee of evil derogates
neither from His goodness, nor detracts from His power.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 good.
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.
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:
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 moriéris)
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 and evil.”
(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
Genesis of Evil
As one reader pointed out, the argument above
does not address the genesis of evil ab initio:
“does not address
the idea of the origin of evil. It does not explain
how evil came about. It does not exonerate God or explain
the conclusion that He did not create in some way, either
directly or indirectly, what we call
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 speculative 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 and eliminated redundancies in
them for the sake of concision and clarity. Because they are common
objections, it is well to state them and answer them in turn.
Objection 1: Why does evil exist in the first place?
“I don't think it's necessary as
such to pin-point the precise time or place when the first evil
thought or act took place, as we should only really be concerned
about why it exists in the first place.”
The possibility (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
(of the sort, “unless we do not know pain we cannot know its opposite,
pleasure — which is a discredited argument, for we do not, in fact,
know 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.
Objection:II The Paradigm of the Perfect Programmer
“If 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
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
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
Objection III: The Omniscience of God Necessarily Implicates God
“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 (evil).”
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
“I also do not agree with your statement:
“that 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."
That necessary 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 of evil.
Objection V: Evil Contradicts God's Omnipotence
“If 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
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
Objection 6: 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 have strayed.”
“… 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 Theologica, Question 103 Article 8 (St. Thomas Aquinas),
4 St. John 1.14
5 Hebrews 2.7 &
6 Philippians 2:7
7 Symbolum Nicaenum - 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
author of The Metaphysics of Mysticism: A Commentary
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"Cum essem párvulus, loquébar ut párvulus, cogitábam ut párvulus. Quando
autem factus sum vir, evacuávi quæ erant párvuli."
(I Corinthians 13.11)