THE PROBLEM OF
By: Geoffrey K. Mondello
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,
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 of Evil
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
The problem of evil and suffering is a moral
problem with existential consequences that extend to, and are manifested
within, the universe of experience.
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 will).
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
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,
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
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 evil.”
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 good.
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
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.”
ei, dicens : Ex omni ligno paradísi cómede; de ligno autem sciéntiæ
boni et mali ne cómedas: in quocúmque enim die coméderis ex eo, morte
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.”
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.)
Concerning the 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 explain the conclusion that He did not
create in some way, either directly or indirectly, what we call
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
FURTHER OBJECTIONS ANSWERED
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.
Why does evil exist in the first place?
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.
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
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 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 (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
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."
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
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
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
“… 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),
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
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.”