THE PROBLEM OF EVIL:
sicut fulgor de caelo cadentem.” *
By: Geoffrey K. Mondello
(Revised February 16, 2023)
Prefacing the Problem
No 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 “existence”
as it manifests itself in suffering.
— not the existence — 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.
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
Before 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
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 it 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
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, and 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
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
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
Suffering and evil,
in fact, occur.
from Whom evil cannot be concealed, cannot be absolutely good AND
If absolutely good,
God would eradicate all evil and suffering — but does not, and therefore,
while all-good, He cannot be all-powerful.
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
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
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.
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).
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
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
Now, it is not
possible to know evil without experiencing evil, any more than it
is to know good without experiencing good. We cannot know, understand,
or 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 the 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 evillest 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 scientia¦ 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,
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
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 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
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
To maintain, furthermore,
that man can know evil, suffering, illness, and death without experiencing
evil, suffering, illness and death is equally unacceptable. 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 any more 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.
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.
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.”
“... de ligno
autem scientiae boni et mali ne comedas:
in quocumque enim die comederis ex eo, morte morieris.” (Genesis
“Now the serpent
was more subtle than any of the beasts of the earth which the Lord
God had 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 callidior cunctis animantibus terrae quae fecerat Dominus Deus.
Qui dixit ad mulierem: Cur praecepit vobis Deus ut non comederetis
de omni ligno paradisi? Cui respondit mulier: De fructu lignorum,
quae sunt in paradiso, vescimur: de fructu vero ligni quod est in
medio paradisi, praecepit nobis Deus ne comederemus, et ne tangeremus
illud, ne forte moriamur. Dixit autem serpens ad mulierem: Nequaquam
morte moriemini. Scit enim Deus quod in quocumque die comederitis
ex eo, aperientur oculi vestri, et eritis sicut dii, scientes bonum
et malum.” (Genesis 3.1-5)
Concerning the Genesis of Evil
As one reader
pointed out, the argument above does not address the genesis of evil
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 satan, 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 will itself.
FURTHER OBJECTIONS ANSWERED
The 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 at all?
“I 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 “exist” 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 one’s thumb with a hammer and experiencing
the resulting pain. Is it a “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 Legos
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
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).”
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
Objection IV: Evil is not in the Will
also do not agree with your statement: “that the origin of evil
is radicated in the will.” I think the origin of evil may
be realized through free will, but not radicated in it. 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 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 choose 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
“Let us 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.”
observable source of evil …”? I do not understand this statement,
so I 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.
* “I saw Satan
like lightning falling from heaven.” (Saint Luke 10.18)
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),
4 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 ...” (Romans 5.17)
“For 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.”
Evil has no existence, only
occurrence. It is, as we have seen, the privation — in
whatever measure — of that which is good.
essem párvulus, loquébar ut párvulus, cogitábam ut párvulus. Quando
autem factus sum vir, evacuávi quæ erant párvuli.”
(I Corinthians 13.11)
Geoffrey K. Mondello
The Metaphysics of Mysticism: A Commentary
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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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