Whether or not evil is the absence of good is a question that has puzzled Christians since the time of St. Augustine of Hippo. In The Confessions of St. Augustine, he initiates this premise and argues in its favor. Discourse about evil is based on the Christian theological teachings of the omniscience, omnipotence, and perfect benevolence of God as well as the understanding that evil is present in this world. Since these four concepts are contradictory, one of them must be rejected. Thus, St. Augustine argues that evil does not exist. I find St. Augustine’s explanation to be satisfying.
In order to make sense of St. Augustine’s definition of evil as the absence of good, it is helpful to know how he came up with it. It is true that …show more content…
By asking question after question about how it is possible for evil to exist given what is known about God, he helps his readers realize that evil cannot exist.
Another way to approach what is meant by evil being an absence of good is by employing Platonic ideas. According to Plato’s theory of forms, all that exists is somewhat of a shadow of God. Imagine a line that divides the divine world from the earthly. Plato called the divine world which he placed above the line the noumena and the earthly world which he put below the line the phenomena. He taught that the noumena is perfect and that the phenomena is imperfect, but also good and praiseworthy. Basically, Plato believed that everything that exists is a reflection of God. Furthermore, the phenomena is corruptible while the noumena is incorruptible. Plato also said that corrupting something means making it less like its noumena form and less good. Corrupt things are not evil. For example, one cannot affect “treeness,” or the noumena form of a tree, by chopping down a tree. Moreover, a tree stump is less of a reflection of the noumena form and less good than an actual tree is, but it is not evil.
The chapter of Genesis in the Old Testament of the Bible is when we first see an absence of good. In the begining of time when God created Heaven and earth, “[he] looked over all he had made, and saw that it was very good” (Genesis 1: 31)! Later in the creation
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When I think of the concept of “evil,” I think of The Consolation of Philosophy by Boethius. In The Consolation of Philosophy, Lady Philosophy stated:
One of the oldest dilemmas in philosophy is also one of the greatest threats to Christian theology. The problem of evil simultaneously perplexes the world’s greatest minds and yet remains palpably close to the hearts of the most common people. If God is good, then why is there evil? The following essay describes the problem of evil in relation to God, examines Christian responses to the problem, and concludes the existence of God and the existence of evil are fully compatible.
An omnibenevolent God created a man with the capacity to sin; as Augustine has addressed, the evil in man resides from his will. Augustine, however, does not address how evil stems also from the human nature of temptation that was a consequence of the original fall from Eden. Augustine touches on this theme when accounting for the origins of his sin, but he never fully declares it. “I loved to excuse my soul,” Augustine begins, “and to accuse something else inside me (I knew not what) but which was not I. But, assuredly, it was I, and it was my impiety that had divided me against myself” (62). Here, Augustine admits to denying his own human nature to sin, and blames it on something beyond his will, such as a result of creation. Bonner,
This essay features the discussion of the problem of evil in relation to the existence of god. Specifically outlining two sections where the problem of evil is discussed from atheist and theistic viewpoint.
Evil can be categorized into two forms, moral evil and natural evil. Moral evil is brought about by bad choices that stem from our free will. Natural evil is bad things that happen to people, whether they deserve them or not. The problem with evil is,
The reason that we even have an experience of a perceived evil is because for the soul to experience itself as any particular thing, the exact opposite of that thing must come into the realm of existence. In other words, in this relative existence, hot cannot be hot without cold, darkness cannot be without light, and you cannot be you without that which is not you. So I believe that what we call evil is just the opposite end of the spectrum of good, not something separate.
Augustine’s contention that man cannot possibly come into truth by reason in his temporal life constitutes his initial departure from the ancients, and results in the need for an entirely new structuring of the relationship between man and the good. In differentiating between the nature of God and man, Augustine argues that man’s nature—unlike God’s—is corruptible, and is thus “deprived of the light of eternal truth” (XI, 22) . This stands the thought of Plato on its head, since now no amount of contemplation and argument will be capable of getting man closer to a truth that exists on a plane that “surpasses the reach of the human mind” (XXI, 5). If reason is an instrument as flawed as man himself, how, then,
Thus, evilness isn’t a deliberate opponent for good; it’s just gone bad goodness. He further explains that in Christianity, Satan or evil is just a fallen angel; a corrupted version of God’s goodness. His analysis that Christian principle establishes that it’s less arbitrary and more ethically sophisticated than many people give it credit for. He concludes his discoveries: evil presumes the existence of serious, but good doesn’t assume the existence of slander. Therefore, evil is an inferior kind of debased good.
The cause of evil itself, according to Augustine, is the human will, and thus all blame for it rests on our shoulders, not on Gods. We willfully turn our souls away from God when we perform evil deeds. Even the punishment that God imposes on us for our evil is something that we brought on ourselves. Consequently, a first solution that Augustine offers to the problem of evil is that human will is the cause of evil and reason for divine punishment. A second and related solution is that the evil we willfully create within our souls is only a deprivation of goodness. Think of God’s goodness like a bright white light; the evil that we humans create is like an act of dimming that light, or shielding ourselves from it to create an area of darkness. It is not like we’ve created a competing light source of our own, such as a bright red light that we shine around to combat God’s bright white light. Accordingly, the evil that we create through our wills is the absence of good, and not a substantive evil in itself.
Augustine confesses in his Confessions, even he, a saint, is not immune to this phenomenon of good people doing evil: “I chose to steal, and not because want drove me to it... nor had I a desire to enjoy the things I stole... [my] only pleasure in doing it was that it was forbidden... I loved the evil in me -- not the thing for which I did the evil, simply the evil” (44). Here, St. Augustine presents an example in which the paradox is at its strongest, for if a Saint, with nothing to gain from doing evil other than for the act in and of itself, still commits that evil act, then what standing, what moral force, could any notion of evil hold on people’s hearts? Indeed, if even saints who supposedly understand evil better than the rest of us sin, in what way can an argument which argue that acts x and y are sinful compel people to not commit sins x and y, even if those arguments are successful? Thus, for people like Augustine, the challenge which the presence of evil presents is not so much how to justify the world at large, as Theodicy seeks to do, but to justify the evilness of the evil act itself, because if people who know better do otherwise, it seems that the notion of evilness becomes
What I thought of when I saw “good and evil” was the tree of knowledge of good and evil from the Bible. In the Bible, near the beginning of the book—Genesis 2:9—it says that there are two trees, the tree of life and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. “The Lord God made all kinds of trees grow out of the ground—trees that were pleasing to the eye and good for food. In the middle of the garden were the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”. When Adam and Eve sinned and ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, that's when the concept of good and evil became true. When things were going good, something would upset that and something bad would happen. What I believe is that if Adam and Eve hadn’t have sinned then
To Augustine, an evil act is one that moves any member of creation towards exclusion from God’s universe. If a being with free will elects to move away from God for a temporal end, they are moving towards corruption or death and unleashing this force on the world around them. Once a body becomes in entirely corrupted it has no existence whatsoever, it is irrelevant to this reality and we can only imagine it based on the imprint left before it was no more. This is the ultimate death; complete exclusion from God’s universe and Augustine contrasts it with the ultimate Good, which is complete inclusion with God’s universe. Once something is outside of God’s universe, it is impossible for it have any effect. (7.13.1)
Certainly, people will say there is no good without evil. The creator of the good must have been good. People tend to think; “there cannot be good without bad.” The metaphysical nature pertaining to the structure of reality holds that any good must be accompanied by evil. It can be exemplified in a world where there can never be darkness and light simultaneously; one occurs at a time by complementing the absence of the other. The correlation between good and evil made Augustine focus on the definition of the two in separate conceptualizations, as seen in the generation of a Christian community. Augustine purports that all nature is good, as someone, good has created it. Nonetheless, the goodness of nature does not measure similarly to that
God is according to Augustine the single sovereign, who rules over everything, even the evil forces in the universe. This sovereignty is grounded in Augustine’s understanding that God created everything. This assumption ultimately solves the question why evil exists. It exists because God created it, just like he created everything else. Augustine suggests that everything God creates in inherently good. However, creatures can become “evil” because they are prone to corruption (Mann 44). Furthermore, rational beings have