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The Thomist 64 (2000): 239-69 THE GOODNESS OF CREATION, EVIL, AND CHRISTIAN TEACHING1 PATRICK LEE Franciscan University Steubenville, Ohio It is at least a very venerable doctrine in Catholic circles that evil as such is a privation. That is, while there are evil things, what makes them evil (evil as such) is a lack of being that is due the thing. The simple example of blindness, a favorite in metaphysics and theology texts, illustrates the doctrine. Blindness is real, but it is not a nature or actuality; it is the lack of sight. Moreover, it is the lack of sight in a thing which is due sight-the lack of sight in a rock or a tree, for example, is not a privation but a mere negation and is not evil. As there are various types of beings, so there are various types of privations. There are privations in the physical domain (sickness, death, etc.), in the intellectual domain (ignorance and error), in the technological domain (inefficiency, malfunctions), and in the moral domain (omissions, commissions, vices, etc.). In this article I first argue that the position that every entity, accidents as well as substances, actions as well as other types of beings, is good to the extent that it is actual, and that therefore evil as such is negative, is immediately entailed by Catholic teaching. That is, although the thesis that evil as such is a privation is not defined,2 it can be inferred by a simple argument from defined teaching. No other position on evil is compatible with what the Church has defined. Second, I present philosophical and 1 I am grateful to John Crosby, Norris Clarke, S.J., Kevin Flannery, S.J., James T. O'Connor, and Germain Grisez, for reading and criticizing earlier drafts of this article. 2 Yet the proposition that evil is not a nature is defined (see below, p. 4). 239 240 PATRICK LEE theological arguments to support and explain the position that evil as such is a privation. Third, I examine objections to this position, and, finally, I indicate in some detail its practical import for theology-for this doctrine has a profound impact on how one views sin, salvation, and God himself. I Few people hold all of the doctrines that the ancient or mediaeval Gnostics or Manichaeans held. Everyone is aware that it is incompatible with Christian doctrine to hold that all matter is evil, or that there is a supreme, independent, evil god, a "god of darkness."3 However, in reply to these heresies the Church not only rejected Manichaeism as a whole system but also made it clear that it is part of revealed doctrine that all being other than God, to the extent that it is actual, is from God, and is therefore good. The Manichaeans held that there was an evil god and a good god, that matter was the creation of the evil god and was evil, and that procreation was evil insofar as it subjected another spirit to matter and the god of evil. Salvation involved liberation from matter. The Church was concerned, almost from the beginning of her existence, to distinguish the Christian doctrine on creation from such views. Scripture seems quite clearly to teach that all of creation is good. Everything other than God is, for as long as it exists, held in being by God: ''Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things are and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things are and through whom we exist" (1 Cor 8:6). "For from him and through him and for him are all things" (Rom 11:36).4 / The ancient professions of faith proclaim belief in God, who is Creator, "of all things visible and invisible." Some of these professions make explicit the teaching that all creatures are good, 3 However, perhaps some people's notions of Satan approach this, inadvertently. See the Sacred Congregation on Divine Worship's decree in 1975, "Les formes multiples des superstitions," translated in Austin Flannery, O.P., Vatican Collection, vol. 2, More Post-Conciliar Documents (Collegeville, Minn.: The Liturgical Press, 1982), 456ff. 4...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2473-3725
Print ISSN
0040-6325
Pages
pp. 239-269
Launched on MUSE
2017-04-05
Open Access
No
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