Augustine & Aquinas: the Root of Evil

10 October 2016

One approach addresses the origin of evils prompting the syllogism: 1) God created all things; 2) evil is a thing: 3) therefore, God created evil. If one and two are indeed correct, then that would make the conclusion to this question inevitable, in the fact that God did create evil. In terms of general Christianity and the ethics of the church, this fact is in my own opinion, the most damaging fact toe the Christian church in North America. However, Augustine, considering the premises of this fact, began to wonder what was actual evil?

If God created all things, then if God created evil, does that mean that evil is a thing. This is one of the vexing questions that Augustine inquired into. If evil was not a thing, then does that mean it wasn’t created? This question led Augustine to seek out the antecedent. Augustine asked the question, “Do we have any convincing evidence that a good God exists? If independent evidence leads us to conclude that God exists and is good, then He would be incapable of creating evil. ” Something else, then, must be the source of evil.

Therefore, a new syllogism is conjured: Firstly, all things that God created are good; secondly, evil is not good; thirdly, evil was not created by God. The second syllogism: God created every thing; God did not create evil; and evil is not a thing. If evil is not a thing, then the case against Christianity is untrue. So the basis of the Problem of Evil, leads to the question of what evil truly is. Augustine, in response to the question of what evil was, came to the conclusion that, “Evil has no positive nature; but the loss of good has received the name ‘evil. ” If evil is a lack of good, and if God is good, then I begin to wonder if evil can also be described as an absence of God. In accordance with what I have concluded, Augustine writes in Confessions, “All which is corrupted is deprived of good. ” In summation, the reason that God has allowed evil to exist in this world, as a lacking of good, is because of God’s indescribable goodness; God is not the creator or a victim of it – it is impossible for God to be a victim to evil.

Thomas Aquinas, in Summa Theologiae objection one, writes “It would seem that good cannot be the cause of evil. For it is said (Matthew 7:18): “A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. ” He also sees evil as the contrary to good, and in accordance with that view, good cannot be the cause of evil. In Aquinas’ second article concerning evil, Aquinas asks the question of “Whether the supreme good, God, is the cause of evil? ” Objection two of article two, says, “Further, the effect of the secondary cause is reduced to the first cause.

But good is the cause of evil, as was said above. Therefore, since God is the cause of every good, as was shown above, it follows that also every evil is from God. ” The objections also state that, as God is the cause of all things good, in comparison, he must also be the cause of all things that are evil. Aquinas quotes Augustine in opposition to these objects, stating, that, “God is not the author of evil because He is not the cause of tending to not-being. ” The “not-being” that Aquinas is referring to is the state of not-being good, which in-turn is the state of evil.

In answering these objections, Aquinas says, “And thus God, by causing in things the good of the order of the universe, consequently and as it were by accident, causes the corruptions of things, according to 1 Kings 2:6 “The Lord killeth and maketh alive. ” But when we read that “God hath not made death,” the sense is that God does not will death for its own sake. Nevertheless the order of justice belongs to the order of the universe; and this requires that penalty should be dealt out to sinners… So God is the author of the evil which is penalty, but not of the evil which is fault, by that reason of what is said above. So, God is not the author of the evil which is fault, which means, that God is not the author of the evil that we commit, which we refer to as “sins. ” Lastly, I will discuss the means by which Aquinas believes is the cause of evil. Aquinas uses a brilliant analogy, describing fire; “For on that account, if they found a thing hurtful to something by the power of its own nature, they thought that the very nature of that thing was evil; as, for instance, if one should say that the nature of fire was evil because it burnt the house of a poor man. Just as today, in our nature, some people have seen the things such as alcohol as being evil, those things, similar to the fire analogy, are only seen as evil because of what their purpose was intended for. “In the causes of evil we do not proceed to infinity, but reduce all evils to some good cause, whence evil follows accidentally. ” As it was probably noticed during the explanation of the views of Aquinas and Augustine, it was mentioned that in quite a few cases, Aquinas would quote Augustine as a means of supporting his answers.

Augustine was very influential to the development of early medieval philosophy, so therefore, Aquinas was influenced greatly by what Augustine had taught. Both Augustine and Aquinas defended the idea of evil as being derived from God. They both believed that evil was very much what man made it. Augustine believed that if man believed evil was a thing created from God, then that man was wrong; and Aquinas believed that if a man believed evil was a thing of God, then that man was wrong. However, these two comparisons also have definitive differences.

Augustine believed that there really was no such thing as evil. He believed that evil was merely a lack of good – much like cold is defined as a lacking of heat. While on the other hand, Aquinas believed that there was evil. However, he did believed that it was not of God, because to an extend he believed what Augustine had to say about evil as a lack of good, and therefore not bondable to God; but, he believed that evil was existent but in the form of punishment as death for sinners.

I believe that, evil is a thing that you make it to be. Coming from the perspective of one’s self, the definition of evil will vary, much like a small child might affiliate the term ‘evil’ with vegetables. Do I believe that Evil is the absence of Good? Yes, and no. Take Satan for example; he was an angel at one time full of good, but then due to the absence of good he became evil, but now his actions have become the literal embodiment of ‘evil’. Evil is what one makes of it, and how one might perceive evil in the real world.

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