Evil is the “necessary” shadow concomitant of finite being.
This is an assertion of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, SJ that raised quite a ruckus. In his own words:
“Original sin expresses, translates, personifies, in an instantaneous act, the perennial and universal law of imperfection which operates in mankind in virtue of its being ‘in fieri’ (in the process of becoming).”
Again, original sin
“simply symbolizes the inevitable chance of evil which accompanies the existence of all participated being. Wherever being in fieri is produced, suffering and wrong immediately appear as its shadow: not only as a result of the tendency toward inaction and selfishness in creatures, but also as an inevitable concomitant of their effort to progress. Original sin is the essential reaction of the finite to the creative act.”
Well that is disturbing. Yet it is what I have been arguing with my seniors. God can no more create a world that doesn’t include the presence of privation (evil) in some form than he can create a square circle. They are both logical contradictions.
I have defended Teilhard with St. Augustine, the artist of the doctrine of Original Sin. In “City of God” he makes an interesting claim. His problem is this: If Adam and Eve were perfect and good, then how could they sin? What was the “efficient cause” of their sinful wills? His answer:
“Evil arises not from the fact that man is a nature, but from the fact that the nature was made out of nothing.”
I wish someone had pointed that line from Book XII, Chapter 6 out to me in graduate school. It puts a lot to rest. Evil arises from natures being “made out of nothing,” i.e. being finite, contingent, non-necessary, created. That is the “cause” of evil. The cause of evil is not an “efficient” cause, but a “deficient” one as Augustine claims in the next chapter. Teilhard just affirms Augustine’s claim.
Thinking of evil as a logical requirement for God’s creative act gets me around wondering why God didn’t make a “better” world where evil wouldn’t exist. God didn’t just give free will to people so they can love him better, but lack itself is the necessary counterpart of all finite being. When this “lack” intrinsic to participated being achieves self-consciousness in the evolutionary process, it achieves the status of freedom. This is a logical necessity.
Of course, with the privation theory comes the question as to whether it is satisfactory. Can the Holocaust really be explained through a simple privation? No one has posed the question as poignantly for me as Ivan in “The Brothers Karamazov:”
“Tell me yourself, I challenge you — answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and reast at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature…and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth.”
“No, I wouldn’t consent,” said Alyosha softly.
Nor would I. But the only solution is that God not create. Yet he did. For some reason he did. “For our sakes,” is what we are told.
Balthasar offers me real comfort when he dares to ask if hell may be empty. I sure hope so. That would make the victory of the creative act complete.