Philosophies from Aquinas, Augustine, and Irenaeus and other theologians Essay

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Philosophies from Aquinas, Augustine, and Irenaeus and other theologians

The study of religion and philosophy is infinitely confronted with the problem of evil and its broad association to sin. In facing this debacle, there is a tendency for religion to deny the existence of evil and clearly explicate that it is a mere event in the undeveloped minds of people. Religion may also uphold that there is a competent rivalry between evil and good as evil can be considered as a rival authority, containing power equal to the divine good. It can also be derived that evil is the imperfect cooperation in the good explained under the presence of a deity deemed as omnibenevolent and omniscient.

Some response concerning the evil include that debates which inculcate that the true free will cannot be established without the possibility of evil. This idea can be translated to the notion that humans are not able to understand and comprehend God, that spiritual growth and development necessisitates suffering and that evil is the impact of effect of the fallen and disrupted world. Many disciplines have attempted to provide a concrete definition of evil and sin and the proposed assumptions on the connection of evil to sin have encountered denials coming from other scholars.

In this paper, multiple philosophies and valuable insights concerning the association of evil to sin will be explored. The teachings of Thomas Aquinas, Irenaeus and Augustine and of others will be discussed in order to define evil and sin, describe the relationshipof evil to sin, and to explicate the difference and the causality of sin and evil in the contemporary world. This paper’s central focus is on the inquiry: Every evil is sin, but is every sin evil? The Teachings of Thomas Aquinas on Evil and Sin The concept of evil by Thomas Aquinas and his entire miscellany of philosophy are naturally grounded upon the teachings of the St.

Augustine who created a philosophical theological position on evil. Evil is an English noun that is commonly used today to describe anything that is undeniably horrendous, particularly in the aspect of human behavior. However, Thomas Aquinas says that the term evil has more inclusive sense than evil does for people. According to Aquinas, “we are dealing with evil whenever we are faced by whatever can be thought of as a case of falling short. ” For Aquinas, there is no evil substance in the world and neither God nor man creates evil.

In saying this Aquinas proves that the world is “created and governed by a perfectly good God who is also omnipotent and omniscient. ” This teaching negates the argument of humans who say that each time some of the good stray aways from an object then it is evil. Aquinas says no this argument by declaring that no evil exists materially. Aquinas explicates that human beings are wholly good but have the tendency that some of their goodness will be removed. Aquinas strongly argues that there is a “serious sense in which it can be thought of as lacking in being. ” Take for instance the thought of Adolf Hitler as wholly good.

This example may raise several criticisms since Hitler has enjoyed being a household name for evil, but it is to illustrate Aquinas’s concept of evil caused by the removal of good. For Aquinas, Hitler is good- he has competent brain, his physique is complete, and he almost bares resemblance to God. But Hitler has some of his goodness removed when he tries to rule the world with tyranny. According to Aquinas, “evil ‘is there’ only in the sense that something is missing. ” Aquinas continues to say that “what is not there cannot be thought of as made to be by the source of the being of things.

” In this sense, Aquinas follows Augustine’s thought and says that God can never be the cause of evil because evil is not an actual thing but the “absence of a good that ought to be present. ” What causes people to be bad is the gap between who they are and how they should be but are not. Aquinas points rules out his concept of evil by illustrating that there will be no badness unless there goodness yet there can be goodness without any badness. In the aspect of sin, Aquinas writes that it is not the disobedience of irrational authority, but it is a violation of well-being.

According to Aquinas, heologians may describe sin as an act againts God and philosophers may signify it as opposed to reason, but it is St. Augustine who aptly defines sin. Aquinas explains that it is more accurate to define sin “as being contrary to the eternal law rather contrary to human reason, especially since the eternal law includes many things beyond the scope of reason, such as matters of faith. ” Even though Aquinas is an advocate of the philosophy of Augustine, he recognizes that the Augustine sometimes talks only about will in describing sin.

Aquinas explains thaat the exterior act, which is the veruy substance of the sin, is evil itsefl and thus it is necessary to include exterior acts in the definition of sin. ” However, Augustine and Aquinas both agree that the sin is evil because it harms and diminishes natural good. Aquinas takes into consideration the application of the natural law. According to Aquinas, “when it is said that all sins are evil but not because they are prohibited, that prohibition is understood as an act of positive law.

” Aquinas emphasizes that since the natural law comes fron the eternal law and acts of positive law are derived from the natural law, then all sins are evil. It is argued by Aquinas that evil is the privation of good and an individual can identify the extent of privation by what is left after such action. In this idea, Aquinas is stressing that “what remains of good after every sin is the same, since there remains after every sin the very nature of the soul and the freedom of choice by which humans can choose good and evil. ”

Aquinas tells that all sins are equal and are evil. The focal point of Aquinas in saying that all sins are evil and that all sins are equal is the only main source capable of commanding humans what they ought to be. As a theologian, Aquinas gives emphasis to God as the main source the nature and eternal and divine law. Aquinas says that “since all are the same in turning away from God, all sins are equal. ” For Aquinas, every sin is evil because it is a deviation from reason and law. Aquinas describes sin as having no cause because it has the nature of evil.

It has been discussed earlier that evil is the removal of goodness whats is lacking in humans as a wholly good. Aquinas emphasizes that what is missing cannot be thought of as made to be by the source of the being of things. The same goes for sins. This concept makes both sin and evil as original which thrive on will that act against reason and divine moral law. Same with evil, God can never be the source of sin. Likewise evil can never be the cause of sin. In this sense, the evil of punishment serves as the sequel to sin. He compares evil of guilt to sin and declares that they have no difference.

In saying that sin has a cause, Aquinas is quick to clarify that such cause is not necessarily a cause for sin can be impeded. This musing denotes that if there should be a necessary cause for sins, then people will keep on making sins since there is a cause inherent to them that makes them commit sins. Such notion echoes the perspective of Aquinas on whether sin has an internal cause. Aquinas argues that if sin has an internal cause, then man would always be sinning and since it has a cause, there will always be an effect. Aquinas also defines sin by mentioning virtue.

Aquinas says, “But sin is evil because it takes away virtue. Therefore, all sins are equally evil, since every one of them equally takes away virtue. ” Aquinas thinks of sins as contrary to virtues and that all virtues are equal. Therefore, Aquinas reaffirms that all sins are equal. He also come up with the idea of malice that is the equalizer of all sins. Aquinas says that “sin has malice in relation to turning away from God. ” This feature in relation to the deviation from God states that circumstances tag the malice of sins as being more serious.

Aquinas adds that “ if circumstances should themselves have malice, they constitute species of sin and if they should not in themselves have any malice, there is no reason why they should make the sins more serious. ” On the on the hand, the diversity in sins that other arguments are pointing to is a mere presentation of morally indifferent genus. Overall, Aquinas writes that all sins are evil in a sense that they both result in being unnatural, the failure of the natural rule that man ought to observe and obey. Evil and Sin According To Augustine

Many of St. Augustine’s teachings on evil substantiate Aquinas concept. They both believe that the immutable God created only good things and He alone is the source of all being. Augustine negates all forms of theological and metaphysical dualism and puts great emphasis on God who is wholly good. According to Augustine, there is no dualism existing in the problem of evil. The thought of evil as not a being, a thing, or substance or entity liberates him from the Manichaean dualism,the belief that there exists two powerful beings, the good and evil.

He realizes that all the God created are metaphysically and ontologically good in their being. He proposes that if evil were a being, a thing or an entity, then the problem fo evil will not be solved because it has a source. If the evil comes from God, then God is not all good and if it does not come from God, then He is not the powerful creator of all things. Augustine says that God is a spiritual and not a corporeal being and he “rejects Manichaeism’s materialistic dualism but embraces a different dualism between corporeal and spiritual beings, with God, angels, and human soul falling into the latter class.

” Upon rejecting the Manicheism and its simple concept on the origin of evil, Augustines obliges himself to establish an alternative solution to the origins of evil and starts to proclaim that evil represents a free deviation from God and is not a positive entity in its own right. All of the works of the immutable Creator of men are revelations of God’s nature and therefore, all of His works are of wholly good. Both Augustine and Aquinas believe that evil does not come from God.

In his struggle concerning the confusion over evil, Augustine further says that the evil is not something that is completely real biut only fragment that is dependent on that which is absolutely real. According to Augustine, evil is not a thing or substance but he is aware of its existence and that it can be divided into three kinds. Metaphysical evil is the lack of man’s perfection not because of his given nature but because they all fall short of complete perfection that only God can obtain. This is not actually considered evil. The second kind is the physical evil that is the privation of a certain perfection because of nature.

This kind is being justified by Augustine together with the other theologians as under the jurisdiction of the general order of nature. The third kind if the moral evil, the only real evil. It is a sin or an act opposed to the will of God. The source of the moral evil is the faculty of free will in which man is able to turn away from the right order and deviate himself from the will of God. Augustine says, “sin is so voluntary that there is no sin unless it is voluntary. ” He implies that there needs to be an act of moral will in any sin or the consent to turn away from God and to His will.

Augustine emphasizes that moral evil is truly a sin for there is a consent. Sin settles itself in the free will, option, intention, and the motion of the soul, which instigates a wrong order into the world. Evil is “nothing but a privation of good until at last a thing ceases altogether to be. ” An evil will is a kind of will that deviates away from God, the creator. Moreover, Augustine says that it is a disordered love and will, the wrong conformity to God’s will. The writings of Augustine on sin are associated with his Christian definition of evil.

Augustine defines sin as the movement or the deviation of will endowed to humans away from God. He furthers his discussion of sin by stating that God can never be the author of sin just as He can never be the source of evil. Such movement of the human will away from the God the Creator is also referred by Augustine as the misdirection. According to him, as there is a misdirection on evil will, there is also a misdirection in the aspect of sin. Augustine explains that “sin is therefore an error or untruth and based upon the misconception of what is good for us.

” Augustine says that when people choose to sin, they must have an intention of obtaining goodness or getting rid of something bad. He suggests that sin is more than an intellectucal error, it is the “misdirection of the will. ” Augustine’s musing on sin as the misdirection of human will is demonstrated in man’s pursuit of happiness or pride. Augustine notes that pride is the “an appetite for inordinate exaltation,it when the soul cuts itself from the Source to which it should keep close and somehow makes itself and becomes an end to itself.

” Augustine continues that inordinate exaltation takes place when the “soul is inordinately pleased with itself, and such self-pleasing occurs when the soul falls away away from the unchangeable Good which ought to please the sould far more than the soul can please itself. ” He also validates his definition of sin by saying that what the people do for the sake of goodness ends in something negative or bad , and what people do in making things good ends in just making things worse.

Augustine explains this paradox by writing that “except that the happiness of man can come not from himself but only from God, and that to live according to oneself is to sin is to lose God. ” This paradox explicates that sin is the possibility of man to focus on himself rather than on the all-knowing God. It is therefore suggested that, based upon the writings of Augustine, not all sins are considered evil due to the categorization of evil involving nature. Irenaeus On Evil and Sin Little is known about Irenaeus and his works are mostly generated fromScriptures and the biblical domain.

The understanding of sin found in the works of Irenaeus of Lyons has some contradictions when compared to the dominant Christian perspective influenced by Augustine in the fifth century. Irenaeus of Lyons interprets Genesis as the disobedience of man with Adam acting like an impulsive child. Irenaeus thinks of sin as pains and errors which grow. He says that there is no such a things as original sin or guilt that man inherited from his forefather, Adam. It is seen that he has a different view of the man’s fall compared to the teachings of later writers particularly Augustine.

This idea posits that Irenaeus thinks of of the fall of Adam and Eve is not a rebellion against God the Creator but is a concrete illlustration of the failure of man to rise to greater heights and that humanity does not lose its original perfection. His view concerning the fall of the humanity’s forefatther raises many questions as it does not seems to be based on Scripture but it is derived solely from his rational interpretation. He further suggests that the without loss of life and the presence of evils, humanity will not repent. Unlike, Aquinas and Augustine, Irenaeus imparts that evil comes from God.

In this idea, it is clearly manifested that Irenaeus upholds that the appearance of evil is of righteous purpose. According to him, the elements which appear evil, like death are planned by God. He says, “it is for this reason therefore that Paul calls Adam himself the ‘pattern of the one to come’ because the Word, the artisan of the universe, had sketched out in advance, in order to prepare the ground for himself, the future plan of the human race in its relation to to the Son of God, with God first of all establishing natural man order, quite obviously, that he might be saved by spiritual man.

” In the said notion, Iranaeus outlines two distinct phases. Iraneaus writes that the “creation of humanity comes first, secondly comes its perfection through the incarnation of the Son, Christ Jesus, who transmits the Spirit of the whole human race. ” It is evident that the advent of Christ is the sole purpose behind the creation of Adam. It is written that Irenaeus “does not identify evil with sin. ” It is because he acknowledges the two types of evil.

The first type is the physical evil that Irenaeus refers to as “arising from the nature of the creature for its is due to the opposition of contrary forces or to the sequences of events that obey natural laws: what seems to be an evil in the short run is a good on the cosmic. ” According to Irenaeus, the second type of evil is the moral evil that he considers as sin. He declares that this type of evil is sin because it arises from the “jealousy of Satan and or certain angels who lured Adam into transgression.

” Influenced by the writings of Johannine, Irenaeus defines sin as the “condition of human existence rather than a collection of individual actions. ” According to Irenaeus of Lyon, moral evil is to be considered as a sin because it reflects God’s original design that is putting man into the test. This type of evil is generally accounted for man’s free will and his ability to discern right from wrong. Irenaeus says that “God had foreseen the angel’s sin as well as that of man, including the consequences, and he had sanctioned it.

” Iraneaus places sin in history and writes that the fall of man is the gradual spread of evil because of the inevitability of personal sin, not as a particular shift in the human nature. Moreover, Irenaeus has made a comparison between the natural person and the perfection of the person to describe sin. According to him,body and soul constitute a natural person while the perfect human being is made up of body, soul and spirit. The inclusion of God’s spirit is the essence of Irenaeus idea of the redemption.

People have been redemeed and have been saved so that they may flourish into what God wants them to be. For Iranaeus, not all sins can be considered as evil as man is not accountable for some existing evils such as those coming from the natural disasters known as natural evils. The only evil that can be deemed as sin are the moral evils caused by the selfishness of humanity. Sin and Evil According to Other Theologians Lactantius is one of the Christian thinkers to respond to the problem of evil and sin referring solely to God’s laws.

According to Lactantius, the “chief good of the humanity is not to be found in the theories of the philosophers, for these have to do things common to animals as well as humans or things not available to all humans. ” He refers to the one and true God as the chief good and the things which meant to satisfy the body that perishes as not good at all. For him, pleasure, power and wealth are not good and anything and the disobedience of God’s laws are evil and sin. Reinhold Niebuhr belongs to the category of formative Christian moral theorists. He says that sin is “inevitable but not necessary.

” He furthers his explannation of sin by stating that the “temptation to sin lies in the human situation itself. ” Niebuhr stresses that the will and freedom endowed to man is the basis of his creativity and it is also his temptation. While Irenaeus declares that people need evil to spiritual grow, Niebuhr upholds his realist theory that people do not need sin and no perfection can completely liberate human beings from the reality of sin. Walter Rauschenbusch is included into the group of thinkers who deal with the importance of sin in salvation.

According to him, “when we undertook to define the nature of sin, we accepted the old definition, that sin is selfishness and rebellion against God , but we insisted on putting humanity into the picture. ” He further explains that the description of sin as selfishness will be accepted for as long as the humanity is perceived as a great solidarity with God thriving on it. He emphasizes that if sin is selfishness, then “man’s selfishness consisted in a selfish attitude, in which he was at the centre of the universe, and God and all his fellowmen were means to serve his pleasures, increase his wealth and set off his egotisms.

” He also rescue the dosctrine of the origin of sin from literal interpretations by recognizing the active sources of sin in the later generations and in the contemporary period. He was criticized upon recognizing that both goodness and sinfulness can be determined by social environment. Rauschenbusch explains that what can be evil is dictated by the society and the same goes for sin. He says that the good maybe forced to do bad while the bad maybe forced to do good as dictated by the society. Conclusion

In the tradition of religion and theology, the definition of sin is related to the problem on evil. The question addresed in this paper is whether sin leads to evil or evil leads to sin. The definition of evil and sin according to several theologians were explored in this paper in order to understand the relationship between evil and sin. Based from the literatures studied, it is said that the relationship between evil and sin can be associated with reconciliation, salvation, the fall of Adam and the society itself, and morality.

It is clearly manifested that the connection between sin and evil can be interchangeable such that evil can lead to sin and sin can lead to evil. The interchangeable connection is due to the observed judgement that evil and sin have the same feature as the deviation from what man ought to be. In this sense, all evil can be sin but not all sins are considered evil due to the fact that sin comprises only the moral and spiritual side of the humanity. The inquiry on whether every sin is evil is answered on the definition of evil in which various theologians categorize into various theories.

This paper has observed that every theologian has his or her own conception on evil and sin and it is evident that their concepts have been derived from other theologians who took insights also from other thinkers. This is to say that evil and sin can be both the same in a sense that they both have the same characteristics constructed by thinkers who draw insights from their influences. BIBLIOGRAPHY Aquinas, Thomas. “The Subject and Approach of the De Malo,” in On Evil, eds. Richard J. Regan and Brian Davies.

New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. Aquinas, Thomas, Summa Theologiae: Volume 25: Sin. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Lacoste, Jean-Yves, ed. Encyclopedia of Christian Theology, Vol 1. New York: Routledge, 2005. Mann,William E. “Augustine on Evil and Original Sin,” in The Cambridge Companion to Augustine, eds. Eleonore Stump and Norman Kretzmann. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Wogaman, J. Philip. Christian Ethics: A Historical Introduction. Kentucky: Westminster/John knox Press, 1993.

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