On Evil

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”

Rom. 3:23

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Subsections

On the First Sin

Original Sin

Sin

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Order of Contents

Quote on the Nature of Evil
On God’s Concurrence in Evil Actions

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Quote on the Nature of Evil

On the thought of Thomas Bradwardine (c.1290-3140)

Bradwardine was an Augustinian in the Middle Ages and was often highly approved and cited by Samuel Rutherford.  His paradigm here on the nature of evil, from his book On the Cause of God, described by Dr. Leff, would be later adopted as standard by Reformed Orthodoxy.

Gordon Leff, Bradwardine and the Pelagians (1957; rep. Cambridge, 2008), pp. 54-56

“Everything created, therefore, as coming from God, is good; and nothing created is, by nature, bad.  We can, Bradwardine says, see this principle of goodness in everything that exists…

Accordingly, everything that tries to follow its true nature, as created and conserved by God, is good, since goodness is inherent in it.  Only when this nature is impaired does evil arise; for it then ceases to be a complete entity.

…Thus all that exists in its own right, possessing a positive nature, such as, say an apple, and is not a parasite on the positive, such as the canker in an apple, is by nature good.  In this sense we can include such actions [considered apart from their moral relations] as homicide and adultery; they cannot be bad [in themselves], according to Bradwardine, because they represent actions from which, by nature, value derives.  If we condemned the acts by which homicide and adultery were achieved, we should condemn the positive results which are achieved by these same actions.  Not only do these acts lend themselves to homicide and adultery; they are also responsible for death (in its natural sense) and marriage.

The nature of anything must not be confused with the purposes to which it is put: an apple as an apple is a positive nature, and good; if it is worm-eaten instead of healthy, its nature as an apple is still good.  Being alone is pure goodness.  Evil, on the other hand, has no essence or positive nature; it is lack of goodness, and so negative [Rom. 3:23], without a positive cause; it cannot therefore be regarded as part of the natural order of creation.  Moreover as parasitic on the good, which alone is positive, evil is always associated with good, as for example in the case of homicide and adultery which represent the distortion of death and marriage.  Evil can thus never exist on its own, for pure evil is the equivalent of pure deficiency, that is, nothing.  Indeed, it is only because the created world is by nature good that evil comes about, being conditional upon it.  Hence the presence of evil is simply further evidence for the existence of good.”

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On God’s Concurrence in Evil Actions

1300’s

Latin

Bradwardine, Thomas – Book 1, ch. 34, ‘If and How God Wills and does not Will Sin’  in Of the Cause of God, pp. 294-307

Bradwardine (c.1290-3140) was a proto-reformed theologian in the Middle Ages.

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1500’s

Zanchi, Jerome – ‘God is not the Author of Sin’  from ‘Observations on the Divine Attributes’, 4.3.  5 paragraphs

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