The Story of Creation – Week 4(a) – Genesis 1:3-5

This Tuesday, we will be discussing the First Day of Creation in Genesis 1:3-5. “God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.”

THEODICY – A NEGATION OF EVIL

In any religious/philosophical system, the existence of evil may pose the greatest argument against the existence or sovereignty of God. The fourth century Greek philosopher Epicurus states the problem as follows:

If God is unable to prevent evil, then he is not all-powerful.
If God is not willing to prevent evil, then he is not all-good.
If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why does evil exist?

The words of verse 3 of gives us an answer to this question by defining what evil is. This verse tells us that God creates the light. The light is good. God separates the light from the darkness. The darkness is not created. The darkness is not declared good. The darkness cannot intermingle with the light. Evil, therefore, is non-created and non-existent. The result of evil may be tangible, but evil qua evil simply does not exist. This is the teaching of the First Day of Creation and one of the subjects of our conversation this week.

If everything that exists is made by God, who is the Good, then evil cannot be included within the created reality as anything that exists. Rather, evil is a privation of that which does exist. Think of a sheet of paper with a hole punched in it. The paper exists. The hole does not exist except as a defect or privation of the paper. The hole cannot be defined except in relation to the deficiency of the paper. The hole can only be “removed” from the paper by curing the privation by, for example, taping another piece of paper over the hole. The only alternative explanations for evil are either 1) that God creates evil or 2) there is another source of Creation that brings about evil. Both of these alternatives cannot be found in Genesis or (generally) in the Scriptures.

In his work, The City of God, St. Augustine (354-430) says the evil is like darkness or silence, for these can only be defined as the absence of something. You cannot see darkness or hear silence by any positive actuality but only by their want of it. (Book XII, Ch. 7). Similarly, in the Summa Theologica, St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) says that “No being can be spoken of as evil, as being, but only so far as it lacks being. Thus a man is said to be evil because he lacks some virtue, and an eye is said to be evil because it lacks the power to see.” (Bk I, Q.5, Art. 3). In his work On the Divine Names, the Christian writer Pseudo-Dionysius (6th c.) says that “Evil is, then, a lack, a deficiency, a weakness, a disproportion, an error, purposeless, unlovely, lifeless, unwise, unreasonable, imperfect, unreal, causeless, indeterminate, sterile, inert, powerless, disordered, incongruous, indefinite, dark, unsubstantial, and never in itself possessed of any existence whatever.” (Ch. 4, para 32). “Evil” is the uncreated tohu wa-bohu and darkness.

St. Athanasius (296-373) will take this understanding of evil by negation to its eschatological conclusion. In On the Incarnation, St. Athanasius spends the opening paragraphs emphasizing God’s creation ex nihilo (out of nothing) because the result of sin is to return us to non-existence, i.e. death. He writes: “For the transgression of the commandment was making them (Adam and Eve) turn back again according to their nature; and as they had at the beginning come into being out of non-existence, so were they now on the way to returning, through corruption, to non-existence again. The presence and love of the Word had called them into being; inevitably, therefore when they lost the knowledge of God, they lost existence with it; for it is God alone Who exists, evil is non-being, the negation and antithesis of good.” (Ch 1, para 4). The Word takes the form of a human being in order to heal our human nature, returning us to the Good, and thereby saving us from Death and Non-existence.

In his book, Theophany, Eric Perl in his discussion of the nature of evil in the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius concludes “The privation theory of evil, expressed in a radical form by Dionysius, is not a shallow disregard or denial of the evident evils in the world. It means rather that, confronted with the evils in the world, we can only say that for no reason, and therefore outrageously, the world as we find it does not perfectly love God, the Good, the sole end of all love. And since the Good is the principle of intelligibility and hence of being, to the extent that anything fails to partake of that principle it is deficient in being. The recognition of evils in the world and in ourselves is the recognition that the world and ourselves, as we find them, are less than fully existent because we do not perfectly love God, the Good.” (p.64)

From the very first, the story of creation is that of bringing us out of nonexistence into existence, out of darkness into light, out of error into truth, out of sin into righteousness, and out of death into life. Into each of us, God speaks, “Let there be light.”

Dinner is at 6. The menu is Chicken Marbella. Discussion about 6:45. Hope to see you here. Please bring a friend (and you don’t have to read the attachment).

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 1 John 1:5-7

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