The question was:
Theologically speaking, what is "evil"?
Let's get to it:
Evil is defined by what it is not.
Evil is not a dual force that wrestles with Good for dominance. Evil is not the "Yin" to Good's "Yang".
Evil is not substantive. Evil is a privation. It is a lack or absence of Good.
(Just as cold is the absence of heat and darkness is the absence of light.*)
The physical and spiritual world that God created was fully good. However, Original Sin was a willful rejection of that good, and it introduced the world to two kinds of evil.
There is moral evil (sin) and physical evil (illness, defects, death, natural disasters). Both kinds of evil can be lesser or greater in degree. Some evils, like murder or cancer, are greater than other evils, like idle words or a hangnail. (I know it seems weird to call a hangnail or idle words "evil", but remember that we are talking in theological terms, not general American parlance.)
And as many of you noted, moral evil is a turning away from God by an act of the will. Virtue turns us back toward God, putting our wills in right order again. Virtue restores what was lost.
So although evil is not a positive force, it is a damaging and damning reality. Anyone who lives and breathes and thinks on this earth cannot credibly deny that evil is among us.
But on to the fun part of a post about evil…
The Winner is…
She fleshed out the idea nicely and thus wins this episode's Grand Prize (including Rediscover Catholicism by Matthew Kelly)!**
Evil is a lack of good, or integrity, of fullness in something that ought to be; but it does not have to be a complete lack, nor is it contained solely in the realm of morals. A blind eye, though it be nicely and seemingly fully formed would be correctly considered "evil", for it is lacking the capacity for sight, and that is what the eye is intended for: vision. Thus an act that is "evil" is one that does not have the fullness of good that it might have, or was intended to have. To give to one in need is a good action, but to perform it out of desire for praise reduces the amount of goodness possible for the act, and thus leaves it "evil".
The best part is this beautiful, coveted icon, suitable for framing:
And in case Blue Henn is unable to fulfill her duties as Grand Prize Winner, Sarah (longtime lurker, first time commenter) is the First Runner Up, with this gem:
Evil is the lack of a due good. Using an example, blindness is the lack of the due good of sight in the eye, but we wouldn't say that blindness (inability to see) was an evil in, say, a finger or a coffee mug.
Human will is always directed toward the good, but a particular choice is thought to be evil (or sinful) when the good chosen is a lesser good. So, while pleasure is a good, it is a lesser good than the "due" good of staying faithful to your spouse. In other words choosing adultery lacks the due good of chastity, even though the will is seeking the good of pleasure. The "lack" is what makes the action "evil".Shades of St. Augustine! Way for two newbies to make a splash in the Bubble!
Thank you all for playing along during this Lenten episode of Doctrinal Quiz Show!!
[applause, applause, fade….]
*Tiddlywinks, I promise I did not cheat off of you; I was always going to use that!
**Blue Henn, email me and I will get the book sent to you!