Does Sin Exist, is it Real? (Part Two)

Why Would Saint JPII Take Reconciliation Weekly?

By: FRATER BOVIOUS

"Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then." "What is interesting about that is that a blind squirrel knows when it has found a nut."

“Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.”
“What is interesting about that is that a blind squirrel knows when it has found a nut.”

PART TWO, just in time the second Sunday of Lent (Part One is Here.)

In the previous article, written way back in July of 2015, we first started with an attempt to define sin. We discussed three kinds of “evil.” Metaphysical, Physical, and Moral. Allow a brief recap:

St. Thomas Aquinas defined the term evil as a privation of form or order or due measure.

Metaphysical Evil is simply a term used for the fact that we are limited by being created beings. Most people don’t consider this to be Evil, we just consider it to be life as we know it. Yet, and this is important, we all, sometimes more, sometimes less, feel like something is missing. That things aren’t quite right. That we are missing out. That somehow, someway, things should be better. That we all deserve better.

Physical Evil is simply the bad stuff that happens due largely to the fact of not being dead yet. Drought, famine, tsunamis, etc. The criteria for defining these as “evil” has to do with the fact that in some way they deprive us of our proper form, or deprive of us order, or deprive us of our due measure, i.e., justice. A tsunami does all these, for example.

Moral Evil is simply all the above kinds of results caused by a moral agent, a human being. When we deprive our self or another of our proper form, order, or what is our due, we bring evil onto another or ourselves, and this we call sin. This includes depriving God of what is His due, e.g., our love and devotion.

And so now we come back to the question, “Is sin real?”

As evil has no ontological status, it is appropriate that these are called donut "holes"

Theological Humor:
As evil has no ontological status, it is appropriate that these are called
“donut holes” because they are evil.

We need to recognize that whether or not something is real, in the true sense of the term, is not simply a matter of opinion. If someone says, “I don’t think sin is real,” or “I think the concept of sin is made up to extort money from the ignorant,” it is often the case they are simply offering mere opinion in support of an agenda that is not truly concerned with the existence of sin. By ‘mere opinion’ is meant an unconsidered or unexamined opinion that can simply be disregarded and needn’t be argued against.

People feel comfortable making unwarranted proclamations because they have bought into possibly the silliest concept ever. Ever heard anyone say, “Perception is reality,” and watch everyone within earshot nod knowingly? Well, perception is not reality. Reality is reality. Perceptions need to be tested against reality. Where the perception does not sync up with reality, the perception needs to be corrected.

What makes this malady worse, however, is that often the idea of even attempting to perceive is dispensed with. They’ve simply come up with a thought that supports whatever agenda they have, and then proclaim it as though it is inviolable. It’s simply a convenient opinion, offered as an argument that demonstrates something (though it does not), and they may not even remember they expressed the idea an hour later.

Here we mean to give a considered or rational opinion on the existence of sin, a philosophical demonstration that can be rationally argued and defended. In our consideration of the reality of sin, we have a couple of troubling issues. If God made everything that exists, and Evil exists, then God made Evil. And if God made Evil, how can we consider God to be Good? And if He didn’t make evil, why does it exist?

The simple answer to this question is to be found in the definition provided by St. Thomas Aquinas. Evil is a privation, sin is a moral evil.

Think of it like this. There are concepts which we use to distinguish aspects of one thing. Used often enough, we tend to think of extremes of a thing to be two different things. Temperature is an example of this. We have the concepts of hot and cold. These are both simply descriptions of a thing which we call heat energy, and which is simply the speed at which the molecules are moving about in a given substance. Moving rapidly is called “hot” and moving slowly is called “cold” but in all cases we are simply describing the same thing in different states. H2O is water whether in the form of a solid, a liquid, or a gas. We may want to say that ice is the opposite of steam, but it’s not really true. Water is not the opposite of water.

We can stretch this analogy and note the real effects of changes in state. Instead of hot and cold we can use high energy and low energy as terms to describe. Or simply, Hot, Less Hot, Even Lesser Hot, etc. Things are affected by these changes, from hot to lesser hot. Physically at some point there is a change in state. A liquid becomes solid. Or gas. In the case of CO2, from gas to solid and back, skipping the whole liquid state.

Looking at God, and Goodness, we can certainly notice that some things are Good and some things are less good. We can label these various states. Really good we could call God. Lesser Good we could call saints. Lesser Lesser Good we could call all us regular sinners. Lesser Lesser Lesser Good we could call evil. I suppose we could identify states on the good scale as well. We do talk about hardened hearts for example.

In the same way that “cold” does not really exist, except as a description of the amount of heat in a thing, so to evil does not really exist, except as a description of the amount of good in a thing (as in, not much.)

Just like there is apparently nothing in the universe at Absolute Zero (the theoretical temperature at which all molecular motion stops) it may be there is no such thing as Absolute Evil (something with no good in it at all.) The analogy admittedly may not hold, but if there is nothing in the Universe at Absolute Zero, what does that say about Satan?

At the least we can recognize that we can see the effects of this loss of good. And, it would seem we can state with some degree of confidence that ‘evil’ does not exist in itself, rather, the term evil is a description of an extreme state or condition of being, that of being at or near Absolute Zero on the Goodness Thermometer.

In Part Three we will at last discuss why St. JPII would take Reconciliation weekly. I promise it won’t be another 7 months.

Go to Part Three

 

 

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4 Responses to Does Sin Exist, is it Real? (Part Two)

  1. rintaqt says:

    Dear Fr. Bovius,
    Do you know of any philosophical arguments that address the fact that existence is good, or is this fact just a first principle?
    Thanks
    NR.

    • FraterBovious says:

      Dear Señor Rintaqt,
      I will have to look into that. My first instinctive response is that non-existence would not have a value, good or bad. And by non-existence, I don’t mean of a particular thing, I mean of nothing, the universe, God, etc. don’t exist. No one to have a value judgement, nothing to judge. I suppose you could posit that existence is evil, and all good is just a falling away from evil. It is possible that the 2nd law of thermodynamics might even support such a hypothesis… So, I shall do some thinking. Thanks for the question!

      • TR says:

        Just thinking out loud here. But the idea that evil is just less good, and comparing that to cold being just less hot, makes me think that perhaps “hot” and “good” also do not exist in the way we typically think. Take for example hot and cold being our perception of how fast molecules move. Well, us perceiving the molecules moving is not necessary for their movement. So really hot and cold is just how we describe our experience of the movement of molecules. In fact perceptions can be deceiving in that something extremely cold can actually feel hot.

        Similarly “good” is just a description of when things are properly ordered and “evil” is disordered and our perception of the two as sentient, intellectual beings is what we call good and evil, but that perception is not necessary for order and disorder to exist. And again our perceptions can deceive us in that what may “feel” good to us is actually disordered and what may “feel” bad is actually ordered.

        So I would say existence is neither good nor bad, as those two terms are a description of how we perceive order, and without existence there is no perception. I suppose if there were no intellectual beings in creation there would be no good or bad for the same reason.

        But that isn’t to say that it isn’t proper for things to be ordered.

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