Does God Will Evil?

Q19 deals with the will of God and the ninth article ask ”Whether God Wills Evils?”. The framework of course is the privation concept of evil and Thomas shows why this view of evil is helpful when tackling this eternal question. First we have to understand that strictly speaking it is nonsense to say that anything wills evil. Evil is opposed to good, and good by definition is what everyone desires. This means that neither God nor cats, dogs, schoolchildren of Gaddaffi strictly speaking wills evil. Nevertheless

evil may be sought accidentally, so far as it accompanies a good, as appears in each of the appetites. … Also when a lion kills a stag, his object is food, to obtain which the killing of the animal is only the means. Similarly the fornicator has merely pleasure for his object, and the deformity of sin is only and accompaniment.

I think both of these examples are striking: when a lion kills a stag it is thus an evil act, not something we generally would hold, since we tend to think that evil is something only moral agents, i.e. people can do. Of course it is not sin, but it is evil nevertheless. Which tells me that if one, like us, can avoid killing for food one should.

The second example, the fornicator, shows that for Thomas pleasure – sex – is good, just in case anyone was unclear about that. And the fornicator is right in looking for that, just like the lion looking for food. The important part is how one goes about that.

Of course, returning to God, this means that God too can will evil accidentally, because it is attached to some good.

Hence he in no way wills the evil of sin, which is the privation of right order towards the divine good. The evil of natural defect, or of punishment, He does will, by willing the good to which such evils are attached. Thus in willing justice he wills punishment; and in willing the preservation of the natural order, He wills some things to be naturally corrupted.

I wonder if one could draw some conclusions about environmental issues from that last sentence. Anyway, it can and should be objected that there does seem to be evils to which no good is attached. I do not think that Thomas implies that there isn’t, although he lived before the 20th century, but it needs to be adressed.

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