Not Just Nothing

Peter J. Leithart
October 5, 2011
Category: Theology

Bavinck affirms that evil is a privatio boni, but is not satisfied to leave it there: “Sin is a no-thing, can only be a privation or corruption of the good.  Sin is a defect, a deprivation, an absence of the good, or a weakness, imbalance, just as blindness is a deprivation of sight.  The idea of sin as privation, however, is incomplete; sin is also an active, corrupting, destructive power.  Sin is a privation of the moral perfection human persons ought to possess and includes active transgression; it is an active and corrupting principle, a dissolving, destructive power.  Having no existence on its own, sin is ethical-spiritual in nature, thought it always comes to expression in concrete terms.  It is a deformity, a departure from God’s perfect law by rational creatures who can know and do God’s will.  The characterization of sin as privation, accordingly, by no means excludes its being also – viewed from a different angle – an action.  It is not a ‘substance’ or thing, but in its being deprived of the good, it is an activity, just as the hobbling of a crippled dog is still an activity, a defective ‘walking.’”


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