There is so much evil in the world. However, with the ubiquity of evil, comes the understandable temptation to posit individuals, groups and communities as themselves evil, or at the very least the purveyors of a thing called “evil”. Put in more philosophical terms, there is a tendency to give evil its own ontological base, such that evil is an existing thing in and of itself.
In response, an old but not widely circulated podcast by Scott Stephens from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation provides us with a highly valuable an Augustinian response. Stephen’s exploration into the problem of evil highlights evil’s parasitic nature. The podcast suggests that there is no such “thing” as evil in Augustine’s estimation. Rather, evil is but a distortion and negation of good which does have positive ontological substance.
Understanding this Augustinian assertion allows us to give a more nuanced, and indeed more realistic, apprehension of the problem of God’s goodness, but also evil as it resides in political life. In addition, the appreciation of the fundamental goodness of life, rather than a Manichean presumption of life as an eternal struggle between two ontologically equal categories called “good” and “evil”, would provide the basis for hope in a radical transformation of the political status quo, rather than regard political life as merely a management of that status quo.
The podcast deserves a much wider audience than it has had till now. The presence of Benjamin Myer from Faith and Theology alone makes this podcast indispensable listening, and can be found by clicking here.