Giacomo Biffi and the idea of “essence of evil”


On the occasion of the death of Giacomo Biffi of fathers’Patmos Island have devoted some comments to his figure and his works [WHO, WHO], which are followed today by some calm perplexities, because what first is not convincing, is the conception of the late Cardinal assumed reality to the idea of evil.

Author John Cavalcoli OP

John Cavalcoli OP



biffi cover

the work of Giacomo Biffi [Ed. Cantagalli]

In the book by Cardinal Giacomo Biffi Memories and digressions of an Italian Cardinal” [1] I read some of his thoughts about the essence of evil, that I wasn't entirely satisfied. He starts from the metaphysics of Soloviev, which saw reality as "unitotalità", that Biffi defines the "shape of the truth of being", that evil would be what "separates" from this all: “il male è perciò essenzialmente divisione e separazione, perchè è decadenza dallaunitotalità”. The risk, in this view, is to conceive of evil as a forfeiture or removal from all, so the remedy results in a return of all to all, recovering herself, and the famous "apocatastasis" by Origen, condemned by the Church. If instead, as we'll see, evil is an ontological deprivation caused by the will of the creature, then we are ready to accept the Christian vision, for which the antidote to evil is not a simple return, but one recreation offerta da Dio al peccatore, which offer, But, made in all, at some meets an irrevocable and absolute resistance.

apocalypse dragon

the mystery of evil, depiction of the Dragon of the Apocalypse

For this the divine remedy al male non raggiunge tutte le creature, ma only those who accept. In the Christian view, in fact, not all creatures return to One-All, cioè a Dio, not because God cannot bring them back, but because they don't want. In the Christian view of God allows that in the question of evil come in the free will of the creature, capace di scegliere il male, i.e. divest divine well permanently and irreparably damaged.

La visione origenista, instead, similar to that of Plotinus, everything that comes out of one and back to One, everything that comes out of everything and return to All, is Grand and charming, but deviates from the given faith, which provides eternal punishment for the wicked. Nell’interpretare la Parola di Dio, one must not start from an idea, as beautiful and sublime, e voler far entrare per forza la Parola di Dio dentro in quell’idea; ma, on the contrary, It is our vision that should, as much as possible, reflect the word of God. This is the true theology; l’altro è gnosticismo. The rest, as we also in other religions, There is no shortage of reasons to admit an award in the hereafter or eternal punishment [2].

Inferno Claudia-Rogge-Inferno-I-2011-Diasec-168-x-215-cm

depiction of hell [artwork of Claudia Rogge]

In truth, the devise evil as a property of an entity that isolates or separates from all or from the collection to which it belongs, non mi fa difficoltà. There is no doubt that is separate from the evil Church; è male che l’organo di un vivente sia separato dall’organismo; It is wrong to extrapolate a phrase out of context that ensures the real meaning, and so on. Ma in realtà il male è qualcosa di ben più profondo, it pertains, as we'll see, the roots of being.

Mitigate or alleviate the idea and the presence of evil and conceive a universe in which evil will disappear entirely a solution may seem comforting and even more worthy of God's infinite goodness; but in reality that emerges when we watch their goodness evil in the face without concealing anything in its deepest essence. God shows more powerful if we have a fair idea of the ultimate root of evil.

Quello che innanzitutto non mi convince è la concezione della realtà presupposta alla idea del male del Cardinale Biffi. Osservo innanzitutto che solo Dio è al contempo uno e tutto. L’unitotalità non è la “forma della verità dell’essere” UT do, but the divine being. Only God is absolutely one in his infinite simplicity and its unmistakable identity. And he includes virtually every perfection in his infinite essence, as the cause itself contains virtually all its possible effects. In this sense we can say that God is "all" [Sir 43,27]. Inoltre c’è il rischio del panteismo: If the reality is unitotalità and unitotalità is God, allora la realtà è Dio. Moreover, non può esserci nulla fuori dell’unitotalità; If no, non sarebbe totalità. But then, se il male è “separazione” ed è fuori da questa totalità, evil is nothing. Or we must admit that in order to be in reality, ossia nella totalità, Evil, Although separation, must still be within this totality. But if this totality is God, allora il male è in Dio. In short, from this vision of Soloviev, endorsed by Biffi, nascono molti inconvenienti.

San Filippo casts out the Dragon Temple of Hierapolis

San Filippo casts out the Dragon Temple of Hierapolis [Filippino Lippi da Prato, XVI century.]

Evil, Certain, is a not-to-be. Yet there is. E dunque deve bene in qualche modo trovarsi nella realtà, the totality of being, non certo nella totalità intesa in senso divino, Since in God there is evil, but rather pluralistic in all, in the transcendental sense, in all things, where actually there is evil. But if you don't do this distinction, you end up falling in Pantheism. And then the problem becomes dramatic and insoluble: or deny the existence of evil, dato che Dio è buono; o se si vuol ammettere l’esistenza del male, si è costretti a porlo in Dio. Moreover, If the unitotalità is, as must be, It gave, evil cannot be a "decline" from God, a decrease or loss or lowering of divinity. Il male non viene da Dio, ma dalla creatura. Esso è una decadenza dalla o della creatura dal suo stato di normalità, as Adam has decayed from its state of innocence.

Certainly the rational creature Sin separates us from God: ma il male che commette non è una “decadenza” dalla divinità, as the creature, sia pur peccatrice, It is not a lowering or waiving of divinity, ma un ente prodotto da Dio dal nulla, in itself is good and that it is not bad "decaying from God", but with their ill will. It sure turns away from God and opposes, but not in the sense of losing an original deity from which falls. It gave, to create a creature even peccabile, does not decay at all or she loses Him, but He is always in his infinite perfection and goodness.

god idol

God the father is not an Idol …

The totality as reality, instead, complessivamente, is the set of God and creatures. Essa certo è la totalità di tutto ciò che esiste. But it's not all a unique one, di un solo ente, How would the whole of an entire, così come potremmo dire: all Apple or any individual.

Nor is the divine totality, absolutely indivisible. Instead, the totality of a set of entities: Dio e il creato. È sbagliato altresì chiamare “intero” l’insieme delle cose, How does Bontadini, because this again gives the idea of a single entity, del quale gli enti sarebbero solo parti. The reality is not a single substance, as Spinoza believed, a whole divine, which are bodies or parts ways, but it is a set of substances, ognuna delle quali è distinta dalle altre ed è un intero divisibile, connected with the other to form a single unified set under the rule of the Supreme divine indivisible Entity.

The overall reality is the totality a collection of all, is a whole of all, each of which is an entirely different of the other. Different is the divine totality from the totality of the creature. With regard to the creature or creatures, We talk about all in a sense multiple, diversified, analogico. An account is the metaphysical or transcendental and everything is all or substantial ontological. Quest’ultimo può essere un tutto creato o il tutto divino. All results from the metaphysical entities collection: Dio e il creato, which in turn is a collection of all, or substances.

one all

the totality …

The totality of institutions includes God and creation. Therefore, God is conceived dialectically as if it were a part of it all, Although he is completely ontologically and above all, a more perfect the totality of all creatures combined. Each entity created is a substantial part of creation, Although also limited is an all. Il suo essere è un essere per partecipazione, Be dependent to that essence is God.

Sulla base di queste considerazioni, che interpretano la visione metafisico-teologica di Biffi, You can now examine how he sees the essence of evil. He does not consider the ontological aspect, il male come privatio boni debts, la ὑστέρησις di Aristotele [hystéresis, “delay”], but the limits to a disorder or a disorganization between itself and complete good. It's a bit like it can happen in a collection of works of art, in which a is subtracted from a thief. Si tratta sempre di un’opera d’arte, but it is no longer in his place.


Separation, opera di Edvard Munch

So evil, According to Biffi, is the Act of the party that is detached from everything and conflicts with all. It is a part that breaks unity. Now, I don't think this speech, in sé certamente valido, colga veramente alla radice l’essenza del male. Indeed, l’aspetto radicale del male non attiene tanto all’ordine o alla composizione delle parti nel tutto, but the lack of integrity or perfection of the institution itself. The evil has to do with the corruption of the subject, to the limit, for the Bible, with the death of the subject.

Evil is not just a matter of disharmony o di separazione o di divisione o di contrasto nei confronti di una totalità o in un insieme, quanto piuttosto riguarda il piano dell’essere, Indeed the non-being. Evil is a shortage to be before being a separation of the part from the whole. Evil affects the substance of the body before you do the its position relative to other entities. Il male riguarda l’esistenza. Is a lack of being in a subject which in itself remains good. It is not a simple non-being, but is the non-being of something that should be there and there is. La carenza può essere nello spirito: in the intellect and the will. We then blame evil, the sin. O può essere patita dal soggetto. And we then the evil of punishment. Se questa pena è giusta, then we have a good; If it is unfair, This presupposes guilt in court, for which this penalty, i.e. this evil should be removed. In ogni caso il male è una privazione di essere.

male e morte

il male è connesso alla morte

For this evil in the Bible is connected with death. Il male è l’odio per la vita e la soppressione della vita. Cristo chiama il demonio, from that sin originates from evil, "a murderer from the beginning". Il male di colpa è un’ingiustizia, but not beyond the control of divine justice. Il castigo è un male, but it is a bad thing right, perché è bene che il malvagio sia punito. The eternity of hell penalty resolves to be an eternal good.

St. Thomas supports that the righteous in heaven will rejoice when they see the punishment of the damned. It is right that the relatives of a victim of terrorism rejoice in seeing the killer sentenced to life in prison. Non dobbiamo farci giustizia da soli, ma solo perchè, come ripetutamente insegna la Bibbia, a Dio spetta la vendetta [cf per es. RM 12,19]. As for the damned, non ha di che lamentarsi, Since the evil from which is afflicted if it is provided with their own hands. Nessun malvagio, so, se non si pente, hope to be able to get away with taking advantage of God's goodness.

Pur distinguendo nettamente bene e male, to condemn any duplicity, Christianity admits an evil that is well: the fitting punishment. Too bad that the evil is not punished. Also the cross is an evil that is well; saving bad. Evitare la croce è male. Sopportare la croce è bene. Hence noShe Christian view evil in the end times is defeated in the sense that it ceases its activity against the good. And yet remain the eternal punishment for expressions of the divine justice. So, la “ricapitolazione di tutte le cose in Cristo”, della quale parla San Paolo [Ef 1,10] should not be understood in the sense of a origenista recomposition of broken unitotalità, Yes evil is totally abolished. Questo non corrisponde al dato rivelato, providing for the award of the good and the punishment of the wicked. Disappears so evil of guilt, but not the evil of punishment.


ricapitolazione di tutte le cose in Cristo

The unitotalità, che in realtà è attributo divino e non il carattere del reale, is not broken by the evil and therefore does not need to recompose. It does not decay by itself, but always remains intact and inviolable. In Dio il male è totalmente assente. Instead the divine plan of salvation does not require the Elimination of guilt in all men, ma solo nei predestinati. Even the willingness of reprobates, so, ostinatamente ed irreversibilmente ribelle a Dio, contributes to the order of the universe, showing how God can draw good from evil.

La ricapitolazione commissioned by father and accomplished by Christ thus means that the father has subjected all things to Christ [CF. v. 22], "every knee should bow before Christ in heaven, on Earth and under the Earth " [Fil 2,10]. Christ is the Savior of the world, though not in the sense that everyone is saved, but in the sense that he offered everyone a chance of salvation, to which few escape blame for them, meritando la giusta pena.

Per sua espressa dichiarazione, Christ then the eschatological Judge function, che “separa le pecore dai capri”. This recapitulation, so, should not be understood as final convergence origenista of all things to Christ, the bad disappear completely. Ma tale convergenza rappresenta invece la Signoria di Cristo sul paradiso e sull’inferno. The idea of a Christ who ricapitolatore reassembles the unit so that nothing remains outside in opposition to this unit (i dannati), can have its own charm, but it is not Christian; è un’idea gnostica, contraria al Vangelo e all’insegnamento della Chiesa. Given that this "unitotalità" supposes a pantheistic background, si comprende che ad essa ripugni ammettere il male in Dio. Ma in una concezione metafisica pluralistica e non monistica, does fix admit next and under God, free from evil, the free will of the sinful creature.

eternal damnation

… eternal damnation is a man's choice

In the Christian view l’evento del male comporta in certi casi (the damnation) a definitive separation of the sinner from All, ossia da Dio, Although this separation, permessa da Dio, does not result in any fault or blame God, but the responsibility of the act falls completely on the sinner. Questo vuol dire che la visione cristiana della totalità lascia uno spazio al male non in Dio ovviamente, but in creation to witness God's dominion over evil, quel Dio, che avendo creato anche chi si danna, continue to love him with his Providence.

The fact that some not be saved — as is attested by revelation — it is not a sign of some imperfections in the work of salvation. Christ puts us in hand the means to save us; but we can't actually save us if we don't cooperate with saving grace. Which means that the evil done by the damned is not repaired, ma resta solo a testimoniare la giustizia punitiva divina la quale, even in this extreme situation, non è separata, as St. Thomas observes, dalla misericordia.

Christ Pantocrator Cathedral cefalù

Christ pantocrator [Cattedrale di Cefalù]

Every man makes glory to Christ, anche coloro che sono “sotto terra”, i.e. to hell. Well due to deprivation remains forever in the will of the damned, segnata dalla sanzione della divina giustizia. The work of salvation is not limited to reorder what was messy, a riunificare ciò che era diviso, to reconcile what was inconsistent, ma comporta una vera e propria opera creatrice: give back to being what it was lacking: tale è il perdono dei peccati, the ransom of the poor, la consolazione degli afflitti, mercy for the poor, la liberazione dei prigionieri, the resurrection of the dead. However even where sin is forgiven, the good of manifests divine justice.

In conclusion, It is impossible to understand the deep essence of evil and so the power of God in removing it, senza una metafisica della creazione. The victory over evil is a new creation. Seeing evil only related to disharmony, gives us the idea of bad enough as it is clarified by the revelation. And gives us an idea not just of God's saving power. Tanto meno il male può essere concepito come un decadere dalla o della divinità o un fatto interno alla divinità o un momento dialettico del divenire divino. And then salvation is not even a reconstitution of divinity. In the Christian view that God incarnated doesn't mean dirty in God of evil: They, purissimo ed innocentissimo, knows better than us and we most of us abborre. For this he gave us his son who frees us from evil, but that is also a judge of the living and the dead. In the Christian view, the notion of evil assumes the non-being and then the privatio and the other that of nothing, from which God draws the be. If some men remains forever the privatio, This does not deny the infinite mercy, power and goodness of God, but it is a sign of God's power over hell and death.

Varazze, 23 July 2015



[1] Cantagalli, Siena 2007, p. 524.

[2] Cf my book Hell esiste. The truth denied, Editions Faith&Culture, Verona 2010.

1 reply
  1. hector says:

    Biffi: It would be honest to recognize that each has its own dogmatism, and considers them indisputable, While blame fiercely others…
    I quote from
    L’ “unitotalità” It is thus the form of the truth of being; and so things separate – considered just as separate – are not “Vere”. Evil is therefore essentially Division and separation, perché è decadenza dallaunitotalità”.
    .. all this reasoning more than offer assertions resolves to a request: man seeks and postulates that there is a unifying principle of all, otherwise everything is parcelled out and it trivializes; and he feels lost and upsets. The Christian event is God's answer to this fundamental question of man. The answer is the reality of Jesus Christ, “in whom all things hold together” (With the 1, 17). Jesus is the only Savior of the world, yesterday, oggi e sempre, just as it is the compaginatore principle of all that exists and all-encompassing sense of everything that happens: “In him all things were created, those in heaven and on Earth” (With the 1, 16).
    ERGO your thoughts coincide.
    With humility and Biffi concludes:
    "Thinking is tiring and sometimes even exhausting, also because it is much more what you do not understand what you come to realize. "Hanc occupationem pessimam dedit Deus filiis hominum, UT occuparentur in ea " (EC 1,13), Qoheleth says , always encouraging.
    "Bad Jobs", but comes to us from God; e, If you keep illibata intellectual honesty, leads inevitably to God. Thinking is, as seen, more investigate; It is more striving for truth; It is more beg the light. To think, at the bottom of, you pray.
    Thinking, We implore a light that has already been donated, as the prologue of John : "He was the true light, quella che illumina ogni uomo” (CF Jn. 1, 9).”

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