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], that are followed today some calm concerns, 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 [It. 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: "evil is therefore essentially Division and separation, Why is the decadence “unitotalità”. 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 shall 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 a recreation offered by God to the sinner, 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 evil does not reach all creatures, but only those who accept. In the Christian view, in fact, not all creatures return to One-All, that is, God, 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, able to choose evil, i.e. divest divine well permanently and irreparably damaged.

Origenista vision, 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. When interpreting the word of God, one must not start from an idea, as beautiful and sublime, and want to let the word of God in that idea; but, on the contrary, It is our vision that should, as much as possible, reflect the word of God. This is the true theology; the other is Gnosticism. 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, I don't fix. There is no doubt that is separate from the evil Church; too bad that a living body is separated from the body; It is wrong to extrapolate a phrase out of context that ensures the real meaning, and so on. But actually evil is something far deeper, it pertains, as we shall 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.

What convinces me not conception of reality is assumed to evil idea of Cardinal Biffi. I observe at the outset that only God is one and all. The unitotalità is not the "shape of the truth of being" 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]. There is also the risk of Pantheism: If the reality is unitotalità and unitotalità is God, then the reality is God. In addition to, There can be nothing outside of unitotalità; If no, wouldn't all. But then, If evil is "separation" and is out of this whole, evil is nothing. Or we must admit that in order to be in reality, i.e. in the totality, evil, Although separation, must still be within this totality. But if this totality is God, then evil is in God. In conclusion, from this vision of Soloviev, endorsed by Biffi, many problems arise.

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

Evil, some, is a not-to-be. Yet there is. And so must somehow be good in reality, the totality of being, certainly not all understood in a divine, 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, Since God is good; or if you want to admit the existence of evil, you have to put it in God. In addition to, If the unitotalità is, as must be, God, evil cannot be a "decline" from God, a decrease or loss or lowering of divinity. Evil comes from God, but the creature. It is a disqualification from or creature from its normal, as Adam has decayed from its state of innocence.

Certainly the rational creature Sin separates us from God: but the evil he commits is not a "forfeiture" from divinity, as the creature, Although sinner, It is not a lowering or waiving of divinity, but a body produced by God from nothing, 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. God, 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, altogether, is the set of God and creatures. It certainly is the totality of all that exists. But it's not all a unique one, only one institution, How would the whole of an entire, So how can we say: all Apple or any individual.

Nor is the divine totality, absolutely indivisible. Instead, the totality of a set of entities: God and creation. It is also wrong to call "whole" the set of things, How does Bontadini, because this again gives the idea of a single entity, of which the institutions are only parts. 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, each is distinct from the others and is an integer divisible, 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, analog. An account is the metaphysical or transcendental and everything is all or substantial ontological. The latter can be a created or the whole divine. All results from the metaphysical entities collection: God and creation, 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. His being is a being by participation, Be dependent to that essence is God.

Based on these considerations, that interpret the metaphysical and theological vision of Biffi, You can now examine how he sees the essence of evil. He does not consider the ontological aspect, evil as privatio boni debts, the ὑστέρησις of Aristotle [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. This is always a work of art, but it is no longer in his place.

Separation, the work of 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, itself certainly valid, take root to the essence of evil. Indeed, the radical aspect of evil does not comply to the order or composition of parts in all, 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 or separation or Division or contrast against a totality or in a set, but the plan be, 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. The bad about the existence. 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. The deficiency can be the spirit: in the intellect and the will. We then blame evil, Sin. Or may be suffered by the person. And we then the evil of punishment. If this is right, 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 any case, evil is a deprivation to be.

evil and death
evil is connected to death …

For this evil in the Bible is connected with death. The evil is hate for life and suppression of life. Christ calls Satan, from that sin originates from evil, "a murderer from the beginning". Evil is an injustice, but not beyond the control of divine justice. The punishment is bad, but it is a bad thing right, why it's good that the wicked will be punished. 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. We must not get justice on their own, but just because, as the Bible teaches repeatedly, God takes the revenge [CF. e.g.. RM 12,19]. As for the damned, has a complaint, Since the evil from which is afflicted if it is provided with their own hands. No evil, therefore, If you do not repent, hope to be able to get away with taking advantage of God's goodness.

While clearly distinguishing good and evil, 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. Avoid the cross is bad. Bear cross is well. 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. Therefore, the "recapitulation of all things in Christ", of which St. Paul speaks [If the 1,10] should not be understood in the sense of a origenista recomposition of broken unitotalità, Yes evil is totally abolished. This does not match the given revealed, providing for the award of the good and the punishment of the wicked. Disappears so evil of guilt, but not the evil of punishment.

recap of all things in Christ …

The unitotalità, that actually is divine attribute and not the real font, 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 God evil is totally absent. Instead the divine plan of salvation does not require the Elimination of guilt in all men, but only in the predestined. Even the willingness of reprobates, therefore, stubbornly and irreversibly rebel at God, contributes to the order of the universe, showing how God can draw good from evil.

The recapitulation 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 " [Within 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, earning the just penalty.

For his expressed Declaration, Christ then the eschatological Judge function, that "separates the sheep from the goats". This recapitulation, therefore, should not be understood as final convergence origenista of all things to Christ, the bad disappear completely. But such convergence is the lordship of Christ about heaven and hell. The idea of a Christ who ricapitolatore reassembles the unit so that nothing remains outside in opposition to this unit (the damned), can have its own charm, but it is not Christian; the Gnostic idea, contrary to the Gospel and to the Church's teaching. Given that this "unitotalità" supposes a pantheistic background, We understand that disgust me admit evil in God. But in a pluralist metaphysical conception and not monist, 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 the event of evil acts in certain cases (the damnation) a definitive separation of the sinner from All, i.e. by God, Although this separation, permitted by God, does not result in any fault or blame God, but the responsibility of the act falls completely on the sinner. This means that the Christian vision of totality leaves a space to evil in God obviously not, but in creation to witness God's dominion over evil, that God, having created even 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, but it remains only to witness the divine punitive justice which, even in this extreme situation, is not separate, as St. Thomas, by mercy.

Christ Pantocrator Cathedral cefalù
Christ pantocrator [Cefalù Cathedral]

Every man makes glory to Christ, even those who are "under ground", i.e. to hell. Well due to deprivation remains forever in the will of the damned, marked by the sanction of divine justice. The work of salvation is not limited to reorder what was messy, to reunify this divided, to reconcile what was inconsistent, but a true work Creator: give back to being what it was lacking: This is the forgiveness of sins, the ransom of the poor, the consolation of the afflicted, mercy for the poor, the release of prisoners, 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, without a metaphysics of creation. 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. Much less evil can be conceived as a lapse from the divinity or or made inside the deity or a moment of becoming divine dialectic. 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: He, and pure 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.

About Father John

Giovanni Cavalcoli Dell'Ordine dei Frati Predicatori Presbitero e Teologo ( Click on the name to read all its articles )

One thought on "Giacomo Biffi and the idea of “essence of evil”

  1. 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, Why is the decadence “unitotalità”.
    .. 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, today and always, 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; and, 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. 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, that enlightens every man " (CF Jn. 1, 9).”

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