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Henrik wrote:

Hi, guys —

If Hell is all about privatio boni then everything in Hell is evil and emptiness. If everything in Hell is deprived of good then existence in Hell is not existence in a good way. Annihilation would be emptiness but existence is even more empty.

  • If existence is good, then how can it also, at the same time, be deprived of all good?


  { If existence is good, then how can it also, at the same time, be deprived of all good? }

Paul replied:

Hi Henrik,

Your question is a good one.

It seems you're familiar with the Augustinian-Thomistic understanding of evil of being a privation of being. The syllogism goes like this:

  • All being is good (since it comes directly from the all-good God),
  • Evil is a privation of being, therefore,
  • Evil is a privation of good

This leads to your question:

  • If being is good, how could Hell be evil?

We need to dissect this a little. First we must distinguish between ontological good and moral good.

Ontologically, all things are good to the degree that they remain existent. An eye is good. A blind eye is still good to the degree that it remains an eye, but is evil ontologically because it cannot function as an eye is meant to function.

Moral evil can only be committed by persons, free moral agents. Choosing moral evil deprives the soul of grace. Hence, the soul is still good inasmuch as it remains a soul created by God but it is also evil because of this great deprivation for which it is made. Therefore, ontologically we are a mixture of good and evil, the latter being the privation of the perfection of the being something or someone is meant to be.

We would have to admit, then, that even in demons there remains an ontological goodness. By virtue of the remnant of their being that remains, it is good, however, demons are completely devoid of grace and are a sHell of what they were ontologically as angels. And as a result of their irrevocable choice to reject God, they ever remain morally evil to the core.

Therefore, to the degree that Hell and demons have a semblance of being, there is a semblance of ontological goodness. You are right — total evil would mean annihilation. However, because of what they chose, they live forever deprived of all moral goodness; and as a result, they are deprived of much ontological goodness too.

They are an ugly version of what they once were, like black ashes are to the newspaper it once was. Ashes still have a small degree of goodness, but in comparison to the newspaper it was and was meant to be, it is deprived of almost all its being and goodness. The same principle applies to Hell and demons. In Hell there is nothing but angelic and human persons deprived of all happiness, joy, and hope. In other words, everlasting misery. Although God upholds their existence, because of their free choice, He withholds His Life (of Grace).

Hope this helps.



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