Not Just Nothing

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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