The famous psychologist C. G. Jung once undertook a detailed investigation of the nature and the power of evil. With emphasis, he thereupon placed himself in opposition to what he called the “teaching of the church,” viz, that evil is merely a deficiency of goodness (privatio boni). He saw in this view a serious underestimation of evil because in this expression it is viewed only negatively and as a lack of something. He saw that in line with such underestimation, sooner or later Protestantism would eliminate the devil entirely, and Jung wished, as he said, to posit over against this underestimation of evil something more substantial. For in the empirical life evil is experienced in its thorough juxtaposition to good, just as in the New Testament there arises the idea of the anti-Christ as opposed to the Christ. Every idea that minimizes evil must be combatted. Evil is not just a deprivation, but it is a destructive power. Jung notes what has happened in the concentration camps of the dictator states, and certainly here no one can point to such things as “lack of perfection.” No, evil stands as a shattering, annihilating power over against the good.
It is clear to see that these views of Jung deserve some attention, but that they also fall short in some measure. He does not bring sufficiently into reckoning that the characterization of evil as a deficiency of the good was already applied by St. Augustine and many others especially as an antidote to Manichaeanism, that considered sin as a substantial entity in eternal antithesis to the good. And when later in Protestantism the expression “falling short” begins to play a considerable role, it is always with the understanding that it concerns an active deprivation (privatio ...1
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