Tsunamis and Surd Evil

(Updated January 23, 2005)

My article “Arthur Carl Piepkorn and surd evil(tsunamis, etc.)” is in the March 2005 issue of Forum Letter. For subscription information click on “Lutheran Forum/Forum Letter” page below. I have received a number of responses from my peer reviewers or persons who saw the article in the Forum Letter or on the Center Website. Not one has said that he was familiar with the term “surd” prior to reading the article. A University professor with an international reputation has written to me twice just to thank Piepkorn and me for adding a new word to his vocabulary.

The article as sent to Forum Letter is posted on the Printable Files page of the Center Website. I recommend that you compare it with the printed version, which may differ due to editing by the editors of Forum Letter.

Here is a brief summary of the article:

What might Piepkorn say about events such as the December 26, 2004, tsunami in the Indian Ocean Asia?

He referred to events like tsunamis or the bursting of a dam at the head of a populated valley as examples of “surd” evil. Surd evil has no rational explanation, and yet is not “absurd,” that is, irrational or unreasonable. Rather it is meaningless.

He recognized that the Bible does not give us an explanation of the origin of evil (neither does any other religion or philosophy). However, he offered a possible explanation for the existence of surd evil in our world. He believed in orders of creation: inanimate, vegetative, animal, human, angelic, and archangelic. He said that rocks cannot understand plants, which cannot understand animals, which cannot understand people.

Similarly, we cannot possibly understand the orders above us. The battle between good and evil that goes on at our order of creation certainly also goes on at their level, but in ways we cannot possibly comprehend. It is possible, he said, that surd evil is the overflow into our world of that battle.

The article posted on the “Printable Files” page discusses the meaning of the word “surd” and gives examples of orders of creation and of surd evil.

Is there a better explanation for this kind of evil? None that I know of. –The Director