We said in the previous blog that the Reformation leaders seem to have the opinion that disasters, famine, bad weather and other calamities are punishments of God for something that is used to chastise Christians and refine them as they thank God for the blessings they have received in Christ and help their neighbors in the times of trial. There is a lot of ambiguity in the way disasters are defined and what kind of reaction we could have for trials.
In the summer of 1527 Johan Hess who was a leader of the Protestant Reformation in Silesia wrote to Martin Luther to inquire about whether one was allowed to flee a disaster. An epidemic had broken out in Breslau Poland. Luther wrote in such a way as to show the wrestling with the issue that any thinking person must engage in if we are thinking persons. Those who stayed and placed their trust in God were most admirable Luther said. He said it was also permissible to leave if one was afraid for their lives and could get away without hurting anyone else. That was not applied to pastors, mayors, judges, or public officials however. They were not to leave. For everyone else, how to act was left up to the individual conscience. Luther also stated that if you decided to leave and were not one of the officials here listed, you still had to make provision for relatives, servants, and other dependent people.
Luther seems to blame the plots and wiles of the devil for disaster, most of the time. In the explanation to the Fourth Petition. “give us this day our daily bread” Luther is very powerful.
But this petition is especially directed also against our chief enemy, the devil.
For all his thought and desire is to deprive us of all that we have from God…. [The
devil] also prevents and hinders the stability of all government and honorable,
peaceable relations on earth. There he causes so much contention, murder, sedition,
and war, also lightning and hail to destroy grain and cattle, to poison the air,
etc. In short, [the devil] is sorry that any one has a morsel of bread from God and
eats it in peace; and if it were in his power, and our prayer (next to God) did not
prevent him, we would not keep a straw in the field, a farthing in the house, yea,
not even our life for an hour, especially those who have the Word of God and would
like to be Christians.” (Large Catechism, Lord’s Prayer, 80-81, bookofconcord.org
This question has been raised before and will be raised again. Is a hurricane or natural disaster punishment? Against whom? Fro what purpose?More to come.