This question has been raised before and will be raised again.  Is a hurricane or natural disaster punishment?  Against whom? For what purpose?

Dr. David Scaer has written, “God is not kinder to unbelievers than believers (Matt. 5:45). Just as God’s favor cannot be measured by the good things one person has, so His wrath over sin cannot be measured and determined by the afflictions one suffers. Those whose homes were not destroyed were not any less sinful than those who suffered devastation. Drawing a conclusion about whom God loves by their life circumstances is simply wrong.”  Scaer believes that preaching, teaching, claiming or wondering in our heart if disasters and calamities are punishments, “is a blatant denial of the central Christian teaching of vicarious atonement that Christ has suffered the guilt and consequences of both original sin and all actual sins”.*  He is concerned that there are even some Lutherans who may believe that calamity is punishment.

When Evangelical preachers called the AIDS epidemic a punishment for sexual sins the outrage and backlash from politicians and the media was instant and savage.  Many National churches also rebuked and  blasted those who said it was a sign of God’s wrath as being insensitive and “mean”.  This led one Lutheran theologian to write, “If it were not so tragic, it would be comical to follow the way our church bureaucracies and management committees crank out papers assuring us that this or that tragedy, disease, or addiction, or consequences of a lifestyle are not really evidence of the wrath of God. Just think, is it not comforting to be told by a specially appointed task force that the AIDS tragedy that hangs over society is not an indication of the wrath of God? Perhaps it is too bad that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah did not have the Lutheran Standard to comfort them! Imagine the prophets announcing that the Babylonian captivity was not a manifestation of the wrath and judgment of God but just an unfortunate and inconvenient instance where the balance of political powers was temporarily displaced and was working itself back to a new and different equilibrium!” ^

So which is it?  Are we being punished and the wrath of God is revealed in every tragedy or is something else going on?

More later.

*David Scaer, “Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?”

^Gerhard Forde “Absolution: Systematic Considerations”  Lutheran Quarterly Book, The Preached God (2007) 152–64.