Disease, Scarcity, and Famine: A Reformation Perspective on God and Plagues by Ludwig Lavater
RHB. lfpb. 176pp.
Outbreaks of disease and famine are nothing new, nor is the responsibility of Christian leaders to respond to such societal devastation. Disease, Scarcity, and Famine assembles sermons from Ludwig Lavater, a leading pastor in Zurich during the sixteenth century, that deal with this subject matter. Lavater explains where plagues ultimately come from, gives reasons God chastises the good as well as the bad with them, and instructs readers on how they should conduct themselves during such outbreaks. He also recounts the divine promises in which God offers help to His elect during trying times. Lavater provides a response to disease both grounded in Scripture and satisfying to the soul.
Ludwig Lavater (1527–1586) was a Swiss Reformed theologian working in the circle of his father-in-law, Heinrich Bullinger. He served as Archdeacon at the Grossmünster in Zurich and briefly Antistes of the Zurich church as the successor of Rudolf Gwalther. Lavater was a prolific author, composing homilies, commentaries, a survey of the liturgical practices of the Zurich church, and a biography of Bullinger. His work on ghosts (De Spectris ...) was one of the most frequently printed demonological works of the early modern period.
Michael Hunter is a PhD student in New Testament and a Teaching Assistant at Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. He received his BA in Greek from Wake Forest University, his MSt in Greek and Latin Languages and Literature from the University of Oxford, and his MDiv from Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia. He has served as a translator or assistant editor on several projects, including Reformation Worship (2018) and volume 3 of Petrus Van Mastricht's Theoretical-Practical Theology (forthcoming).
“Michael Hunter’s excellent rendering of these classic sermons by Ludwig Lavater, a leading scholar and Reformed minister from Zurich in the late 1500’s, offer a remarkably full and timely theological engagement of the twin human maladies of pandemic and famine. The ever relevant Scriptural themes of courageous ministry, loving compassion, the purposes of divine providence and the call for humble repentance and living faith challenge us to reappraise our day’s rendition of the classic plague-time trilogy—Cito, Longe, Tarde—“flee fast and far and then come back slowly.” This is rewarding reading for such a time as this.” — Peter A. Lillback, president, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia
“Writing from a time well versed in the unpredictability of infectious diseases and the pervasiveness of poverty, Lavater’s sermons on pestilence, scarcity, and famine offer today’s reader valuable insights into God’s purpose for communal suffering and of the spiritual responsibilities and mutual duties incumbent on society. While mindful of practical concerns, Lavater conveys, from his sixteenth-century vantage, a particular emphasis on the ‘why’ of widespread physical and economic hardship, providing a needed complement to the twenty-first century’s common preoccupation with the ‘how.’ Through Michael Hunter’s very readable translation, Lavater reminds us theologically and historically that in calamity the godly are neither abandoned nor alone.” — John Bower, associate professor, pediatric infectious diseases, Northeast Ohio Medical University; and adjunct professor, church history, Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary
“These sermons are not only historical artifacts which lend perspective, they are the clearly reasoned proclamation of Bible truths. Each of Lavater’s main points is theo-centric, recognizing and acknowledging that God is the one who must be kept in view in all circumstances. Each is sober and serious, in some sense implicitly acknowledging both the gravity of the situation and of the enormity of the privilege of knowing God in the midst of it.” — Jonathan Master, president, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary (from the Foreword)