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“Am I My Brother’s Keeper?”: Luther’s “On Whether One May Flee From A Deadly Plague” (1527)

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Chapter Summary

Luther's response to the question about behavior in the face of a deadly epidemic provides a glimpse of several important ethical issues of the day. Luther's argument, in a nutshell, is that neither fleeing nor remaining is right or wrong per se; both positions have their problems. He shows the fallacy of fleeing to be that of violating one's duties or one's responsibilities to his 'neighbor'. Luther presses on to reassert that the plague, and its insidious origins and pervasive means, is 'God's decree and punishment. Luther urges: we (wir) 'admonish and plead [vermanen und bitten]' with you (euch, plural) in Christ's name, that you help us (uns) with your prayers to God, so we may battle with teaching against 'the real, spiritual pestilence' of Satan in his wickedness now used as he 'poisons and defiles' the world.

Keywords: Christ; deadly plague; Flee; God; prayer; Satan; spiritual pestilence



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