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Disagreeing with John Wesley

October 03, 2021

We must remember that John Wesley lived a long time ago and some of his ideas seem strange to modern ears. I find John’s idea about the cause and cure of earthquakes especially disturbing.

In his sermon on this topic, he states that God causes earthquakes in order to punish sinful mankind for our sins. I don’t believe that. In this sermon he describes in horrifying detail three powerful earthquakes in Sicily (1692, where 54 cities were destroyed), Jamaica (June 7, 1692), and Lima, Peru (Oct. 28,1746, just four years before Wesley preached this sermon). He says the cure for earthquakes is to fear the awesomeness of God and repent, forsake our sins, and believe the gospel.

Did you know that there is an average of one earthquake per year in Georgia? The latest one was in 2020 in Chatham County. Most of these earthquakes are simply slight tremors that are hardly felt. The deadliest earthquake was in China in the 1500s when more than 800,000 people were lost. How can anyone believe a loving God sends such devastation on so many?

It is certainly true that we have all sinned and should repent and believe the gospel, and perhaps the fear of sudden destruction by an earthquake might encourage sinners to do so.

The Rev. Dave Hanson is a retired pastor and John Wesley scholar.

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