of neo-stoicism contended, and just as times had become extremely bad they would surely change and become better again. In some circles the teachings of hermeticism, or hermetics, also offered relief. The Lutheran pastor Johann Rist (1607-67), for example, combined his interest in nature with speculations derived from hermeticism, and both of these approaches taught him on the basis of eschatological belief that as salvation history had progressed God allowed, even offered, insight into the laws of creation which had hitherto been undisclosed. On this basis Rist conducted what he considered scientific experiments that in retrospect should be classified as significant first steps towards modern natural science, even though Rist never attained the insights of his more famous contemporaries in other countries, foremost in Great Britain. Compared to the other ways of coping with the catastrophe of the Thirty Years' War, therefore, Rist's endeavours should not be overestimated. As a pastor in a rural parish who had to care for his flock, Rist was just as helpless as were most of his colleagues. More valid, and perhaps also more typical of the reaction to the hardship of the times than Rist's modest scientific experiments, were the hymns that he wrote in which he admonished true Lutherans to prepare for the coming of Christ's kingdom.
How much of Lutheran orthodoxy survived throughout the catastrophe of the Thirty Years' War is hard to assess. Lutheran pastors had been affected by despair, misery, hunger, and the experience of sudden, premature and violent death as much as anyone else. No visitations were held, and the church ordinances contained no advice for survival, nor did the learned compendia of Lutheran dogmatic teaching offer spiritual help. The famous city of Magdeburg, a proud symbol of Protestant culture, had been destroyed by imperial troops during the war, as had many other Protestant cities. Because many church archives were also burned it is difficult, even today, to reconstruct the history of Lutheranism in some places prior to the Thirty Years' War. In retrospect, perhaps, the one theological notion which deserves special attention is the belief that the number of God's true and faithful children is small and that persecution serves as proof that they are the elected. This notion is not restricted to the Thirty Years' War. It is, however, certainly the one theological tenet that helped to preserve Lutheran faith during the time of the war and for some time thereafter. Theophil Grossgebauer (1627-61) from Rostock, among others, came to this conclusion. A generation later, in a somewhat different context, this idea of the small group of God's true children was taken up by the Pietists.
Was this article helpful?