The State of Lutheranism in America: Dominated by Negligence and Indifference, But Not Without Hope

A great post out of our archives — note that the discussion on the original post is worth re-reading. I’ve included some of the comments below.

This post was originally penned by Dr. C.F.W. Walther in 1846 .. a reminder that nothing is new under the sun.


“In America no denomination has suffered any deeper fall than this fellowship that is called “Lutheran.” All the sects of this land are more zealous to preserve the false doctrines upon which they’ve been founded, and that give them their unique character, than the present so-called Lutherans intend to hold fast to the holy and pure doctrine which is founded upon the clear Word of God, that was entrusted to her through God’s unspeakable grace. Yes, we see the American Lutheran Church is not only dominated by negligence and indifference, but even by enmity against the true Lutheran Church. She has retained nothing but the name. She has lost the ancient truth and the ancient spirit of witness. Yet we also see that we have no reason to despair over the condition of the Lutheran Church in America. God has obviously once again picked up his winnowing fork to beat his threshing floor and to sift his wheat. God has obviously resolved to no longer sit back and watch the hidden mice, those false saints, those fish in muddy waters. God has once again begun to open eyes here and there, who fearfully acknowledge the apostasy of which the Lutherans have become guilty. Here and there God is awakening men who are loudly demanding those who have abandoned their first love to return. God be praised! After a long winter the turtledoves are again heard in our land. (Song of Songs 2.11-13)

“Rise, get up then dear brothers! Let us not idly watch as false brothers band together ever more tightly to bury the foundation of our church and create another beside it. Since these do all this while still fraudulently fighting under our name, they are more dangerous than our declared enemies. They are their compatriots even while they bunk in our camp. He who dwells in heaven surely laughs at them and the LORD mocks them, for “even if the sea billows and rages, and the mountains erode in their storm, yet the city of God remains vibrant and well with her fountains, where are the holy dwellings of the Highest. God is with her, so she will remain well. God will help her early.” But as impossible as it is for Luther’s doctrine, that is, God’s Word to be driven out of the world, yet it is just that easily possible, if we do not hold on tightly to it (Tit 1:9–11) and fight for it (Jude 3) to lose this gem, (2 John 8.9) and someday be rejected as unfaithful stewards.

“Therefore, if we do not wish be called hypocritical Lutherans, but want to be and remain Lutherans in deed and truth, let us walk together and again gather around the banner of the ancient, unchangeable doctrine of our church; pleading together that the LORD awaken and create help that comfort again be taught; together fighting against all deceptions with the sword of the Spirit and together bearing the shame by which the LORD strives to designate his servants. We dare not hope that the church in these latter, horrible times will be established again in a condition of glorious bloom, yet we may also not abandon hope that our witness and our battle will not be completely in vain, but rather will give way to praise of the LORD and convert many souls from the errors of their way.”

C.F.W. Walther
Der Lutheraner
Volume 2, Number 11
January 1846, pg. 42-43
Translated by Joel Baseley


Here are excerpts from a few of the comments from the original post:

I think once more people begin to read and study the Lutheran Confessions again, they will realize the Lutheran Confessions are true to Scripture and support what we believe. Then they’ll want to be Lutherans again. (some don’t realize they haven’t been taught what Lutherans believe, so think they are truly Lutheran) Many lay people today have never even heard they even exist. (Except maybe the Small Catechism and the Creeds) And they don’t realize that they are still relevant for today. There is truly nothing new under the sun!

Sadly, I think most Lutherans growing up in our confession see no need to go beyond their reading of the Small Catechism. Is this a problem with pastors being sold a bill of goods, thinking that the Book of Concord is passe and is otherwise not interesting? That it will not pull people in, so why bother?

CPH has a few workbooks that are good introductions to parts of the Book of Concord, such as the Augsburg Confession. I really wish pastors would seriously consider jump starting confessions reading in their parishes by using the CPH materials which will help make reading the Book of Concord more accessible for some

With the new accurate and easy to read edition of the Book of Concord put out by Concordia Publishing House there are no more excuses. The easy to read “Readers Edition” also has some great Lutheran art in it.

It is now up to the pastors, district presidents and our good SP’s in the LCMS, WELS and ELS to make the push for folks to read the BOC.

There is no better way to grow as a Lutheran than a deep study in the BOC and the Bible. We should not just assume that the laity won’t read it.

About Norm Fisher

Norm was raised in the UCC in Connecticut, and like many fell away from the church after high school. With this background he saw it primarily as a service organization. On the miracle of his first child he came back to the church. On moving to Texas a few years later he found a home in Lutheranism when he was invited to a confessional church a half-hour away by our new neighbors.

He is one of those people who found a like mind in computers while in Middle School and has been programming ever since. He's responsible for many websites, including the Book of Concord,, and several other sites.

He has served the church in various positions, including financial secretary, sunday school teacher, elder, PTF board member, and choir member.

Norm has been involved behind the scenes in many of the "go-to" websites for Lutherans going back many years.


The State of Lutheranism in America: Dominated by Negligence and Indifference, But Not Without Hope — 4 Comments

  1. It is interesting to note our contemporary situation’s similarity to that of Walther’s time. I wonder if or when the incredibly small remnant of actual American Lutherans who are left, will follow Walther’s lead in building that witness in a new synodical structure… then work to unite in orthodoxy the various other small synods who are in their own nascent phases of trying to do the same thing.

  2. Every church that fancies itself Lutheran should offer annually a study of the entire BOC. That’s how important it is. Every member should enroll often. Any church not wanting to study the confessions should not benefit from the cachet of the name, Lutheran. Sorry, but churches in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, for example, are not Lutheran, so they only cause confusion by continuing to use the name.

    Let us not, with our rich coffers, play the part of beggars, and ask favors where we have every ability to impart them.
    Charles Porterfield Krauth

  3. @Mark #2

    Yep, I agree, Mark. I’ve also thought that (only a little tongue in cheek) our Lutheran ordination rite should be modified to include using a hot iron to brand the letters UAC on every new pastor’s left breast. I bet that would test a guy’s commitment to the Confessions fairly well… And probably reduce the interest of women seeking ordination, too.


  4. What if a Lutheran pastor or theologian wrote a book that addressed the various topics in the Augsburg Confession and how they were relevant for our contemporary situation?

    I read through the confessions recently. I became a member of a Lutheran church this March. At times, they were very relevant and encouraging. At times, it was a difficult slog through the weeds of controversies that I didn’t understand. I majored in history and I had to read thousands of pages of both primary and secondary sources, so I’m used to this kind of reading. A lot of people aren’t.

    If we could introduce the theology of the BoC to our congregations with popular level books, we would educate a lot more laypeople, and we would spark a greater interest in theology in that select group of laypeople who will actually take the time to read the BoC in whole.

    You can’t expect people to read the BoC who don’t have any interest in theology. Get them interested in theology with popular level books that introduce core theological terms and they might be more interested in moving on to something that is more in-depth.

    Don’t expect people to sprint when you haven’t even taught them to crawl.

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