A Jagged Contention: Lutheranism in America

“The infusion of European migration has been over for two generations. Assimilation to American cultural patterns proceeds rapidly. Lutherans now cannot avoid choices about how to relate more generally to other American churches and to the American environment itself…The choices that have been made so far seem to throw into doubt either the ability to communicate an authentically Lutheran word in America or a capacity to maintain such an authentic word…The dominating concern seems to be less the offering of Lutheranism to America than the promotion of social engagements and bureaucratic efficiency.”

-Mark Noll, “An Evangelical Protestant Perspective” in Word and World 11, (1991). Pgs. 314-315


What has changed for the Lutheran church in the twenty-five years since Mark Noll made these assertions about Lutheranism in America? Though directed primarily at the ELCA, can similar assertions be made about more conservative Lutheran bodies? How ought the church go about recovering, maintaining, and offering a faithful Lutheran identity in the trenches of the American context?

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One thought on “A Jagged Contention: Lutheranism in America

  1. When one embarks on being a missionary in a foreign country, there is an expectation of resistance, cultural differences, language barriers, and the like. In many ways it seems as if America is a foreign country and we are missionaries living here. Nearly everything “Lutheran” in doctrine, traditions, rituals, etc. is something that is foreign to most in America.

    Confession of sins? Unheard of. Repentance? Why? The Lord’s Supper? What is that about? It seems as if the foundations of our faith are a foreign concept. To me this calls for an internal discussion of what is our Lutheran identity, and then a blueprint for sharing this identity. Hopefully our “Lutheran” identity begins with our identity in Christ, and then as Lutherans.

    For clarification, none of this is about liturgy, worship styles, or other issues that are popular to banter about within Lutheran circles. The Gospel is foreign to all of us. The culture in America flat out rejects the Gospel. This most precious gift must be proclaimed. Dare I say it needs help? Never. Certainly it is efficacious on its own accord. It is the branches, attached to the vine, that Need help. The branches have to be molded and shaped to deliver the fruit the vine produces wherever the branch is located.


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