Lutheranism is not Christianity plus several ideas or modifications of ideas added by Luther, but simply Christianity, consistent Christianity, neither more nor less. And the Lutheran Church is not a new growth, but merely the restoration of the original Christian Church with its apostolic, pure confession of the only saving Christian truth and faith.
The history of Lutheranism and of the Lutheran Church, therefore, is essentially the story concerning the old Christian truth, restored by Luther, viz., how, by whom, where, when, etc., this truth was promulgated, embraced, rejected, condemned, defended, corrupted, and restored again to pristine purity.
As for American Lutheranism, it is not a specific brand of Lutheranism, but simply Lutheranism in America; for doctrinally Lutheranism, like Christianity, with which it is identical, is the same the world over. Neither is the American Lutheran Church a distinct species or variety of the Lutheran Church, but merely the Lutheran Church in America.
The modified Lutheranism advocated during the middle of the nineteenth century as "American Lutheranism" was a misnomer, for in reality it was neither American nor Lutheran, but a sectarian corruption of both.
Hence, also, the history of American Lutheranism is but the record of how the Christian truth, restored by Luther, was preached and accepted, opposed and defended, corrupted and restored, in our country, at various times, by various men, in various synods and congregations.
In the history of American Lutheranism four names are of special significance: Muhlenberg, Schmucker, Walther, Krauth.
H. M. Muhlenberg endeavored to transplant to America the modified Lutheranism of the Halle Pietists. S. S. Schmucker's ambition was to transmogrify the Lutheran Church into an essentially unionistic Reformed body. C. F. Walther labored most earnestly and consistently to purge American Lutheranism of its foreign elements, and to restore the American Lutheran Church to its original purity, in doctrine as well as in practise. In a similar spirit Charles Porterfield Krauth devoted his efforts to revive confessional Lutheranism within the English portion of our Church.
The first volume of our presentation of American Lutheranism deals with the early history of Lutheranism in America. The second, which appeared first, presents the history of the synods which in 1918 merged into the United Lutheran Church: the General Synod, the General Council, and the United Synod in the South. The third deals with the history of the Ohio, Iowa, Buffalo, and the Scandinavian synods, and, Deo volente, will go to press as soon as Concordia Publishing House will be ready for it. In the fourth volume we purpose to present the history and doctrinal position of the Missouri, Wisconsin, and other synods connected with the Synodical Conference.
As appears from the two volumes now in the market, our chief object is to record the principal facts regarding the doctrinal position occupied at various times, either by the different American Lutheran bodies themselves or by some of their representative men, such comment only being added as we deemed indispensable. We have everywhere indicated our sources, primary as well as secondary, in order to facilitate what we desire, viz., to hold us to strict accountability. Brackets found in passages cited contain additions, comments, corrections, etc., of our own, not of the respective authors quoted.
As collateral reading, especially to pages 1 to 147 of Vol. I, we urgently recommend the unique, thorough, and reliable work of our sainted colleague Dr. A. Graebner: "Geschichte der Lutherischen Kirche in Amerika. Erster Teil. St. Louis, Mo. Concordia Publishing House, 1892."
While, as stated, the immediate object of our presentation is simply to state the facts concerning the questions, theologians, and synods involved, it self-evidently was an ulterior end of ours also, by the grace of God, to be of some service in furthering and maintaining the unity of the Spirit, an interest always and everywhere essential to the Lutheran Church.
"May the almighty God and Father of our Lord Jesus grant the grace of His Holy Spirit that we all may be One in Him and constantly abide in such Christian unity, which is well-pleasing to Him! Amen." (Form, of Conc., Epit., 11, Sec.23.)