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What Luther Says

What's So Dangerous About 'American Christianity'?

What's so dangerous about 'American Christianity' as it exists in its present form today?

In short, everything, because American Christianity is essentially American Evangelicalism, and American Evangelicalism thrives on Pietism.

I know we've already touched upon this relationship briefly in previous posts, but one of the best things about being home sick on the couch while also enjoying some time off before you start a new job is that it gives you a ton of time to really dig into a subject to find and devour as much information as you can to help you learn more about.

That's been my life for the past week or so as I've enjoyed learning about the historical roots of Pietism, its spiritual dangers, and its impact upon Christianity (particularly the Lutheran Church) today.

We've already looked at some phenomenal interviews on this topic courtesy of Issues, Etc. and Pastor Todd Wilken. Well, get ready for more, because I found another excellent 60-minute interview he did from back in 2011 with Dr. Daniel van Voorhis of Concordia University California that is something really special.

Here's a list of many of the key questions answered for us (including some important notes I recorded):

*- What is the difference between Piety and Pietism?

*- The Pietism Movement's penchant for a sociological foundation in the form of "The Church Within The Church"

*- The Pietism Movement's belief that the Reformation was good, but it didn't go far enough (or that "We Need A New Reformation In The Church!")

*- Where is Pietism's "home" today? Where does Pietism leave its fingerprints?

*- The Pietism Movement's penchant for placing "community" and "good works" over and above proper doctrine

*- Does Rick Warren and Saddleback Church promote a sort of "New Pietism Movement" in Christianity today?

*- What are the "Four Dumb Idols of the Church" from a historical Pietism perspective?

*- What do Pietism's proponents say is "true" Christianity or the portrait of a "true" Christian life?

*- What is the relationship between Pietism and Sectarianism?

*- Why and how did the Pietism Movement become anti-Sacramental?

*- Why do we need to be on guard against the incessant use of adverbs ("Adverbs are the enemy of the Gospel!")?

*- The role of the "conventicle" and its connection to the "small group Bible study" so prevalent today?

*- What is the belief that the "conventicle" plays a role in determining the "visible" and the "invisible" church?

*- What is the belief that the "conventicle" plays a role in determining the "level" of Christian a person is?

*- What is Pietism's impact upon American Christianity?

*- The subjective "conversion experience" as the assurance of one's salvation as opposed to one's objective Baptism

*- The Sectarian Pietists believed that the Holy Sacraments had no role in the believer's life

*- The Sectarian Pietists did not believe going to church was important, because it was about "being a good Christian"

*- The first Lutherans in American were actually Pietists from Halle, Germany

*- The intense "missional" mindset that is characteristic of Pietism today is due to a Post-Millennial mindset

*- Early on, did Pietism find a happy home in the Revivalistic Movements in the US?

*- Pietism is dangerous because it acknowledges the importance of Luther's emphasis on the Doctrine of Justification, but it will instead emphasize the Doctrine of sanctification over and above Justification "since things are so bad right now"

*- "Doctrinal Minimalism" is characteristic of contemporary Pietism

*- Pietism's role in contributing nothing but confusion to a proper understanding of the "Left" and "Right Hand Kingdoms"

*- We need to talk about this more and more since there's not a lot of good material on this subject

Like I said, I know we tackled some of those questions already, but it never hurts to review them over and over again since repetition is the mother of learning, right?

Personally, I'm convinced that it was American Evangelicalism's brand of Piety that did so much damage to me and my faith (and that continues to do harm to millions of Christians worldwide through the abundance of Christian Bestsellers and the "Celebrity Pastor" phenomenon).

Please enjoy this discussion and do share it with others who you know need to hear it.

AUDIO: Pietism And American Christianity

Wasn't that great?

In a Lutheran layman's terms, Lutheran Piety we need to regain, but American Evangelical Piety (a.k.a. "American Christianity") we need to avoid and exterminate.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray. Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a Lutheran-In-Name-Only at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that perhaps wouldn't be too big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in interpreting a specific portion of Scripture exegetically, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.


  1. Thanks for the kind words about the video. I am currently teaching a full load at Concordia University, Irvine (a place I highly recommend, and not just because I work there. My colleagues are amazing). A colleague and I do a weekly podcast "virtue in the wasteland" on iTunes and Virtueinthewasteland.com if you go to faithcapo.com and search media, I have a series of classes I taught on this subject (Pietism and American Christianity) you might find helpful

  2. Daniel van Voorhis,

    Thank you so much for your faithful work (and for stopping by to comment!) as it's truly been a blessing to me.

    I'm sorry to say that I didn't know about the podcast or the website, but I'm glad you mentioned them. I'm currently away for 3 solid weeks of Training for a new job in Tampa, FL and though the surrounding area and weather is enticing, the thought of spending money we don't have isn't. I think I'd rather sit in the sun and listen to you talk about the Son instead.

    Thanks again and do feel free to come back and add your thoughts to anything else you find here at any time. I know that this "newbie" Lutheran would appreciate it.

    Grace And Peace,


Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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