Epiphany 2013, Volume XXII, Number 1
(A feature article from the journal: A Conversation between Mark Noll and Hermann Sasse by John T. Pless)
Mark Noll is a sharp-eyed watcher of American Lutheranism from the outside. In numerous essays he has spoken of the ambiguity surrounding what it means to be Lutheran in America. In "American Lutherans Yesterday and Today," Noll observes: "The history of Lutheranism in America is complex primarily because Lutherans seem to have both easily accommodated to American ways of life, including religious ways of life, and never accommodated to American ways." How about that for the proverbial Lutheran paradox? A new twist on the simul — American and un-American!
Actually Noll was not the first to make this observation about American Lutheranism. In the academic year 1925-26, a young German pastor from the Prussian Union came o the United States to study at Hartford Theological Seminary in Connecticut. His name was Hermann Sasse. It was during his time in the States that Sasse came to embrace confessional Lutheranism through his reading of Wilhelm Lohe's Three Books about the Church. After returning to Germany, in 1927 he published a short book, American Christianity and the Church. It is this book that Dietrich Bonhoeffer would read in preparation for his coming to Union Seminary in New York.
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