AMERICAN LUTHERAN PIETISM, ACTIVIST AND ABOLITIONIST

PAUL PHILLIP KUENNING, Marquette University

Abstract

For a century and a half Pietism was the primary tradition of Lutheranism in North America. Then just previous to the Civil War, it was sharply challenged on the basis of its alleged lack of confessional orthodoxy. Its leadership was rejected, and its theological contributions largely discarded. Since that time it has been disparaged within Lutheran circles as containing subjective, mystical and world-denying tendencies; and characterized as opposed to historic Lutheran traditions. The purpose of this study was to question and test the validity of this historical and theological analysis. I argue that far from being quietistic, antebellum Lutheran Pietism exhibited an ethical activism unprecedented within Lutheranism, and expressed itself most dramatically in the advocacy of abolitionism. Furthermore, I maintain that this activism was not primarily the result of an accommodation to other forms of Protestant evangelicalism, as some have argued, but that it was rooted directly and profoundly in the German Lutheran Pietist traditions which had been shaped under the leadership of Philip Spener (1635-1705) and August Francke (1663-1727). These conclusions were drawn from a careful inquiry into the works of Samuel S. Schmucker (1799-1873), the recognized leader of Lutheran Pietism in the antebellum period, and those of the Franckean Evangelic Lutheran Synod (organized in 1837), its most vigorous corporate expression. This study is based on research in archival deposits containing the personal and unpublished writings of Dr. Schmucker, as well as those of the Franckean Synod. The major conclusion of the dissertation is that the reason for the vitriolic opposition and eventual rejection of Dr. Schmucker and the Franckean Synod, along with the pristine Pietist positions they personified, resided in causes additional to their alleged doctrinal deviations, and/or lack of confessional commitment. These contributing, and perhaps even decisive causes, are found to be Pietism's inherent social and political activism, and most of all, its unyielding support, in the case of both Dr. Schmucker and the Franckean Synod, to the controversial crusade for the abolition of slavery.

Recommended Citation

KUENNING, PAUL PHILLIP, "AMERICAN LUTHERAN PIETISM, ACTIVIST AND ABOLITIONIST" (1985). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI8526786.
http://epublications.marquette.edu/dissertations/AAI8526786

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