The Rev. Bryan Wolf­mueller argued that Chris­tianity has largely failed in America during a lecture hosted by the Lutheran Society. Alex Nester | Col­legian

Treating the Bible like an instruction manual for getting to heaven is a path toward pride and despair, said the Rev. Bryan Wolf­mueller during a lecture at Hillsdale College.

The Lutheran Society invited Wolf­mueller — a Lutheran pastor and author of “Has American Chris­tianity Failed?” — to speak to a crowd of 30 stu­dents and pro­fessors on Thursday Sept. 27.

Wolf­mueller said American Chris­tianity places too much emphasis on indi­vidual will. He dis­cussed why he said he believes Chris­tianity has failed in the United States.

“American Chris­tianity is built on the idea that, to be a Christian, you have to make the decision to be for Christ,” he said. “But our will is not part of our con­version; in fact, our will is what Jesus con­verts.”

Wolf­mueller, who was raised in a liberal evan­gelical church, high­lighted the dif­ference between the Old Tes­tament com­mands and Gospel promises in the New Tes­tament.

“You keep com­mands by work, but you keep a promise by faith and believing,” Wolf­mueller said.

This is what American Chris­tians are getting wrong, according to him.

Chris­tians in America find their con­fi­dence in growth and good works, Wolf­mueller said. Those who preach to Chris­tians, therefore, preach the law, and Chris­tians only preach the Gospel to unbe­lievers. He believes this is wrong, and instead, Chris­tians must place their con­fi­dence in God.

“When we find con­fi­dence in the source of faith, mainly word and promises, we don’t look down­stream, but upstream from faith,” he said.

Fol­lowers of Luther during the late Middle Ages were willing to die for their belief in the dis­tinction between law and Gospel. This dis­tinction, Wolf­mueller said, shapes the way Lutherans approach con­ver­sa­tions with other Chris­tians, non-Chris­tians, and even the devil.

“We Lutherans ask a little dif­ferent question,” he said. “Instead of asking if you prayed, sur­ren­dering your life to Christ, we ask if Christ has accepted you.”

Assistant Pro­fessor of History Korey Maas attended the lecture.

“He dis­tilled in less than 50 minutes the essence of Lutheranism and the law of gospel,” Maas said.

Though Wolf­mueller claimed American Chris­tianity has failed, he said he believes there is still hope through Christ.

“The bulk has failed to make the dis­tinction between law and God, but Jesus will con­tinue to bless through it all,” Wolf­mueller said. “He will never fail, and his church will stand forever.”

Junior Andrew Simpson is Lutheran, and he said Wolfmueller’s dis­tinction between the law and the Gospel is key to under­standing Lutheranism.

“This is one aspect we very much differ with other denom­i­na­tions on,” he said. “It’s some­thing that is a point of mis­un­der­standing.”

Lutheran Society Vice Pres­ident and junior Josh Pautz said he too appre­ciated how Wolf­mueller explained this dis­tinction.

“We were really happy that Wolf­mueller could come give a talk on some of the Lutheran essen­tials and how he sees that as some­thing lacking in American Chris­tianity in various reli­gious tra­di­tions present in the United States,” Pautz said. “He really focused on the law and Gospel as dis­tinct aspects.”

He encouraged stu­dents or others who have ques­tions about Lutheranism to reach out to the Lutheran Society.

Wolf­mueller said Chris­tians must show the dif­ference between the law and the Gospel.

“In the final courtroom, we plead guilty and we plead Jesus,” Wolf­mueller said.


  • Jen­nifer Melfi

    chris­tianity has failed not only amer­icans — I’ve never heard from anyone who made it to heaven by being a christian.

    • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

      Not even a text?

  • Alexan­derYp­si­lantis

    ‘Wolf­mueller said American Chris­tianity places too much emphasis on indi­vidual will’


    ‘“When we find con­fi­dence in the source of faith, mainly word and promises, we don’t look down­stream, but upstream from faith,” he said.’

    Faith is a gift from the Holy Spirit, it is not developed through an act of will. This is the belief of Orthodox Chris­tians.

    And a couple more state­ments from the Bible per­tinent to the dis­cussion:

    ‘Faith without works is dead’.……James 2:17
    ‘Not all who say ‘Lord, Lord!’ will have a place in my Kingdom’.….Mathew 7:21