Home > Worship Resources > Festivals & Commemorations > Charles Porterfield Krauth, Teacher, 1872 (January 3)

About the Commemoration

Charles Porterfield Krauth, the most accomplished American Lutheran scholar and theologian of the nineteenth century, was born in Martinsburg, Virginia (now West Virginia), March 17, 1823. He was graduated from Pennsylvania (later called Gettysburg) College, of which his father, Charles Philip Krauth, was the first president, and from Gettysburg Lutheran Seminary (1841), where his father was a professor. After being licensed to preach by the Maryland Synod in 1841 he served a mission in Canton, Baltimore (1841—1842). He was ordained in 1842 and served Second English Lutheran Church in Baltimore on Lombard Street (1842-1847), Shepherdstown and Martinsburg, [West] Virginia (1847—1848), Winchester, Virginia (1848-1855), First English Lutheran Church in Pittsburgh (1855-1859), and St. Mark’s Church in Philadelphia (1859—1861). In 1844 he married Susan Reynolds. Because of her ill health, they wintered in Santa Cruz, West Indies, 1852-1853; she died in 1853. They had three children, one of whom died in infancy. In 1861 Krauth became editor of The Lutheran and Missionary, a merger of Philadelphia’s The Lutheran and William Passavant’s The Missionary, an influential organ for conservative Lutheran thought.

When the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia was founded in 1864 he was named Norton Professor of Dogmatic Theology. Four years later, in addition to his work at the seminary, he became Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania, and in 1873 he became vice-provost of the university. In 1880, authorized by the Ministerium of Pennsylvania, he traveled to Europe to research a life of Luther, which he was not able to begin, and, in addition to his other duties, in 1881 he was named Professor of History at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1855 Samuel Simon Schmucker of Gettysburg Seminary published his Definite Platform … An American Recension of the Augsburg Confession in which he charged the basic Lutheran confession of 1530 with five errors, among which were, he said, baptismal regeneration and the real presence of Christ in the sacrament; moreover, he made radical changes to twelve of the twenty-one doctrinal articles of the confession. An opposition conservative party emerged, and one of its principal leaders was Krauth, strongly supported by his Pittsburgh parish. In his inaugural editorial in The Lutheran and Missionary (1861), Krauth wrote, “We are ‘American Lutherans.’… [Our church] must not be afraid to trust herself on this wild current of the quick life of America. She must not cloister herself, but show in her freedom, and in her wise use of the opportunity of the present, that she knows how robust is her spiritual life, and how secure are her principles, however novel or trying the tests to which they are subjected. … And yet we are not American Lutherans, if to be such means that we are to have a new faith, a mutilated confession, a life which abruptly breaks with all our history, a spirit alien to that of the genuine Lutheranism of the past.” The controversy in the Lutheran Church between those who sought accommodation with the prevailing American Protestantism and those who sought to form Lutheran identity as a distinct voice among the American churches led to a division in 1866 and the formation of the General Council out of the leftward-moving General Synod in 1867. Dr. Krauth (he had been awarded the D.D. degree by Pennsylvania College in 1856) was the leading theologian of the General Council, serving for ten years as its president (1870-1880), and contributing mightily to the creation of its liturgical compendium, The Church Book (1868). His thorough scholarship was widely recognized outside the Lutheran Church. His great work was The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology (1871). In addition to many books and essays in the fields of theology and philosophy, he wrote poems, translated hymns from Latin and German, and was a frequent contributor to religious periodicals. His daughter, Harriet Reynolds Krauth, became the wife of the eminent Lutheran pastor, Adolph Spaeth, and also herself translated hymns from German and the Scandinavian languages and was music editor for The Church Book with Music (1893) and the complement to the Church Book, the Sunday School Book.

Krauth died in Philadelphia January 2, 1883, not yet sixty years old.

Excerpts from New Book of Festivals & Commemorations: A Proposed Common Calendar of Saints by Philip H. Pfatteicher, copyright, 2008 by Fortress Press, an imprint of Augsburg Fortress.

See also: Charles Porterfield Krauth


From The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology by Charles Porterfield Krauth

Well might Luther write upon the table at Marburg: “This is My body;” simple words, framed by infinite wisdom so as to resist the violence and all the ingenuity of men. Rationalism in vain essays to remove them with its cunning, its learning, and its philosophy. Fanaticism gnashes its teeth at them in vain. They are an immovable foundation for faith in the Sacramental mystery, and the gates of hell cannot shake the faith of the Church, that our Lord Jesus Christ with the true body and true blood which He gave for our redemption on the Cross, is truly present in the Holy Supper, to apply the redemption through the very organs by which it was wrought out. The sacrifice was made once for all—its application goes on to the end of time. The offense of the Master’s Cross now rests upon His table, and thither the triumph of the Cross shall follow it. On the Cross and at the table the saints discern the body of the Lord, and in simple faith are determined to know in both nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

…[I]f it be granted that the presence of the body and blood of Christ in the Supper is one which is fixed, absolute, and unchanging, then it must be substantial. and not imaginary; not a thing of our minds, but of His wonderful person; not ideal, but true; faith does not make it, but finds it, unto life; unbelief does not unmake it, but, to its own condemnation, fails to discern it. The sacramental presence is fathomless, like the Incarnation; like it, also, it is in the sphere of supernatural reality, to which the natural is as the shadow. The presence of the communicant at the Supper belongs to a lower sphere of actuality than the presence of the undivided Christ in it; and the outward taking and eating is the divinely appointed means whereby the ineffable mystery of the communion of Christ’s body and blood is consummated, a communion heavenly and spiritual in its manner over against all that is earthly and fleshly; but in its essence more true than all earthly truth, more real than all earthly reality, more substantial than all earthly substance. The body and blood of Christ are more truly present in the Supper than are the bread and wine, because their sphere of presence is divine; the bread and wine are but the gifts of the hand of God, the body and blood of Christ are inseparable constituents of God’s incarnate person.

Charles Porterfield Krauth, The Conservative Reformation and Its Theology(Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1871; Philadelphia: General Council Publication Board, 1899), 619, 647—48.


Almighty God, source of knowledge, wisdom, and faith: We praise you for the gifts you richly bestowed on your servant Charles Porterfield Krauth; and we pray that, by his teaching and example, we may honor the tradition that has been entrusted to us, cherish it, and hand it on in its fullness to generations after us; through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Readings: Proverbs 3:1-7; Psalm 119:89-104; 1 Corinthians 2:6-10, 13-16; Matthew 13:47-52

Hymn of the Day:The bells of Christmas chime once more” (LBW 62, ELW 268), trans. C. P. Krauth (original: “The happy Christmas comes once more” (SBH 28, CSB 23)]; “Wide open are your hands” (LBW 489), trans. C. P. Krauth

Prayers: For a renewed appreciation of the tradition of the church; For a deepened concern for truth and doctrine; For scholars, teachers, professors, and administrators; For charity and understanding in times of quarrel and dissent.

Preface: Christmas/Incarnation

Color: White