Nineteenth century America was a time of self-definition for Lutherans. Competing visions of Lutheranism in the new world led to questions about the role of the Lutheran Confessions, the nature of the sacraments, and the order of worship. Pastor Samuel S. Schmucker argued for a uniquely American Lutheranism which departed from the historical Lutheran church in numerous ways. In response to this, Charles Krauth wrote this work, The Conservative Reformation, as a plea to return to a historically and theologically robust Lutheranism.
Krauth's book is a masterpiece of both historical and theological writing. In this work, Krauth provides a history of the Reformation and of the writing of the Lutheran Confessions. He then outlines the unique doctrines of Lutheranism and answers criticisms of Reformed theologians, Roman Catholics, and others. Krauth provides a vision of Lutheranism which is conservative, relying on the great truths of the past, without being strictly tied to a rote traditionalism.