Piepkorn’s “Stand at the gate of Rome”

In 2008, John Damm, one of Piepkorn’s colleagues from 1966-73, told the Center Director that once when Piepkorn and he were discussing the topic of conversion to Roman Catholicism, Piepkorn said: “I will march to the gate of Rome and stand and plant my banner” in opposition to such conversions.

This quotation is thoroughly consistent with everything the Center Director has found in Piepkorn’s personal and professional writings or heard him say.

Attack on Piepkorn — Updated September 2009. 
A Center correspondent alerted me to an unsigned article entitled “PIEPKORN–NO CONFESSIONAL LUTHERAN” on page 3 of the April 28, 2008, issue of a newspaper that will not be named here.

The article, which was apparently authored by the editor of that newspaper, asserts that “After [Walter A.] Maier died, Piepkorn drifted toward the left. He no longer insisted on the inerrancy of the Bible, the historicity of the Genesis account of creation, and the immortality of the soul. He rejected the scriptural doctrine of election.” 
Piepkorn did not accept the Greek idea that the soul is inherently immortal. Rather, he believed that everlasting life is a gift given to the soul by God at the moment of death. He believed that the term “inerrancy,” which did not take on its modern meaning until 1837, was misleading, but warned against denying it (Volume 2 of Piepkorn’s Selected Writings, pp. 44-45). (See Robert Kolb’s comments on this in the Foreword of Volume 2, pp. xiv-xv). Piepkorn upheld what he believed was the the confessional understanding of election and opposed interpretations that understood election in a way closer to that of Calvinism.

In an effort to prove Piepkorn’s liberalism, the article refers to a book review that Piepkorn wrote. The book review proves nothing of the kind. The editor should have published it in full, but doing would have disproved his allegation. Lutheran pastors and professors are sworn to interpret the Sacred Scriptures according to the Lutheran Symbolical Books. That is what Piepkorn earnestly strove to do. He believed that binding the consciences of pastors and professors to doctrinal statements or interpretations of Scripture not contained in the Symbols violated the constitution of the the Synod. The doctrinal statements and interpretations may or may not be correct. That was not the issue. The issue was making them binding on consciences.

Piepkorn was a Confessional Lutheran. Anyone who accuses him of not being one must show from the Confessions why that is not true.

As soon as I get copyright permission from CPH to reprint the full book review, I plan to send out a response to this article in the Center Newsletter, or in a separate email. I will also post the response on the Center website.

Reviews of Volume 2

Richard O. JohnsonForum Letter, January 2008.

George Tavard, AA (+2007), Catholic Historical Review, early 2008.

Ralph Klein (a colleague of Piepkorn’s), Currents in Theology and Missions, early 2008.

Both Tavard and Klein sent copies of their reviews to me before they were published allowing me to correct mistakes in them.

Edward H. Schroeder posted a two part, 5,400 word review of Volume 2 on Crossings.org (Thursday Theology, November 22 and 29). Unfortunately, Ed did not avail himself of my offer to read through his review before it was posted, and makes numerous misstatements of Piepkorn’s theology and attributes positions to him that he did not hold.

Ed did the same in a paragraph about Piepkorn in Ed’s review of Paul Zimmerman’s A Seminary in Crisis (Thursday Theology, September 6 and 13) which he sent to me in September. I alerted Ed to the errors, but no correction was made.

Since Piepkorn can no longer defend himself, I interspersed comments in Ed’s review of Volume 2 and sent it to Ed for his review. He replied using a phrase that he says Piepkorn often used when he was challenged by his colleagues: “You may be right.” In May I sent the review with my interspersed comments to Crossings.org, asking them to post it so their readers could evaluate it for themselves. I resent the review to the President of Crossings on June 25. I had to write to contact him again before he finally replied, denying my request. He says that Ed is the one in charge though Ed says “the Kids” are. I will be sending out the reviews with my reponses in a Center newsletter soon.