Book Reviews


Reviews are posted in the order in which they were written rather than in the order of publication. Tavard was first, completing his review only a month after the book came out, which proved to be fortunate since he died a month later.

1. George Tavard, A.A. (d. 2007)~ Piepkorn’s colleague on the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue from its inception in 1965 until Piepkorn’s death in 1973. Catholic Historical Review, early 2008.

2. Ralph Klein ~ Piepkorn’s colleague at Concordia Seminary from __ to 1973. Currents in Theology and Mission, early 2008.

3. Edward H. Schroeder ~ Piepkorn’s colleague in the department of systematic theology at Concordia Seminary in ’68-69, when Ed was a visiting professor, and from September 1971-December 1973. Unfortunately Ed never sat down and discussed key issues face to face with Piepkorn. His review of Volume 2 is posted on Thursday Theology #493-94, November 22 and 29, 2007. The review contains a number of factual errors and misunderstandings of Piepkorn’s theology. The Center Director prepared a response to Ed’s review and sent it to Ed for his comments or corrections. The document, with Ed’s comment (he made no corrections) is now available by email attachment from the Director. It will be posted on the website at some time in the future. Ed also makes errors about Piepkorn’s theology in paragraph 2.3 of his review of Paul Zimmerman’s A Seminary in Crisis. Thursday Theology, #482, September 6, 2007. The Director’s response to this paragraph was also sent to Ed for his comments (he made none) before it was sent out with the All Saints Day 2007 newsletter. It is available by email attachment from the Director. It too will eventually be posted on the website. (The Director needs to refresh his memory on how to post such items.)

Fr. George Tavard, A.A. (+2007)

Note: This review was scheduled for the an early 2008 issue of the Catholic Historical Review, which is edited by Nelson Minnich, who took Piepkorn’s Medieval Paleography course. For Subscription information, see: Reproduced with permission. 
 Fr. Tavard died suddenly at the age of 85 while waiting for an airplane in Paris on August 13, 2007. He was on the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue with Piepkorn from its inception and was still on it at the time of his death. Fortunately, he had already written the Foreword for volume 3 of the Selected Writings of Arthur Carl Piepkorn, which I hope to have out in late spring of 2008. 
Requiescat in pacem…. 
–Philip J. Secker

The Sacred Scriptures and The Lutheran Confessions. Selected Writings of Arthur Carl. Volume Two. Edited and Introduced by Philip J. Secker (Mansfield, Connecticut: CEC Press. 2007. Pp. xlviii, 313).

 Arthur Carl Piepkorn (1907-1973) was a pastor in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, for many years a professor at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, and undoubtedly a major theologian in the Lutheran tradition. A selection of his writings was edited by M. Plekon and W. Wiecher and published by ALPB Books in 1993 and reprinted in 2006. Entitled, The Church, it constitutes the first in a projected series of four volumes of selected writings from Arthur Carl, as he was affectionately known to his friends. Volumes 2-4 are being published by the Arthur Carl Piepkorn Center for Evangelical Catholicity (founded and directed by Philip Secker).

 Volume 2 of the series contains articles and notes on the Sacred Scriptures (Part I) and on the Lutheran Confessions (Part II). Part I reflects Piepkorn’s interest in Scripture (he had studied oriental languages, and his doctoral dissertation was in that area). Part II, much longer, illustrates his conviction that the Book of Concord (published in 1580, and progressively adopted by most Lutherans) provides a true and normative interpretation of the Scriptures. The papers belong to different genres: formal presentations, short notes and reports, occasional letters. They follow a topical order in Part I and a chronological order in Part II. Several papers have extensive footnotes from Piepkorn. Many short explanations, references, and translations from Latin, German, Greek and Hebrew are due to the editor. An index would have helped many readers.

 In Part I, which has seven documents, the topics go from the notion of “canonical” Scriptures (the word occurs once in the Augsburg Confession, but Piepkorn does not recommend its use) to the deuterocanonical books, usually called apocryphal by Protestants, but used by Luther and Lutherans as illustrating the faith, to the inspiration of Scripture, to its inerrancy (the longest paper), to the Old Testament in the Lutheran Symbols (a very short piece), and finally to the authority of Scripture.

 Part II includes nineteen pieces, on the Council of Chalcedon, on the Reformation (and many outrageous misrepresentations of it), on the Lutheran Symbols (these documents, along with another on the Augsburg Confession, form the theological center of the book), on Melanchthon, who authored the greater part of the Symbolical Books, on the relations of the Symbols to Holy Scripture. There is a short reflection on Erasmus. Two brief notes discuss whether a new creed should be composed. Several letters answer questions asked by correspondents. The last document is a very elaborate statement of belief. The book ends with a survey of Piepkorn’s life, by the editor.

 The volume should be of special interest to Catholic readers. Piepkorn was well acquainted with Catholic history and theology, and a very effective and friendly participant in the official Lutheran-Catholic Conversations in America, from their initiation (he attended the planning meeting, in 1965) to his death. His knowledge of Patristic thought and of medieval church history was deep and extensive. His concern for exact, and often minute, historical details could be astonishing. Theologically, he found continuity between Lutheranism and medieval Catholicism, to which, he thought, the Augsburg Confession (1530) was more faithful than the later Council of Trent (1545-1563). He therefore considered the Lutheran Churches as included in the continuing Catholic Church; and he regarded the Roman Catholic Church as also a post-Tridentine continuation of the medieval Church. At the same time, however, he was grateful for the work of many “Roman” theologians. Most of the texts in the volume date from before Vatican Council II. In October 1965, however, in a piece entitled, “Why still be Lutheran?” Arthur Carl acknowledged that something new was happening: “Today’s Roman Catholic Church is not the same institution that resisted Luther’s reforming work. Rome itself is in the midst of a major, full-scale reformation, which Roman Catholics prefer to call renewal” (pp. 193-194).

 The self-understanding of the Missouri Synod comes through in his writings, as it did in his person, as a persistent, gentle call to Christian fidelity, and to devotion to the truth in spite of the prevalent indifference and permissiveness of modern society.

George H. Tavard 
Assumption Center 
Brighton, MA

Ralph Klein

Note: This is the final copy from Ralph Klein on Aug 27, 2007, after he had incorporated my corrections and suggested additions. To be published in an early 2008 issue of Currents in Theology and Mission/s. Is also posted on Klein’s website, and may be shared. –Philip J. Secker

The Sacred Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. Selected Writings of Arthur Carl Piepkorn. Volume 2. Edited by Philip J. Secker. Mansfield CT: CEC, 2007. xlviii and 313 pages. Paper, $21.95.

 This is the second of an eventual four volume series of Piepkorn’s “Kleine Schriften” [“short writings”]. The first volume, published in 1993, dealt with his writings on the church. A third volume will deal with ministry, sacrament, and unity, and a fourth with worship and the Christian life. The 2006 edition of the first volume can be purchased from ALPB Books at Volumes 2 (and 3 and 4 when they come out) can be purchased through CEC, 76 Willowbrook Road, Mansfield CT 06268-2205 or via a website The editor translated all foreign language in the text of volumes 2 and added many editorial notes.

 With a doctorate in Assyriology, Piepkorn (1907-1973) had a distinguished career as military chaplain, parish pastor, and professor of systematic theology at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. A strong advocate of ecumenism (a member of the Lutheran-Roman Catholic Dialogue in the United States from its inception in 1965 until his death) and liturgical renewal, his academic specialties were the Lutheran Confessions and the study of American Christian denominations, leading to the publication of his magnum opus Profiles in Belief, which was published posthumously.

 A man of encyclopedic knowledge, Piepkorn read the Lutheran Confessions in their original German and Latin for about an hour a day for at least ten years and could quote extensive portions of it from memory. Piepkorn was among the forty-five members of the Concordia faculty attacked by the administration of J. A. O. Preus, the president of the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. Shortly after the seminary’s Board of Control announced its intention to forcibly retire Piepkorn and six others, he died of a heart attack in December, 1973. One of the essays in this volume, “I Believe,” was written in response to a request from the Council of District Presidents that each of the professors of the seminary assure the church of his biblical and confessional stance by setting forth in writing, for use in discussion forums, what is believed, taught and confessed, giving special attention to ten theological issues in controversy at the time.

 Piepkorn argued that the doctrine of inerrancy was a secondary doctrine designed to protect the doctrine of inspiration and hence referred to the ultimate irrelevance of this doctrine. He also held that many details of the practice and position of Lutheranism “are based upon decisions of the seventeenth and subsequent centuries, rather than upon definitive determinations of the sixteenth.” Piepkorn noted that the term “canonical” is not defined in either Scripture or the Lutheran Symbols and was never fixed for the whole church by an ecumenical council. He suggested that lessons from the deuterocanonical Old Testament books could be included in the lectionary “if only to assert our Christian liberty against the Biblicists who say that we cannot do so.”

 Piepkorn frequently observed that Philip Melanchthon, a lay person, wrote about forty percent of the Book of Concord, far more than came from Luther himself. Lutherans, he felt, “need to be concerned about the barriers that divide Christians from each other and must listen to other Christians for what the Holy Spirit may have to say through them.” He warned against absolutizing post-Reformation dogmatic traditions. He believed that “the Symbolical Books sometimes appear to be speaking at points where they cannot fully and fairly cite the Sacred Scriptures in support of their assertions.” While holding to a quia subscription to the Lutheran Confessions, Piepkorn contended that Lutherans do not subscribe to formulations of eternal truths divorced from their historic situation, do not subscribe to specific interpretations that the Symbols place on particular passages from Scripture, do not subscribe to meanings that later generations have imported into the words of an earlier generation of confessors, and do not subscribe to the line of logical argument that the authors of the Symbols may have used to reinforce a theological conclusion.

The editor is to be congratulated and encouraged in his mission to bring together these precious essays for a new generation. He was the last student to earn a doctorate under Piepkorn and now lives in retirement in Connecticut.

Ralph W. Klein 
Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago 
Editor, Currents in Theology and Mission

Edward H. Schroeder (see note near the very top as to why this review is not yet here.)