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

Arthur Carl Piepkorn (1907–73) 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). The book can be computer searched on Search Google Books (

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 [End Page 181] 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 (1545–63). 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...


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