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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Who was Theo. Tappert? ("church historian"?)

Theodore G. Tappert
Who was Theo. Tappert († 1973)?

  • He, along with Jaroslav Pelikan, was the architect of the American Edition of Luther's Works:   "...his proposed table of contents for an edition of the works of Luther in English was blended with mine [Jaroslav Pelikan] to form the basis for the American Edition, which I then helped to edit." — Jaroslav Pelikan in the book The Reflective Reformer: Theodore G. Tappert, in "Others Remember" section [2017-10-21: fixed broken link].
  • His translation and editing of the Book of Concord overthrew the Concordia Triglotta as the main English translation of the Lutheran Confessions for generations of LC-MS theologians and pastors.  Fellow collaborators were Jaroslav Pelikan (there he is again), and Arthur C. Piepkorn.  The reference to "Tappert" in many writings referencing the Lutheran Confessions was to this book.  (Why was there an almost overnight disappearance of the venerable Concordia Triglotta?  Why must Concordia Publishing House struggle to get the Triglotta published again?)
  • He was a department editor of the New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge (1955), published by the Reformed book publisher Baker Book House.
  • He translated Hermann Sasse's Here We Stand book into English.
  • He wrote the book Lutheran Confessional Theology in America, 1840-1880 in 1972, purporting to give the true Historical Theology of several theologians, including C.F.W. Walther.
  • He was presented its highest award by the Concordia Historical Institute (along with C.S. Meyer) for the above book in 1972.  Director August Suelflow wrote the following (see here): "When his volume Lutheran Confessional Theology in America, 1840-1880 was produced by Oxford University Press, New York, in 1972, it immediately became obvious to the Institute's Committee on Awards that there was an author who should receive every consideration to receive the Institute's newly created "Distinguished Service Award" which consisted of a certificate and a replica of the unique medal which apparently was struck in 1546 to commemorate the death of the great reformer, Martin Luther. The Awards Committee was unanimous in the choice of Dr. Tappert."
Theo. "Ted" Tappert holds a position of "honor" as a church historian within today's LC-MS similar to Hermann Sasse.  Why is this?  Because today's (English) LC-MS is not the old (German) Missouri Synod.  But neither Theo. Tappert or Hermann Sasse were true church historians.  There is no mention of Franz Pieper in virtually all the writings of Theo. Tappert.  Why?  Franz Pieper said it best concerning "Historical Theology" (Christian Dogmatics, vol. 1, pgs.100-101):
It is the function of historical theology not only to give a historically true picture of the events, but also to evaluate these established facts in the light of Scripture.  Historical theology is the divinely taught art of ascertaining from Scripture God's verdict on the historical events and conditions.  ...  When the church historian judges events according to his subjective view or any other extra-Biblical norm, church history is no longer a theological discipline. ...Where things are as they should be, the Church will, therefore, elect only such men as professors of church history as are thoroughly conversant with the Scripture doctrine in all its parts, well informed in dogmatics, in order that the instruction in church history will not confuse but aid Christian understanding.
When today's LC-MS pastors and theologians want to learn more about the theology of C.F.W. Walther, they turn to Tappert's assessment in his book Lutheran Confessional Theology in America, 1840-1880, indeed, they give Tappert its highest award!  But Tappert's theology lacked the "light of Scripture" in many ways, and substituted his subjective view.   An associate of Tappert, E. Clifford Nelson – another "church historian", wrote the following about Tappert and the controversies within the LC-MS in the 1960s:
... an article ... under the title, The Maturing of American Lutheranism  ... "The Word of God according to the Lutheran Confessions." ... it almost goes without saying that it speaks immediately– but without specific reference–to the Missouri Synod and the demonic internecine warfare that plagues that particular household and impairs the totality of witness to the world by all who name the Name of Christ. (The Reflective Reformer, sub-section "In Memoriam".)
The "demonic internecine warfare" in the LC-MS?  So the Concordia Historical Institute awarded its highest "Distinguished Service Award" to an outside theologian of the L.C.A. (see graphic) who wrote to assist in its "demonic internecine warfare"?  Maybe we can judge the Concordia Historical Institute from this...

There is no mention of Franz Pieper in virtually all the writings of Theo. Tappert – and there is a reason for this.   Theo. Tappert was one of the opponents of the old (German) Missouri Synod that Franz Pieper spoke about in his Last Words to the Missouri Synod.  Why?  Because Tappert opposed the pure Lutheran Doctrine of Justification.  And today's (English) LC-MS that followed Tappert is not the old (German) Missouri Synod, but rather the "Graebner Synod".

For those who are interested in true Church History, they would be better informed by reading the writings of those men in my masthead: Luther, Walther, and ... Franz Pieper!  ... and not Theo. Tappert.

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