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Sunday, May 28, 2017

Günther, Part 2: Popular Symbolics & the real Lutheran Difference

      This concludes from Part 1 on the life and work of the early professor of Concordia Seminary-St. Louis, Martin Günther. —  Before I begin this segment, I want to announce that I have updated my table of all of Pieper's references to old Missouri books to add the many citations from Günther's book.
Martin Günther († 1893)
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      Along with editing two periodicals, Günther produced a noted book with lasting benefits for American Lutherans.  

An example of what Pieper described as Günther's great "gift of distinguishing between right and wrong doctrine" was his best known book, Populäre Symbolik (1872).  This became the basis for several later editions with different editors: 2nd edition in 1881, 3rd (1898) and 4th editions (1913) edited by Fürbringer (cover at left), both used by Pieper in his Christliche Dogmatik. who referred to it about 37 times! It was also translated into Norwegian – see WorldCat.

Th. Engelder's English language Popular Symbolics (1934, title page at right; WorldCat) "differs completely from Guenther, inasmuch as the earlier book treated the matter under doctrinal heads, cross-secting the denominations, while Popular Symbolics treats it by churches." (p. VII).  But there is no chance that CPH would ever want to sell Engelder's book again… it is far too polemic for today's LC-MS.  There is little true defense (Wehre) of Lutheranism left in today's LC-MS.  
"Based on Guenther"
And finally there is Wallace McLaughlin's Comparative Symbolics (1968, cover at left, purchase here $14). — 

      Pieper refers to Guenther's book (3rd edition and 4th edition) about 37 times in his Dogmatik (English: Christian Dogmatics) – see this blog post.  Th. Engelder, the English translator of Pieper's Dogmatik, cross-referenced some of these references to his own Popular Symbolics book in the English edition.

      This is a dying breed of books published by LC-MS writers... ever since Engelder's 1934 book.  There is little true defense (Wehre) of Lutheranism left in today's LC-MS.  Why is this?  Oh, that's right, CPH published The Lutheran Difference (CPH 2014) to fill the gap ... isn't that the book where the editor claims that "Vatican II (1962–65) brought substantive changes to Roman Catholic practice and attitudes"?  Also Daniel Preus published his Why I Am A Lutheran book but never mentions the Roman Catholic Church.   Rather the LC-MS President Matthew Harrison is noted for joining “with St. Peter Catholic Church” to revitalize a neighborhood in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  (sigh)
      If you want to know what actually is the difference between the Lutheran Church and the Roman Catholic Church and all of the sects, you do well to avoid current works and at least go back to Engelder's 1934 book (a readable, searchable version on, Do you want to know more about the teachings of the "Unitarians", "Greek Catholics", "Quakers", "Shakers", "German Baptists", "Assemblies of God", "Congregationalists"?  Just search for these terms.  Better yet, just browse through the extensive 30-page index or the 14-page Bibliography and you may well have better information than what is in Wikipedia.  And any church that springs up in America today that does not immediately mention their "brand" is most likely... Reformed (Baptist/Pentecostal).  Just drill down their online web page "About Us" or "What We Believe" section.
      But the very best basis for standing ("Here I Stand!") in the Lutheran Church today for English readers is to read Franz Pieper's Christian Dogmatics – and Pieper relied on Prof. Martin Günther.  Pieper and Günther are not, as Prof. David Scaer implies, outdated.  The Roman Catholic Church is essentially the same as it was 100 years ago – there has been no cancellation of the anathemas of the Council of Trent.  The so-called "Protestant" sects (i.e. Reformed) are essentially the same.  The Quakers, the Methodists, etc. are essentially the same.  They all separated themselves from any right to call themselves... "Protestant". They all separated themselves in varying degrees from the right to call themselves followers of Luther's Reformation.
      After Günther's passing in 1893, how did God preserve the "Missouri Synod" for the next century?  First of all He gave His Word; secondly God gave it President Franz Pieper, who held to the Word of God until the day he died in 1931.  This propelled the true "Missouri Synod" into the Twentieth Century.
      In the next Part 3 of a series on Pieper's funeral addresses, I present the one he delivered for Prof. A.L. Graebner.

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