Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A good definition of Adiaphora

Those Cagey Wisconsin folk over at Intrepid Lutheran give a great definition of adiaphora that introduces some important context to the discussion that is often lost.


Carl Vehse said...

Whenever a suggestion is made for a new or "more definitive" definition of a term important to doctrine and the Lutheran Confessions, one should be suspicious.

The Solid Declaration, in para. 1, clearly describes adiaphora as "Concerning ceremonies and church rites which are neither commanded nor forbidden in God's Word, but are introduced into the Church with a good intention, for the sake of good order and propriety, or otherwise to maintain Christian discipline." Later, in para 2, the additional component of the definition is included - "matters of indifference."

The rest of Section X discusses when ceremonies and church rites, even introduced with good intention, do or do not provide for good order, propriety, the maintaining Christian discipline, or qualify as matters of indifference, and thus are or are not genuine adiaphora.

And the guide for determining this is God's Word and whether such adiaphora is in conformity or contrary to it.

Hindering or impeding the proclamation of the Gospel certainly is outside the Confessional description of genuine adiaphora, but the Confessional definition provides additional descriptions, which would be unwise to drop. Likewise the article has not demonstrated that the Confessional definition is "inadequate and deficient." (I have not included the weasel word, "somewhat," which is as worthless here as in the phrase, "somewhat pregnant.")

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


Two things.

First - Aren't you dead?

Second - The point is not that we must provide a definition which goes beyond the Confessions (so your suspicions are slightly off base in your assumption), but rather that people have been forsaking the Confessional Definition, as given in the Formula, for a dumbed down false definition of adiaphora which means "I can do whatever I want."

They do all the things you desire. Their focus is not upon freedom, but upon the Word of God and the Gospel. Nor are they asserting that we should drop FC X and insert their two sentence submission. Rather - here's what this means, distilled down nice and simple, so you can readily tell when someone is up to tomfoolery.

I suggest that you read again (if the dead can read) their contention - the problem is not with FC X but with people who apply the term adiaphora ignoring FC X. You're off base here.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Or to be brief:

When they reference "the current definition of 'adiaphora' under which we have been working" they are not referring to FC X, but rather the dumbed down approach most people take.

If you took that to be a reference to the text of the Formula, you have grossly misread them.

Carl Vehse said...

"... they are not referring to FC X, but rather the dumbed down approach most people take."

When one sees a Lutheran website called, "Intrepid Lutherans: For true confessional Lutheran unity in the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod," and the title of the article, "A More Definitive Definition of Adiaphora," and the first paragraph reads, "I venture to say that the current definition of 'adiaphora' under which we have been working is somewhat inadequate and deficient It simply is not serving us or these discussions well enough," it is more reasonable to conclude that the article refers to the Lutheran definition in the Confessions.

This conclusion is further confirmed in the second paragraph, which begins, "Most of us have learned the definition of adiaphora as "things neither commanded nor forbidden by God," which is taken from the beginning of Ep.X or SD.X.

However this alleged "definition" provided in the article, is not the entire definition, but only a small phrase from the definition, and leaves out the bulk of the complete confessional definition of "adiaphora."

It is this bait and switch tactic and the subsequent alleged need for an "expanded" definition (and the tapdancing afterward) to which a confessional Lutheran must object - "However, such a definition does not really capture the original intent and meaning of the term, nor is it entirely useful for the practical everyday use of the Believer."

And from the bait and switch and tapdancing a new, "expanded," "more definitive" definition is presented:

So, our expanded definition for adiaphora would now run something like this: "adiaphora are those things which do not in any way provide the possibility of impeding or hindering the proclamation of the Gospel, or anything NOT under controversy, that is, insisted upon as good, right, and even necessary for salvation, when in fact they actually cause opposition to the Gospel or provide temptation to sin."

As for retaining, promoting, and encouraging the true and complete Lutheran confessional definition of adiaphora, the article's substitutionary preference is clear.

BTW, asking, "Aren't you dead?" implies one is not expecting an answer.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...


You're wrong. Sorry. If you would look at the blog as a whole you will see that one of the issues they have dealt extensively with is Evangelical worship practices in the WELS. The thing that is thrown at people complaining about such worship styles is that they are "neither commanded nor forbidden by God." Period. Therefore, I can do what I want.

The very point that IL is making is that stopping there is NOT THE FULL CONFESSIONAL DEFINITION. In fact, this article was written precisely to counter the common bait and switch move by liberal theologians which function on an emasculated definition.

Note how they went on to cite the Formula after that and then commented there upon. Their expanded definition is not a replacement for FC, nor a "substitute" but a simple distillation. This is not a belittling of the Confessions, but a call to think about adiaphora as the Confessions would have us think of them.

Or you do disagree that the Confessions teach that things which hinder the Gospel should be accounted among adiaphora? Or that things which are controversial and cause offense to others in your fellowship ought to be considered adiaphora (as though wantonly offending the neighbor is condoned by God)?

So, you are wrong. Dead wrong. You assert incorrectly that they are trying to bait and switch on the Confessions when they are attacking a partial definition (which you yourself acknowledge is lacking).

Either you are just incredibly stubborn in refusing to admit that you misread their argument and continually do so by asserting that they are stating that the Entire definition in the Formula is lacking, or you are just being cantankerous and obstinate for the sake of being difficult (perhaps one isn't a fan of the WELS).

Either way - you're wrong.