Saturday, June 24, 2006
I confess, I am trying to finish up a dissertation chapter today, but I just had to stop and go read the Confessions for a while, to remind myself of just what exactly they say viz. this adiaphora thingy. And I'm convinced that I remembered them correctly.

First, adiaphora gets put on the back burner if the Church is under presecution. That is, if we were in a situation where some Roman bishop was making a bunch of noise about how Lutherans aren't Christians because they DON'T have statues of Mary, then for that moment, we are obliged to rid ourselves of any statues of Mary.

As an immediately relevant example, take the recent Southern Baptist Convention which took place up the road in Greensboro last week. At the convention, the Baptists passed a Resolution which states:


WHEREAS, There are some religious leaders who are now advocating the consumption of alcoholic beverages based on a misinterpretation of the doctrine of “our freedom in Christ”; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Greensboro, North Carolina, June 13-14, 2006, express our total opposition to the manufacturing, advertising, distributing, and consuming of alcoholic beverages; and be it further


RESOLVED, That we commend organizations and ministries that treat alcohol-related problems from a biblical perspective and promote abstinence and encourage local churches to begin and/or support such biblically-based ministries.

The SBC has declared that the "Biblical Perspective" on alcohol is that (in essence) it is a sin to drink and as another blogger pointed out (read the whole thing, BTW) --
Attend any event, including by not limited to the following locations: a St. Louis Cardinal’s game at BUSCH stadium, a Colorado Rockies game at COORS Field, or a Milwakee Brewers game at MILLER Park.

I propose that we are now Confessionally obliged to promote the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages, precisely because a heretical sectarian organization masquerading as a represenative Christian body* has made a false claim which undermines the very Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not as modest of a proposal as somemight think.

We as Confessional Lutherans maintain that the consumption of various foods (including alcohol) is a matter of Christian liberty (provided one follows the laws governing such things, see Romans 13). This SBC resolution attacks that liberty, which (to my mind) constitutes persecution. (Bear in mind, one part of the resolution calls for SBC members to support legislation curbing alcohol use!) When under persecution, the Church is obliged not to behave in the way in which the persecutors prescribe:
26] 1. Therefore we reject and condemn as wrong when the ordinances of men in themselves are regarded as a service or part of the service of God.

27] 2. We reject and condemn also as wrong when these ordinances are by coercion forced upon the congregation of God as necessary.

28] 3. We reject and condemn also as wrong the opinion of those who hold (what tends to the detriment of the truth) that at a time of persecution we may comply with the enemies of the holy Gospel in [restoring] such adiaphora, or come to an agreement with them.

29] 4. We likewise regard it as a sin that deserves to be rebuked when in time of persecution anything is done either in indifferent matters or in doctrine, and in what otherwise pertains to religion, for the sake of the enemies of the Gospel, in word and act, contrary and opposed to the Christian confession.
[SDFC, of adiaphora]

Here's a thought: I suggest that we sell naming rights for new churches to breweries. My current congregation is in the process of "spinning off" a new Church; here's how I think it could work.

After we call the new vicar, we'll ask him what his beer of choice is. (On the other hand, we're Lutherans, so I guess we'd have to put it to a committee...) Let's say for arguments sake that it's Sam Adams**. So we would simply call it--
Sam Adams' Lutheran Church of the Ascension (LCMS)

In exchange for naming rights, the Sam Adams company would help to cover the costs of contruction of the kitchen and dining facilities, and provide the beer at all the potlucks for the first five years.


Now, back to the point...

As per things Marian, the Lutheran Church is decidedly not under persecution (or is it? Perhaps I am wrong). So what then are we to do with Pastor McCain's unease about her statue*** in an unnamed (of course, we all know where it is) congregation? At what point does adiaphora cease to be adiaphora because one congregation does not like what another is doing?

Arguments about pentecostal style worship are a red herring. Enthusiaism and fanaticism are already condemned in the Confessions (as is the invocation of saints). The liturgy isn't adiaphora (see Ap. XXIV). When he compares them, he confuses his categories, but worse than that, he sells the farm to the anti-Liturgy movement.

Let's look at the section that follows the part I cited up above, shall we?
30] 5. We reject and condemn also [the madness] when these adiaphora are abrogated in such a manner as though it were not free to the congregation [church] of God at any time and place to employ one or more in Christian liberty, according to its circumstances, as may be most useful to the Church.

31] Thus [According to this doctrine] the churches will not condemn one another because of dissimilarity of ceremonies when, in Christian liberty, one has less or more of them, provided they are otherwise agreed with one another in the doctrine and all its articles, also in the right use of the holy Sacraments, according to the well-known saying: Dissonantia ieiunii non dissolvit consonantiam fidei; "Disagreement in fasting does not destroy agreement in the faith."

Pastor McCain wants to have his cake and eat it too, on this point. He argued (in the comments section of his post) that "congregation" should be read as "gemein" here, implying that it's speaking of an enitre body, not of just one parish within in a larger body. This, however, ignores the historical context of the passage: indivdual congregations (all within the Church of the Augsburg Confession) were calling down fire and brimstone on one another for various and sundry things. Think of Osiander and Melanchthon. So, sorry, Pastor McCain, but this is a perfect parallel to the current situation. Oh, the madness!

Thanks for playing; better luck next time.

And the silly argument that "it's not the statue by itself that's wrong, it's when you add the votive candles and the kneeler"... Bloody poppycock. Just because there happened to be a medieval theory about how candles helped prayers get to God doesn't mean that we throw the candles out with the stupid theory. Dump the tripe, yes; keep the candles if you want to. It doesn't matter. That's WHAT adiaphora means, FCOL: it's indifferent.

We don't get to move something out of the "indifferent" column just because it might be confused for Romanism. That's not enough.

Look at the arguments of the SBC on alcohol: because it has led to abuse in the past, and because it could lead to abuse now, we ought not have anything to do with it.

How are the arguments against that statue any different than this SBC nonsense?

*Apologies for that to my Baptist readers (and I know who you are!). If you know Lutherans, you know we have a habit of calling things by their formal names, even though we would most certainly express brotherly love in an informal setting. For example, in our Confessions, we consistently refer to that German guy with the funny hat as "the antichrist". Now, I'm sure Herr Ratzinger is a nice guy, and I'd love to sit down and have a beer with him (don't you wish YOU could??!!). I own several of his books, and I personally think he's a pretty smart guy. Nevertheless...he believes and teaches something contrary to the Gospel, and I am compelled to call a spade a spade.

**Sam Adams has not paid me to endorse their product. I do so of my own free will (SDFC, III.74) and at my own expense (usually about $6.99 for a sixer).

*** Of course, there is the other argument that the statue is not of her, it is of the Infant Christ who just happens to be in her arms (and yes, your present author agrees with this latter position!)
posted by Kepler at 11:34 |


At 6/24/2006 09:41:00 PM, Blogger solarblogger

Great post. So then if I were your vicar, you would be called "Black and Tan" Lutheran Church, and both Guinness and Harp would be paying for the kitchen. Nice! Oh, wait. Guinness brews Harp. Maybe I'll have to lie and say that I prefer mine made with Bass Pale Ale.

(Some would say it should be Half-and-Half Lutheran Church, but that sounds too nonconfessional.)


At 6/25/2006 12:44:00 AM, Blogger Kepler

Heh. Black and Tan Lutheran Church. I like it.

Of course, Guinness and Harp are Irish beers, and we all know that the Irish are Papists. So in this case, the Committee of Lutheran Brewery Names Under Adiaphorstic Nomenclature and Confessional Excellence (CLuB NUANCE) has officially censured you and turned you over to the ladies guild for a spanking.

You may, however, use Bass, but only in churches from the English District.


At 6/25/2006 08:38:00 PM, Blogger Scott

Here at CTSFW we have Gemutlichkeit every Friday from 4 - 6 pm. We have 2 kegs. One Blonde and One Brunette. We may have to extend the hours to be in compliance. ;)


At 6/27/2006 07:52:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

I'll drink to this post. Skål!


At 6/27/2006 11:06:00 PM, Blogger Kepler

Skål! right back at ya, friend!

And Scott, if ya'll have Blonde and Brunette, what about the Redheads? Or are they all over in South Bend?


At 6/29/2006 11:19:00 AM, Blogger Tim's Ghost

Wonderful post!



At 8/01/2006 04:58:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

'I propose that we are now Confessionally obliged to promote the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages, precisely because a heretical sectarian organization masquerading as a represenative Christian body* has made a false claim which undermines the very Gospel of Jesus Christ.'

Of course, it doesn't take the loopy SBC to remind us of that - isn't there something about this in the Smalcald Articles? If not there should be...

As for Ratzinger being the 'Antichrist' in some kind of way that isn't specified any longer, remember the apocalyptic frenzy in the sixteenth century, as well as the rather different take on the Bishop of Rome we find in the 'Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope'. The *office* of the Papacy as such is ordered to the defence of doctrines and practices contrary to the Gospel, and so is to be opposed for that reason. Whether Ratzinger himself dwells with the 'Spirit of Antichrist' is, however, a different matter. What's more, if John the Evangelist is to be believed, then those who 'deny that the Son of God has come in the flesh' have the 'Spirit of Antichrist' straight up, with no chaser. It may be that those who deny or otherwise ignore the more radical implication of that fundamental confession, such as that amazing reality we name with the tag 'justification by faith', are in a different boat altogether from those who deny the fundamental confession altogether.

Just some fun thoughts for a painfully hot afternoon.

Peace out,
Thomas of ER.


At 9/28/2007 12:15:00 PM, Blogger Amberg

Simply because people use the term "adiaphora" to get rid of the liturgy, which is sectarian and against the law of Christian love, does not mean that the liturgy is not an adiaphoron.

If one defines the liturgy narrowly to be constituted by the preaching of God's Word and administration of the sacraments, then, yes, the liturgy is not an either-way sort of thing; but if one means everything which Holy Church throughout the centuries in her freedom has handed down to her children, i.e. the structure and structural content of the liturgy, then what is to be defended here when people take it away from Holy Mother Church's children? The Law? Literally, Hell-no.
The freedom by which our Mother has provided us God's holy Word is to be defended. Mom's good name, given to her by her Bridegroom, Christ, needs to be defended. And since holy Mother Church does not bear children begotten by the Law, we may not say that she gives her children any law; we may only defend the Gospel which has been given her. This requires teaching and patient indoctrination, not legalistic implications of rules.
An approach contrary to this is what I and others like to call "High-Church Pietism." Men are directed toward a piety which is regulated not by the freedom of the Gospel, but by mandate of others' consciences.
I just read a horrendous article which set forth the possibility that it is yet to be determined whether or not Christ transmitted His authority to liturgical rubrics through His Church. What hogwash! The only authority Christ transmits through His Church is that which He transmits through His Word, which we know in Holy Writ. Have we despaired of the sufficiency of God's Word?

So, now that I've sufficiently vented my righteous indignation against such reactionary legalism, may we all agree to label/stereotype/call/name/mark and avoid those who despise what Mother Church has handed down to us as disrespectful sectarians, since their worship is self-centered and ignores the Gospel treasures of the catholic Church? Why must we hold so tenaciously to such a dreamed-up principle that the liturgy is not adiaphorous? The Formula calls it adiaphorous in the very words quoted above!

Sincerely and respectfully submitted in the usual abrupt, Lutheran way, and looking forward to beer this afternoon,

Mark Preus


Track with co.mments