(middle matters; from Gk. for indifferent things; Ger. Mitteldinge). FC Ep X 1 speaks of adiaphora as ceremonies or church usages which are neither commanded nor forbidden in the Word of God but have been introduced into the church in the interest of good order and the general welfare. In the OT, lives of believers were far more constricted than they are in the NT, in which God lifted this yoke, not framing all human activity with His commands and prohibitions but leaving many acts to the discretion and judgment of the Christian (Ro 14:3, 1 Co 6:12; 10:23; Cl 2:1617). God has removed some matters from the domain of divine law to the domain of adiaphora, but adiaphora (in abstracto) may cease to be adiaphora (in concreto) under certain circumstances (e.g., when holding a life insurance policy springs from lack of trust in God; when smoking injures health; when drinking exceeds moderation; when immersion in Baptism is defended as the correct mode; when cremation is an expression of atheism).
Pietists, in harmony with their doctrine of rebirth (theologia regenitorum: one reborn and having attained full spiritual manhood is free from sin), denied the existence of adiaphora, quoting such passages as Ro 14:23; 1 Co 10:31; Cl 3:17. But they confused the action itself with the life consecrated to God.
Adiaphora lie within the domain of Christian liberty, which may be defined as consisting of the freedom of believers from the curse (Gl 3:13) and coercion (Ro 6:14) of the Law, from Levitical ceremonies, and from human ordinances (Mt 23:810; Lk 2226; Rv 5:10). This liberty is the direct result of justification (Jn 8:3132, 36; Ro 10:4; 1 Ti 1:9.
The doctrine of adiaphora is abused when it is made a springboard for loose living (Gl 5:13). Another abuse results from any attempt to make adiaphora a matter of conscience for others (Mt 20:2526; 23:48; 1 Co 3:5; 1 Ptr 5:3; see also Status confessionis). Luth. principles differ widely from those of Catholicism and of many Protestants who claim for the ch. the right to command or forbid things neither commanded nor forbidden by God. To be sure, ch. officials, bds., teachers, and pastors can effect desirable changes in the field of adiaphora, but it should be done by instruction and advice. Another abuse of this doctrine results when the question of offense* to a weak brother is not taken into consideration (Ro 14:12; 15:1; 1 Co 8:713; 9:22). The guiding principle here as always must be love toward the weak (Ro 13:10; 1 Co 9:19; 16:14) but without bolstering weakness or covering malice and stubbornness (Gl 2:5). LW.
J. Schiller, Probleme der christlichen Ethik (Berlin, 1888); W. Trilhaas, Adiaphoron, Theologische Literaturzeitung, LXXIV (1954), 457462; T. C. Graebner, The Borderland of Right and Wrong (St. Louis, 1951).
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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