Is Adiaphora Good for the Soul?

Πιστεύομεν εις ένα Θεον Πατερα παντοκράτορα, ποιητην ουρανου και γης, ορατων τε πάντων και αορατων.

Και εις ένα κύριον Ιησουν Χριστον, τον υιον του θεοθ τον μονογενη, τον ει του πατρος γεννηθέν τα προ πάντων των αιώνων, φως εκ φωτος, θεον αληθινον εκ θεου αληθινου, γεννηθέντα, ου ποιηθέντα, ομοουσιον τωι πατρί· δι’ ου τα παντα εγένετο· τον δι’ ημας τους αιθρώποους και δια την ημετέραν σωτηρίαν κατελθοντα εκ των ουρανων και σαρκωθέντα εκ πνεύματος αγίου και Μαρίας της παρθένου και ενανθρωπήσαντα, σταυρωθέντα τε υπερ ημων επι Ποντίου Πιλάτου, και παθοντα και ταφέντα, και ανασταντα τηι τρίτηι ημέπαι κατα τας γραφάς, και ανελθόντα εις τους ουρανούς, και καθεζόμενον εκ δεξιων του πατρός, και πάλιν ερχόμενον μετα δόξης κριναι ζωντας και νεκρούς· ου της βασιλείας ουκ έσται τέλος.

Και εις το Πνευμα το Άγιον, το κύριον, (και) το ζωοποιόν, το εκ του πατρος εκπορευόμενον, το συν πατρι και υιωι συν προσκυνούμενον και συνδοξαζόμενον, το λαλησαν δια των προφητων· εις μίαν, αγίαν, καθολικην και αποστολικην εκκλησίαω· ομολογουμεν εν βάπτισμα εις άφεσιν αμαρτιων· προσδοκωμεν ανάστασιν νεκρων, και ζωην του μελλοντος αιώωος. Αμήν.

One area of theology that the Reformation (inspired by Augustine) brought to the Christian world was the idea of ‘adiaphora’ defined by the slogan by Luther’s protege Philip Melanchthon: “In essentials, unity, in doubtful things, liberty, and in all things charity.”

The Reformed Anglican Tradition prided itself on holding the center and keeping charity and liberty in the ‘non-essentials’—until the center caved in.

Is ‘adiaphora’ possible for the Christian Tradition? If so, what are it’s limits?

Pope Benedict said recently in a meeting with the Archbishop of Canterbury, “Our long journey makes it necessary to acknowledge publicly the challenge represented by new developments which, besides being divisive for Anglicans, present serious obstacles to our ecumenical progress,” a nice way of saying, with developments over the last 30 years, ‘y’all are out of bounds.’

24 thoughts on “Is Adiaphora Good for the Soul?

  1. Is saying it enough for unity, or do we have to believe it too? (rhetorical)

    “Εἰς μίαν, Ἁγίαν, Καθολικὴν καὶ Ἀποστολικὴν Ἐκκλησίαν.” Most people probably don’t even mean “μίαν” — “one” in the same way, or “Ἀποστολικὴν” or “Ἐκκλησίαν”, not to mention the rest of it.

  2. I don’t know who Pope Benedict is to point the finger . . . If I understand your post correctly; the issue is more one of agreement on just what the essentials are. If we are discussing policy on homosexuality and Gay marriage, the Catholic Church is just as out of line on the issue of marriage as anyone else and the tragic results have been exposed for the world to see. The scriptures specifically tell us not to forbid people to marry, yet the Catholic Church has done just that for 1200 years. Many theologians argue that it is the restriction of celibacy that has drawn many sexually dysfunctional men to the priesthood.Maybe the Pope is counting on the short memory of our current generation . . . But as long as mug shots of pedophile priest still regularly hold the spotlight on the evening news maybe a little less self righteousness would be in order.

  3. The answer is categorically, “yes.” But this “yes” comes almost exclusively from the theoretical, idealistic, Ivory Tower point of view. Practically speaking, real-world in other words–and isn’t that really where it matters??–it will NEVER be a reality broadly speaking.

    Why? Because for whatever reason, God seems content on allowing mystery to remain such, and it is my sneaking suspicion that He will remain content in this manner ALWAYS.

    Let me say Padre (you know this about me anyway), I admire the Anglican intent to apply St. Augustine’s dictum (please, folks, don’t pronounce the good Saint’s name like a Protestant, which is to say, like the city in Florida–it drives me nuts!). The Tradition, in which you reside Padre, more so in its older forms, should be applauded for its attempt, however woefully inadequate it was, is, and will continue to be, for it is an entirely noble effort and, frankly, should bring tears to the eyes of those who stand on the sidelines all haughty and smug in their assurance of doctrinal correctness.

    Btw, did you find it interesting Padre, as I did, that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew finds himself really needing the aid and comfort, if you will, of Benedict, in an effort to afford himself political legitimacy, so as to find ways in which his community can flourish, hell, survive, in Turkey? I’m not an overly enthusiastic supporter of BXVI, but it does speak to the power of Peter’s See (also interesting that it is the only See named after an Apostle, huh?), for good or bad. Just an aside, a poke in the ribs–grin.

  4. What with Constantine’s cryptic comments, Holder’s Greek responses, Father Neo’s Greek postings and voixd’ange arrival, this site is no longer for Americans! Have mercy.

  5. Being esoteric is what makes us fun. Indeed C, the See of Rome seems to be the most persevering insitution in all of Christendom. Whilst the East has a beautiful theology, it is no less humpty dumpty than Protestantism. I’m glad you can see the beautiful intent of the Anglican way, few can anymore. If only the center would hold, it would be a truly ‘inclusive’ Christian tradition. Alas, it has become elitist and has turned into the ‘green party at prayer.’

    The intent of the Anglican way was to uphold the major elements of the Catholic Faith–The Scripture, the Creed, the Sacraments, the historic episcopacy, but to leave room for a healthy tension in ‘non-essential’ doctrinal matters. We could talk about all the ways ‘things went wrong’ and I know the RCs and the Orthodox would say it was all wrong to begin with, but I find it hard to abandon the original intent and the beauty that Anglicanism once possessed (and continues to possess in many places).

  6. I’ll have to say that, beyond “…all things, charity,” I’ve not really followed much of this conversation.

    As to the original question, I’d say yes, we can and should live by that dictum: In essentials, unity, in doubtful things, liberty, and in all things charity.

    Why wouldn’t we?

    Not only ought we live by it, but I’d further state that I don’t have many “essentials” that I’d include in my list, beyond Love God and Love everyone else.

    I’d add the caveat that, by “in doubtful things, liberty,” doesn’t mean that I won’t be arguing against your liberty when I disagree with you, even physically standing against you if your liberty comes at the cost of other people’s lives and welfare. But you have liberty to believe it, just the same.

  7. Cigars and Guinness on me. We’ll meet with Fr. Neo, Constantine, jholder and all others we can muster on my deck. Maybe we can entice Trabue away from his dear Louisville. I’ll be seeing him soon and will pitch it.

  8. voixd’ange, my wife has instructed me to offer our spare room in boring suburban Denver metro area, if you need a place to stay when you visit. If you choose to take us up on it, we can all arrange emails/phone#s etc to be provided to you.

  9. Just in case some didn’t figure this out, the Greek Fr. Neo provided has the following, no doubt somewhat familiar, English translation:

    I believe in one God, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth and of all things visible and invisible.

    And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages.

    Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not created, of one essence with the Father through Whom all things were made.

    Who for us men and for our salvation came down from the heavens and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man.

    He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried.

    And He rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures.

    And He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

    And He will come again with glory to judge the living and dead. His kingdom shall have no end.

    And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Creator of life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke through the prophets.

    In one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

    I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins.

    I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the age to come. Amen.

    Note also that by choosing Greek, Fr. Neo left out the filioque of the Latin, which was a later addition by the Roman Catholic church (formally in 1014, 633 years after the Church had agreed on the creed) and subsequently absorbed by the creedal Protestant churches during the Reformation, to wit:

    “And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Creator of life, Who proceeds from the Father and the son…”

  10. The “question” voixd’ange was, “Is Adiaphora Good for the Soul?” Look it up. Maybe you should, too, Morpheus.

  11. C – I think you took my question wrong. It wasn’t directed at you. Because I’m not a scholar in theology I truly thought I had missed the point of the question with my answer, which may still be the case . . . even when I am undsure of a question I like to take a stab at a response anyway. I learn a lot more that way.

    Communicating online is an inexact science.

  12. Thanks Morpheus.
    So if I am reading it correctly – I wasn’t too far off the mark.

    Fr. Neo, can you be more specific. In what ways do you feel that the Pope was telling the Anglicans they are out of bounds?

  13. Angel Voice & Morph,

    Never mind me. That’s what happens when I don’t have my daily Scoth and soda. I’m no scholar either. My apologies.

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