Working through things indifferent

Each theological tradition deals with adiaphora in their own way, but each individual must also work through dealing with issues that people often disagree over. The basic concept of indifferent things is areas of life which are neither moral or immoral, but may be enjoyed or not enjoyed by an individual. Though I do not attempt in this post to speak authoritatively on the issue, I desire to lay out the framework I use to work though the issues of life that may not be directly addressed by scripture.

So, how do I work through the issues? First, I must determine if the issue I am working through truly is an indifferent thing. My initial questions are these:

  1. Is the issue I am working through directly condemned or commended in scripture? This is the easy part: if it is condemned then I have the obligation to avoid it and if it is commended (commanded) then I have the obligation to follow through on scripture’s precepts.
  2. Does scripture speak to similar issues and what is the reasoning behind why scripture speaks to a situation? For example, scripture has much to say about the body and before I simply relegate something the the category of “indifferent,” I want to at least look at it’s effect on my body. This is only an example area as I will also look at the mental and emotional effects of the situation as well. This is also a double edged sword since obedience to a moral imperative can lead to physical, mental, and emotional harm.
  3. Does this issue enhance or erode my Spiritual walk with Christ? If participating in this issue is harmful to my relationship with Christ then it is immoral for me. While this is somewhat subjective since what may hinder one believer may not hinder another, I would put this as a matter of faith:

If the issue truly is an indifferent thing, then I have determined that it is neither moral or moral for me to participate in; however, this is not the final determiner of weather or not I will participate in something. Once I have determined a thing indifferent, there is a different set of questions I must ask. The first set dealt with the morality vs. immorality of something. The second set deals with its effect on the people around me.

  1. Am I under authority where this matter is determined by the higher authority? Employer dress codes or standard of personal grooming, rental agreements, or any other area in which one is under authority of another are indifferent things, but since employment and contacts are authorities over me then I should not have a problem submitting to their guidelines.
  2. How does this affect my relationships around me? I would love for people to have the same freedoms in Christ that I do to enjoy the world around me, but I cannot allow a thing indifferent to break a relationship in Christ. Again, the issue is an indifferent issue for me – but may not be for another brother. Christian charity seems to put me in a position to not cause another to stumble over something that I do not stumble over.

If I can honestly answer the question that the issue I am working through is indifferent and that is will not affect the relationships around me, then I can participate and do all to the glory of God!

There is one caveat that I would like to address. In certain *fundamentalist* circles, there are some who try to pull the “that offends me” card on a lot of these issues – weather it is on music styles, tattoos, clothing styles, or any other non-essential issue. One must discern between those who have thought through the issues arriving at a different conclusion than I have and those who are simply acting on poorly reasoned, reactionary, and/or manipulative motives. The former are those who I would “not eat the meat” for because they are in danger of acting in unbelief because of my boldness. The latter, however, do not really care about being obedient to God but rather desire to subject other people under their authority.

I will try to deal with the passages dealing with “indifferent things” next week.

Worship Part 3

Bryan Chapel in his book Christ Centered Worship give a good overview of the philosophy of worship, but he concludes with historical models of worship liturgy used by ancient and contemporary Christianity. One of the values of studying the liturgy of the past is that knowing the reason behind a liturgy actually aids in the worship of the believer. This does not necessarily need to be done didactically through a class on liturgy. Rather, a body can teach the reasons for its own liturgy by using the liturgy as its own self-documenting service.

For example, one can walk through the Luthern liturgy and explain each element of the service, but a Luthern service is typically laid out so that each element describes what is happening.

One missing aspect in the liturgy of some conservative churches is a well thought out and logical liturgy that does more than just lead up to the “preaching” time. Thoughtful liturgy is an incredible teaching tool for the edification of the body if churches will take the time to think though it.

The churches I have in mind which have a weak liturgy are minimalist in regards to worship: only those things explicitly demanded by scripture are suitable for corporate worship. Though not a bad starting point, these churches tend to downplay some aspects of worship since how explicit does something have to be in Scripture before it is acceptable?

Corporate pray, as an example, is a lost art in many conservative congregations. I actually cannot remember the last time a prepared prayer was read before the congregation that thoughtfully praised God for all his worth in clear, concise, and understandably deep language. Paul, wrote out his prayers to the churches he corresponded with: reading Paul’s letters is perhaps the closest some get to a corporate prayer!

My point is not about prayer – perhaps I’ll write a post about that later. My point is that a good liturgy teaches while it leads the congregation into fellowship with God. Prayers, music, songs, readings, and sermons are all elements of liturgy, but they way they are stung together to lead to a fuller understanding of God’s revelation of Himself is the practical value of a liturgy.

Perhaps we need to rethink through how three songs, a couple prayers, and a sermon leads us into fellowship with our Savior.