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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.