Not All Disagreements are a Threat to Church Fellowship

I’ve been reflecting on Rev. Matthew Harrison’s intriguing paper which has been circulating via the web. My thoughts tonight center around the divisions and disagreements that are rife within our Synod. It seems to me that if we are going to work towards unity in our synod, and not just political but true, doctrinal unity, we need to make a distinction between things that are truly divisive, things that truly and vitally threaten our fellowship, and things that do not. Am I not right in saying that there are some areas of disagreement among us that should not be a threat to fellowship? I’m thinking primarily of liturgical practices that truly fall into the realm of adiaphora, things neither commanded nor forbidden in Holy Scripture. In these matters, I think that it would help if we could come to some sort of agreement on what we will and will not do, recognizing that there are no “thou shalts” or “thou shalt nots” in the Bible, but also recognizing that adiaphora are not neutral, that everything we do or do not do says something. There are some matters over which there is disagreement among us that we should be able to say, “My dear pastor so and so, I will not call you a heretic for this nor would I break fellowship with you over it, but I sincerely believe that you ought not do it and this is why…” I’m trying to work on something right now that would identify some of these areas of adiaphora and provide a reasonable explanation why some of us are against certain practices, and think that it would be unwise to do them, while recognizing that there is no Scriptural prohibition against it. You’ll have to forgive the vagueness of this right now, because it is still a work in progress, but it gets pretty specific. On the list so far I have things such as “preaching outside of the pulpit,” “free-texting,” “use of females as acolytes, servers, etc.” and a few others. If anyone has any ideas, send me an email or post it on my blog. Again, these are things that I think are truly matters of adiaphora, but yet I believe them to be unwise practices, doing my best to explain and cite the reasons for it. It is somewhat loosely based on the idea expressed by St. Paul: “All things are permissable for me, but not all things are beneficial.”

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About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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3 Responses to Not All Disagreements are a Threat to Church Fellowship

  1. I think this is a GREAT idea!!! There is nothing worse in controversy than vagueness. This is what is so great about being able to confess what we believe and what we don’t believe. If there is going to be controversy than we at least owe it to ourselves to be explicit with what we are trying to say. This is the only way to move forward. I wish God’s blessings on your endeavors!

  2. Summarizing the pericope before reading it, especially if it’s a lay reader. Saw one person do this, and as a second point, he got it completely wrong.

  3. Rev. Mike Grieve says:

    Is it just me, or does it seem like, in matters of adiaphora, that we always ask the wrong question? For example, seeing as how we by nature are drawn to the law, in something pertaining to adiaphora, we usually ask the question, “do I have to do this?” Since we’re asking a question of the law, we ought to expect a law answer. Since it is adiaphora, the answer would be no. Why do we never ask the question, “would this be meet, right and salutary for me to do?” Would this question not lead to some sort of an explanation of why this would be good and helpful to do?

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