From the Confessions: The Defense of the Augsburg Confession
Concerning Monastic Vows
Second, obedience, poverty, and celibacy, provided the latter is not impure, as disciplines, are adiaphora. Therefore, the saints may use these without sinning, just as Bernard, Francis, and other holy men used them. They were used for bodily advantage, so that they might have more leisure to teach and to perform other godly offices, not because the works themselves are services that justify or merit eternal life. Finally, they belong to the class of which Paul says, “Bodily training is of some value” (1 Tim 4:8).
Pulling It Together
Adiaphora are matters in which we should look for neither sin nor righteousness. They are non-essentials, things that have nothing to do with one’s standing before God. These non-essentials are typically traditions or customs. As a result, they are often considered quite essential by those who practice a particular tradition. On the silly end of the spectrum, just try to change the color of the carpet—or in a Lutheran church, the color of the front doors. Traditions can be intractable. Nonetheless, they are not essential, no matter how much weight people give them—because they are adiaphora.
So, one person may decide to fast a day each week in order to allow more time for prayer. Does that mean it should become a mandatory, church-wide affair? Someone else may resolve to skip television viewing in the evenings, making time to read the Bible. Are other people lesser Christians if they do not do the same? Others may quit their jobs and go to seminary to become a pastor, sell all they have to go into a mission field, or remain unmarried so they may focus on the Lord’s interests (1 Cor 7:32-35). Do such people have a better shot at heaven because they have done these things? No. These are adiaphora. They are non-essentials that have nothing to do with the forgiveness of sins, justification, and eternal life.
Prayer: Thank you for making me yours, Lord. Amen.
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We Still Believe is offered as a resource for reflecting on key themes in biblical, Lutheran doctrine that are at risk in the Church today. It is offered in the hope that it will inspire individuals and congregations to examine the core beliefs of traditional Lutheranism and how these beliefs apply to our own present context. Written in a question and discussion style, the participant's book includes an introduction to and copy of the faith statement known as the Common Confession.