Wednesday, October 22, 2008

All Adiaphora Equal?

As our favorite radio host, Rev. Todd Wilken, is quick to remind everyone: "Just because there are many right ways to do something doesn't mean there are no wrong ways."

Even the pagans understood what seems too difficult for the average American Lutheran pastor to grasp: all adiaphora are not created equal.

The Lutheran confessors did not invent a new word when they used the Greek word, "adiaphora." The word was perhaps new to them, however, in an age of humanism and revival of classicism.

The stoics had long used the word as "a technical term characterizing the things that lie outside of the categories of virtus and dedecus, the sole good and the sole evil." (Loeb Classical Library: Seneca - Moral Essays vol. II, p.156f) The Latin Stoics used the word, also familiar to students of the Lutheran Confessions, indifferentia, or "matters of indifference."

Since the Lutheran confessors were borrowing a word from the classics, here's a little piece of the term's Stoic baggage we'd hate to leave behind.


Who among wise men... who count virtue as the sole good, denies that even those things which we call "indifferent" (indifferentia/adiaphora) do have some inherent value, and that some are more desirable than others?

- Seneca's On the Happy Life, xxii.3

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