X. Church Rites

Originally published at: https://concordia.confident.faith/formula-of-concord-epitome/article-x/





Which are [Commonly] Called Adiaphora or Matters of Indifference.



1 Concerning ceremonies or church rites which are neither commanded nor forbidden in God’s Word, but have been introduced into the Church for the sake of good order and propriety, a dissension has also occurred among the theologians of the Augsburg Confession.



STATUS CONTROVERSIAE.



Chief Controversy concerning This Article.



2 The chief question, however, has been, whether, in time of persecution and in case of confession, even if the enemies of the Gospel have not reached an agreement with us in doctrine, some abrogated ceremonies, which in themselves are matters of indifference and are neither commanded nor forbidden by God, may nevertheless, upon the pressure and demand of the adversaries, be reestablished without violence to conscience, and we may thus [rightly] have conformity with them in such ceremonies and adiaphora. To this the one side has said Yea, the other, Nay.



Affirmative Theses.

The Correct and True Doctrine and Confession concerning This Article.



3 1. For settling also this controversy we unanimously believe, teach, and confess that the ceremonies or church rites which are neither commanded nor forbidden in God’s Word, but have been instituted alone for the sake of propriety and good order, are in and of themselves no divine worship, nor even a part of it. Matt. 15:9:In vain they do worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.



4 2. We believe, teach, and confess that the congregation of God of every place and every time has the power, according to its circumstances, to change such ceremonies in such manner as may be most useful and edifying to the congregation of God.



5 3. Nevertheless, that herein all frivolity and offense should be avoided, and special care should be taken to exercise forbearance towards the weak in faith. 1 Cor. 8:9; Rom. 14:13.



6 4. We believe, teach, and confess that in time of persecution, when a plain [and steadfast] confession is required of us, we should not yield to the enemies in regard to such adiaphora, as the apostle has written Gal. 5:1: Stand fast, therefore, in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again in the yoke of bondage. Also 2 Cor. 6:14: Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers, etc. For what concord hath light with darkness? Also Gal. 2:5: To whom we gave place, no, not for an hour, that the truth of the Gospel might remain with you. For in such a case it is no longer a question concerning adiaphora, but concerning the truth of the Gospel, concerning [preserving] Christian liberty, and concerning sanctioning open idolatry, as also concerning the prevention of offense to the weak in the faith [how care should be taken lest idolatry be openly sanctioned and the weak in faith be offended]; in which we have nothing to concede, but should plainly confess and suffer on that account what God sends, and what He allows the enemies of His Word to inflict upon us.



7 5. We believe, teach, and confess also that no Church should condemn another because one has less or more external ceremonies not commanded by God than the other, if otherwise there is agreement among them in doctrine and all its articles, as also in the right use of the holy Sacraments, according to the well-known saying: Dissonantia ieiunii non dissolvit consonantiam fidei, Disagreement in fasting does not destroy agreement in faith.



Negative Theses.

False Doctrine concerning This Article.



8 Accordingly, we reject and condemn as wrong and contrary to God’s Word when it is taught:



9 1. That human ordinances and institutions in the church should be regarded as in themselves a divine worship or part of it.



10 2. When such ceremonies, ordinances, and institutions are violently forced upon the congregation of God as necessary, contrary to its Christian liberty which it has in external things.



11 3. Also, that in time of persecution and public confession [when a clear confession is required] we may yield to the enemies of the Gospel in such adiaphora and ceremonies, or may come to an agreement with them (which causes injury to the truth).



12 4. Also, when these external ceremonies and adiaphora are abrogated in such a manner as though it were not free to the congregation of God to employ one or more [this or that] in Christian liberty, according to its circumstances, as may be most useful at any time to the Church [for edification].