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Are we in a state of confession?

by David Norland (Emmanuel Lutheran Church, Tacoma, Washington)

Date Unknown

First, here is how I read the argument of the Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, X

1) Adiaphora are defined as "things neither commanded nor forbidden in scripture" (¶ 1) It is important to note that adiaphora are not defined as "things not necessary to salvation."

2) There are ceremonies that go disguised as adiaphora which, in fact, are not. (¶5-7) They are:

  • Ceremonies contrary to the Word of God
  • Useless and foolish spectacles
  • Ceremonies designed to give impression that our religion does not differ greatly from the papists or is seriously opposed to the same.
  • Ceremonies intended to create the illusion (or are demanded or agreed to with that intention) that these two opposing religions have been brought into agreement and become one body.

All of these are not, in fact, adiaphora but are to be avoided as forbidden by God.

3) Adiaphora are to be duly distinguished from true worship. (¶ 8)

4) The community of God has the right, authority and power over adiaphora. (¶ 9)

5) A state of confession, "when enemies of the Word of God desire to suppress the pure doctrine of the Holy Gospel", demands open confession in words and deeds in which even adiaphora must be resisted. (¶ 10)

6) Those in a state of confession may yield to the weak, but never to the strong. (¶ 13)

7) In a state of confession adiaphora must be resisted so that the Gospel can be confessed clearly and the door is not opened to idolatry. (¶10 & 14)

8) In a state of confession adiaphora must be resisted so that Christian freedom in genuine worship is not undermined. (¶10 & 15)

9) This understanding of a "state of confession" not yielding in adiaphora is Lutheran: Smalcald, Power & Primacy; Luther all make clear that enemies of the Gospel, Anti-Christ, etc. are not to be suffered.

Here is how I apply my reading:

I maintain that a "state of confession" exists when all following conditions obtain:

-when confronted by the enemies of the Gospel (Devil, Anti-Christ, & Minions)

-when the force of persecution is used

-when the Gospel and its freedom are directly attacked

Such situations have occurred in Christian history and will occur again. I wish to reserve the phrase and not use it too loosely, both for the sake of the post and the future: that the martyrs of the past be duly honored in remembrance and that the martyrs of the future be thus encouraged in action.

The requirement of resistance to CCM does not depend upon lowering the measuring stick of "status confessionis" [state of confession].

Rather, a requirement is given by the Formula of Concord X about ceremonies going in the guise of adiaphora (¶ 5). It states in short that "we should avoid as forbidden by God" ceremonies intended to create the illusion (or demanded or agreed-to with that intention) that agreement exists where there is serious opposition.

CCM ¶ 13 (as well as CCM ¶ 5 in its "doctrinal agreement" about the church) slurs over the opposing views of Episcopalians and Lutherans about the power and authority of bishops. CCM never undertakes to explain why Episcopalians find the historic episcopate necessary when Anglicans enter the relationship of full communion because of its offensiveness to Lutheran beliefs, but no Episcopalian is shy about that reason. It is contained in their Book of Common Prayer in the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral which clearly distinguishes between things of human preference which they are more than willing to change and those matter of divine institution which are thus necessary. Point three in its entirety states: "That in all things of human ordering or human choice, relating to modes of worship and discipline, or to traditional customs, this Church is ready in the spirit of love and humility to forego all preferences of her own." Point four then states what may never be given up, "the substantial deposit", which in relation to the third point are not of human order or choice. It is in this category of "not human order or choice" that Episcopalians place the historic episcopate. It is for this reason they find it necessary for entering the relationship of full communion.

Because CCM glosses over and ignores seriously opposing views, namely whether the historic episcopate is by divine command or human command, and by its slurring pretends to have achieved unity where none exists, it must be repealed.

Moreover, CCM with its constitutional provisions and liturgical ceremony by which the historic episcopate is entered is no longer a true adiaphora, but must be avoided as forbidden by God for by it, it would create the impression (and has been agreed to with that intention) that agreement exists where there is opposition.

No, we are not in a state of confession, but we must treat CCM as forbidden by God.