Adiaphora

LEADER TIMES WEEKEND RELIGION COLUMN FOR

August 1, 2015 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129

In the heat of the theological debates that characterized the Reformation a concept was introduced called the “adiaphora.”  The term comes from the Greek and means “indifferent things.”  Although in the period of the Reformation the idea related mostly to rites and ceremonies it can also be applied to theological ideas.  Some theological ideas are adiaphora.  That is they are not at the heart of the Bible and are not essential to Christian commitment.  Other ideas are essential.  They cannot be eliminated or changed from a biblical world and life view without seriously compromising the faith once delivered by the Apostles and Prophets.

There is a lot of discussion in our present culture about gender issues.  I prefer the word “gender” over “sexual” because gender is a much broader concept and includes relational realities which go beyond mere physicality.  Are these issues adiaphora or are they crucial to a biblical world and life view held by orthodox (with a lower case “o”), Jews and Christians?

The very first concept introduced at the creation of humanity is stated in the 27th verse of the 1st chapter of Genesis.  “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.”  This simple sentence marks the equality of the genders and the distinction and complementary nature of the same.  Together this couple is commissioned to be fruitful and multiply and to manage the multifarious aspects of God’s creation.  It seems that gender is an essential aspect of humanity in God’s image.

The institution of marriage is established by God in the second chapter of Genesis and cited by Jesus in his discussion of the subject with the theologians of Israel.

The relational aspects of marriage are used in the Bible as a metaphor for God’s relationship with Israel and Messiah’s relationship to the Church.  As an example, husbands are exhorted by Paul to “love your wives as Messiah loved the church and gave himself up for her.”  The entire book of Hosea pictures Israel’s rebellion as spiritual prostitution.

All this is to say that the identity and complementarian nature of the genders is not incidental to the teaching of the Bible concerning the nature of humanity and our relationship to God.  It is a fundamental concept which defines who we are and how we are to relate to each other.  We don’t all get married.  We don’t all have children.  However, we are all gendered.  It is a part of our essential identity and is recorded in every cell of our bodies.  It is not adiaphora.

I have deliberately avoided being specific in this brief article because there is a subtitle suggestion roaming about that gender issues may be on the periphery of Christian teaching and can be adjusted to changes in the culture.  It is not so.  The Bible is quite clear that humanity was engendered by God at creation and marriage was the first social order established in the Garden of Eden.  When attacks are directed against Christianity in the area of its teaching on gender issues it is a frontal assault.  It is not something that can be accommodated.

If anyone is interested in reading in this area send me an email.  I can make some suggestions.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at ravscarle@verizon.net). END-whs

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