Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism Sacred Doctrine

Hemmingsen on the Sabbath and Christians Festivals (12)

In today’s theses, Hemmingsen discusses the very important topic of adiaphora, or things indifferent, for that is what undergirds his comments on “ceremonies.”

What Zanchi does in the case of festivals, Hemmingsen does in the case of ceremonies, distinguishing between two types, viz. those instituted by God and those instituted by man. Divinely ordained ceremonies must be used; human ceremonies may be used, and they may also be changed. They pertain to the good order of the church and to what is “seemly,” or fitting, or decorous, or proper, or becoming, or beautiful. (Yes, this matters.)

Why this liberty? Because the gospel, and therefore the church, does not consist in ceremonies. (To believe that it does implicitly grants Roman premises about the church.) Two regional churches can differ in some outward forms (e.g. Rome and Milan in the fourth century) while still being part of the same church, because they are united by the same faith and Spirit. Ceremonies of human origin, then, are not of the same status as those ordained by God; but they are likewise not ipso facto illicit, and can serve many good purposes, including the adornment of the church’s external forms.

Assertions concerning the Jewish Sabbath and the Festivals of Christians (Continued)

  1. As far as ceremonies are concerned, moreover, we should distinguish between those ordained by God and those introduced by human authority. We judge that the former must always be retained on account of the authority of the one who instituted them and commended them to his own church1; we retain the latter to the extent that they serve what is seemly and well ordered, nor are we offended if other nations differ from us in these ceremonies. For we know that the church of God is the entire assembly that worships God according to the Word of God, even if there is great dissimilarity with respect to ceremonies.
  2. Augustine and Ambrose were not offended because some ceremonies were observed at Rome, others in Milan, for the pious are joined together by the Spirit of Christ, not by human ceremonies.2
  1. I.e. God.
  2. The translation is my own.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.