More like this to come from Albert Collver…
Zeno from the Nuremburg Chronicle,
Last night I was reading The Fragments of Zeno and Cleanthes while tracking down the phrase κατὰ φύσιν (kata physin -- "according to nature") for a study about natural law. The antonym of is παρὰ φύσιν (para physin -- "against nature"). Saint Paul uses the phrase in Romans 11:21, "the natural branches" -- (εἰ γὰρ ὁ θεὸς τῶν κατὰ φύσιν κλάδων οὐκ ἐφείσατο, οὐδὲ σοῦ φείσεται.) The phrase seems to have originated in Stoic philosophy but was appropriated by the church.
Athanasius uses the phrase when discussing the two natures of Christ. Martin Chemnitz uses the phrase in The Two Natures of Christ. He writes, "So let us believe Scripture when it speaks of Christ's human nature, both as to the things which are according to nature (κατὰ φύσιν) and the things which are above nature (ὑπὲρ φύσιν) and even contrary to nature (παρὰ φύσιν). And let us agree that the Son of God wills and can be present with His body where we have His express word." (pg. 438)
All of this comes as way of background to the point of the post. The phrase "according to nature (κατὰ φύσιν)" is used as a term for "natural law," that is, something that is according to the created order. Everything "good" and "worthy" is according to nature. Likewise, if it is against nature, then it is bad.
Zeno has another category of ἀδιάφορα "indifferent things."Adiaphora are things in between what is "according to nature" and "against nature." It is important to note that what is adiaphora cannot be "against nature."
Leaping ahead to adiaphora in Lutheran theology. Usually, adiaphora is described as "something that is neither commanded nor forbidden." This is a Law or legal sort of definition. A Gospel way of describing adiaphora might be "something that is according to the nature of the Gospel," or even "something that is not against the nature of the Gospel." Adiaphora described in terms of the Gospel was something Dr. Norman Nagel was trying to teach me years ago -- perhaps it is coming clear.
Now some of you might be thinking of Augsburg Confession VII and the satis est in regards to adiaphora. To fully get the point of the confessors, you need to read the Augsburg Confession in both Latin and German. In Latin, you get satis est ... it is enough, a minimal definition. In German you get einträchtiglich ... "with one accord," a maximal definition, that is, running adiaphora "according to the Gospel."
Some preliminary thoughts... more later.