December 25, 2014

July 14, 2010


A Conversation Opener: Dan Martins Comment on Confirmation in The Episcopal Church

There’s been a fascinating email discussion recently on the practice of confirmation.  Dan Martins provided a cogent comment on the historical background to confirmation and I’m posting it with his permission—although also with his caveat that because of the need for brevity, he has opined only in broad brushstrokes.

. . . here are my thoughts on the subject, for whatever they may or may not be worth. No doubt, they reflect when and by whom I was trained in this area ... i.e. by Louis Weil at Nashotah House in the mid-to-late 80s.

I’m comfortable with saying that Confirmation is “sacramental,” but not so much with saying that it is “a sacrament.” Of course, what I’m talking about is the rite that bears the name “Confirmation” in the 1979 Prayer Book, which is not to be confused with what used to be referred to, under the 1928 (and earlier) regime, as “the completion of baptism.” Basically, the narrative is this:

In the ancient church, baptismal initiation was a single but segmented rite, presided over by the Bishop at the Easter Vigil. The segments included immersion in water, anointing with oil, and prayer for the gift of the Holy Spirit.

As dioceses grew, and bishops found themselves unable to multi-locate, they delegated to presbyters the ministry of the water rite. In the East, they also delegated the chrismation and invocation of the HS, but in the West, the bishops reserved these things to themselves. This separate service became the germ of what was later called Confirmation.

Since Confirmation came to often be administered in early adolescence, at the time of the Reformation, it took on the meaning of an adult rite of passage, a sort of “Christian bar mitzvah.”

In the runup to the revisions of the 1970s, there was a desire in TEC to re-unify the entire rite (water-chrism-HS) and allow presbyters to preside. This is indeed what the “Green Book” (1971) proposed. But there was pushback from the Bishops, who protested that Confirmation was their only regular form of pastoral contact with the faithful in their dioceses.

So the Standing Liturgical Commission (as it was then known) pulled a sort of semantic shell game on the bishops, proceeding with a re-unified baptismal rite (look at the liturgy ... it’s all there) but creating ex nihilo a new rite that retains the “rite of passage” baggage (and, to be cynical, the “rite of becoming an Episcopalian” baggage) and slapping the label “Confirmation” on it just to keep the bishops happy.

Of course, this account only applies to TEC. As for other Anglican provinces (and beyond), it needs to be judged on a case by case basis.

But I’m fairly certain that what we call Confirmation in TEC has little if anything to do with what was once part of the Church’s initiatory practice.

Dan

Take note also, for this conversation, of Rob Eaton’s interesting post on the nature of confirmation, from which the below is excerpted—make sure you check his fisk of a Canadian Anglican newsletter’s reasons for confirmation:

Our Church needs to (among other things) engage in an across the board study and discussion on the sacrament of Confirmation.  Attempts since the 1950′s have been paltry, and short-winded.  The perfect time would have been when the House of Bishops forty years ago deemed reception of Holy Communion not dependent upon the sacrament of Confirmation.  A robust discussion, study, reflection and teaching (and not a simple and short statement or book as was published)  should have commenced for several years.  The charismatic renewal shares some of the blame in this lack; but otherwise the failure just means the Church as a whole had no idea there WAS a profound meaning other than as a rite of passage.

Time to make it right.

 


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147 comments

Fascinating….Interesting…..Enlightening…..on many levels.

[1] Posted by TLDillon on 7-14-2010 at 08:42 AM · [top]

I attended the discussion in the HOB in 1976 and the charismatic renewal was not mentioned. I doubt if many bishops were aware of it in 1976 ot that it had any influence in the church at that time.

[2] Posted by Pb on 7-14-2010 at 08:57 AM · [top]

I have one criticism of Rob Eaton’s take.  The problenm with TEC is we study everything to death.  And as a result we ended up with the worthless theology we have today. If we had let a bunch of bishops a study confirmation we probaly would be having human scarifices or something just as ridiculous by now.

[3] Posted by David Keller on 7-14-2010 at 09:31 AM · [top]

Roman Catholics have returned to the practice of confirmation by priests, although it is still separated from the rite of baptism and usually done in the teen years.

[4] Posted by Warren M on 7-14-2010 at 09:31 AM · [top]

The BCP 1979 says, “Holy Baptism is full initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into Christ’s Body the Church. The bond which God establishes in Baptism is indissoluble.”

We might quibble with the meaning of “full” initiation. I suspect that confirmation will stay.

[5] Posted by Ralph on 7-14-2010 at 09:33 AM · [top]

Confirmation - sacrament or rite - will probably stay, for several reasons.  1)  It is useful for emphasizing to teens that they have a responsibility to and for living out the vows that were taken for them as infants (and as an opportunity to teach them what the church believes).  2)  It is useful as a formal and official manner of welcoming new adults into Christian fellowship.  3) Currently, it is one of a very few ways that bishops actually interact with parish members other than the clergy and a few leaders.

[6] Posted by Goughdonna on 7-14-2010 at 10:00 AM · [top]

Well, this thread might prove “interesting” and enlightening for many SF readers who might be unaware of the massive confusion and occasionally fierce debate that’s reigned in Anglicanism over “Confirmation” since about 1945.

I tend to agree with Fr. Dan Martins’ take on this; at least, from what little info Sarah has provided, it would appear so.  However, I’d like to modify a couple bits of his oversimplified history.  Maybe I can help fill in some of the gaps he left in the convoluted and complicated story of the evolution of confirmation.

However, I think it’s more historically accurate to say that the rite we Anglicans tend to think of as Confirmation was basically an invention of the Reformation, not the revisers of the 1979 BCP.  For example, consider the perhaps startling fact that Queen Elizabeth I was confirmed at the tender age of…(are you ready for this?).. three days old!  When you’re a royal princess, there’s no trouble arranging for a bishop to lay hands on you and anoint you with chrism after you’re baptized, and Good Queen Bess was thus duly anointed by ++Thomas Cranmer himself.  Obviously, it had absolutely nothing to do with learning the basics of the Christian faith, or solemnly affirming for yourself the holy vows undertaken on behalf of baptized infants by godparents, etc.  That whole idea came in with the Protestant Reformers, who were rightly concerned that there was something incomplete and defective with initiating infants into the Christian faith and into the Church since they are plainly unable to exercise the crucial NT qualifications of repentance from sin and faith in Christ.  Luther, Calvin, and Bucer all interpreted Confirmation this way, as a renewal of baptismal vows and an act of owning the Christian faith for yourself on the part of those baptized as infants.  But there is no trace of such an understanding of confirmation before the Reformation.

Liturgical scholars in the mid 20th century were able to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that some basically accidental medieval circumstances and varied practices of initiation in the Latin West gradually brought about an unintended fragmentation and disintegration of what had been an originally unified series of rites (washing, anointing, and first communion—another significant modification of Fr. Martins’ brief history) that were long done in a single service with adult converts from the pagan world.  That is, from our earliest clear evidence of initiatory practices in the 2nd century until about the fifth century, new members were admitted to the Church through a unified sacramental and catechetical system that kept together repentance from sin and turning to Christ, training in the Christian faith and life, baptism (usually by immersion), anointing with fragrant chrism, and admission to communion, all in one great, unforgettable service that was then perpetually renewed by frequent participation in communion and Christian living for the rest of your life.  That is the ancient catholic model, which has thankfully been revived since Vatican II by the Roman Catholic Church in the now familiar RCIA program, the Rite for the Christian Initiation of Adults.

And that ancient model remains the proper theological norm, no matter at what age people are received into the Church.  That is, what is theologically normative or standard isn’t necessarily the same as what is statistically normative or customary.

I’ll stop here, lest this post gets unbearably long.  But that should help provide some grist for the mill and spark some discussion.  But my basic point is that the complex history of “Confirmation” shows all too clearly that it’s a “rite in search of its meaning” that arose more as a historical accident than for because of any well thought through liturgical and pastoral plan.  Hence the confusion and controversy attached to it.

David Handy+

[7] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-14-2010 at 10:05 AM · [top]

Let me pick up on #4 & 5.  Warren (#4) is right as far as he goes, but he is clearly speaking about what is the statistically most common practice, namely for babies to be baptized and chrismated by the local priest.  The child is then usually admitted to first communion about age 7, after some instruction.  However, since the major reforms of Vatican II (and the introduction of the RCIA in 1972), adult converts are appropriately baptized, confirmed/anointed, and given communion in a single (re)unified rite, normally at the splendid Easter Vigil.  And that is the proper theololgical norm, no matter how rare it might seem, not least because it reunites the whole sacramental process of initiation with the crucial process of conversion, repentance, and faith that is always associated with baptism in the NT.

As for Ralph’s #5, let me offer a similar friendly amendment by noting that when the rubrics of the 1979 BCP insist that “Holy Baptism is full initiation” that must be understood in the broader context of two key factors left unstated.  First, that “Holy Baptism” properly refers not to the water rite alone, but to the full service called “Holy Baptism” in that ‘79 book, and that full service includes washing, anointing, and communion.

Second, and perhaps even more important, I think the 79 rubric must be understood to apply only to SACRAMENTAL initiaion into the Church, and not to the whole process of initiation, which is much broader and includes all those aspects of coming to faith in Christ as Savior and to promising obedience to him as Lord that are an inseparable part of any genuinely Christian initiation.  IOW, “Holy Baptism” is only full sacramental initiation, not full initiation period, which has to include the whole mysterious process of conversion.

David Handy+

[8] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-14-2010 at 10:17 AM · [top]

Problems in the Episcopal Church and in the Communion, might be lessened and the health of the various institutions restored if a rigorous and continuous Re-confirmation certification was required for leadership and membership for both clergy and laity.

[9] Posted by St. Nikao on 7-14-2010 at 10:35 AM · [top]

Lest I be misunderstood, let me amplify what I’ve tried to say above, since it’s all confusing and easily misunderstood.  I would agree with several commenters above that “Confirmation” is here to stay in Anglicanism.  And rightly so, I hasten to add, as long as the practice of infant baptism continues (which should NOT be taken for granted as a sure thing).

There was a huge controversy in the 1940s and 50s in the Church of England that set the stage for the revisions undertaken in the 1960s and 70s.  Usually, it’s remembered as a controversy sparked by certain (not all) Anglo-Catholics (foremost among them the great Gregory Dix), who argued forcefully that Confirmation was not only a genuine Sacrament in which the Holy Spirit was given (for the first time) through the laying on of apostolic hands (i.e., the bishop’s), but when thus understood confirmation was therefore necessary for salvation.  Many Anglicans firmly rejected that notion (for various reasons) and insisted that baptism alone was necessary for salvation and complete in and of itself, since the Holy Spirit was imparted sacramentally (if at all) through baptism itself.  That is, the Gregory Dix-Lionel Thornton line was that baptism was gravely incomplete without confirmation, not only because it didn’t impart the Spirit but because in the case of infants it was separated from repentance and faith, which Dix rightly insisted was essential to salvation.  But the great majority of scholars and Anglican leaders (including some Anglo-Catholics such as Michael Ramsey) argued that, as the 79 BCP rubric says, baptism is full (sacramental) initiation and all that’s necessary for salvation, although later confirmation and communion is desirable and beneficial and expected.

But along with that well-known liturgical and theololgical controversy about the relationship of baptism and confirmation (and the proper age to admit children to communion, whether before or after confirmation), there was also another contoversy, now too readily forgotten, about the propriety of continuing the widespread practice of “indiscriminate” baptism of all infants presented to the parish priest by parents, even if they had no intention of raising their children as Christians, much less as faithful Anglicans (and no ability to do so since they were probably not Christians themselves, in any meaningful sense).  +Colin Buchanan, a prominent evangelical leadeer and liturgical scholar, wrote a series of books and tracts (in the GROVE series in England) arguing very forcefully and convincingly that indiscriminate baptism was an intolerable abuse and ought to be stopped.  However, alas, the practice continues to this day, and not just in England.

IOW, even if the Protestant Reformers stumbled onto a previously unknown rationale for offering a brand newrite of affirming your faith and receiving the welcome and blessing of the bishop for those innumberalbe folks baptized as infants in a Christendom world, where it was taken for granted that all Englishmen were born Christians, into a Christian society, I think that’s a good thing since it helps reconnect baptism to repentance and faith, as demanded by the NT and the witness of the early patristic church in which the baptism of adult converts was both theologically and statistically normative.

Anyway, I hope that helps shed some light on a murky, highly controversial topic with many complex aspects.

David Handy+

[10] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-14-2010 at 10:40 AM · [top]

Had a discussion this week on confirmation - two of us went through the rite-of-passage type where we had to learn the catechism and be tested on our knowledge before we stood before the bishop for confirmation.  True comprehension was another matter. While we hated the process, it was to be done before we could partake of Communion.  We were required to know what and why.

From a laity point of view and not read up on all the articles, we have lost part of what it means to be Christian and Episcopalian by turning away from confirmation.  I don’t understand what the charismatic renewal had to do with that, being charismatic.  I still see it as a need. 

I am conflicted at whether confirmation is the bar, or reward if you will, for receiving the Host.  I have see some small children who are moved by partaking, and yet even some older ones for whom it is just a craker and a sip that they take because everyone else does.  My problem with that is the admonistion of taking the Lord’s Supper improperly and bringing judgement.

It is indeed complex.

[11] Posted by The Lakeland Two on 7-14-2010 at 10:56 AM · [top]

David (#10):

And rightly so, I hasten to add, as long as the practice of infant baptism continues (which should NOT be taken for granted as a sure thing).

Three questions:
1) Are there orthodox branches of Anglicanism that do not practice infant baptism?

2) Do you see a day where there is a movement in Anglicanism away from infant baptism?

3) I sense in your posts a hesitancy to fully support infant baptism.  Am I off track on that?

[12] Posted by Utah Benjamin on 7-14-2010 at 11:14 AM · [top]

Lakeland Two (#11),

The link with the charismatic movement may be a red herring, but there is at least a tangential link in that the standard Western confirmation prayer (both medieval and in the classic BCPs from 1549 on) centers on the bishop praying for the confirmand to receive strengthening from the Holy Spirit and his seven-fold gifts (ala Isa. 11).  And as you may recall, in the 1928 BCP, the appointed epistle for Confirmation services is the peculiar story from Acts 8:14-25, where the Samaritans, who have been converted and baptized under the ministry of Philip, are in the strange and anomalous position that they didn’t receive the Holy Spirit (as expected, alas Acts 2:38-39), so Peter and John come up from Jerusalem and lay their apostolic hands on them, and—presto—they get the Spirit and start manifesting him.  Of course, the historic baptismal anointing with chrism also represents the bestowal of the Spirit on the baptized.  Furthermore, we should recall the prophetic words of John the Baptizer that while he only baptized wsith water, the coming Messiah (Anointed One) would baptize with the Holy Spirit (and fire).  And last but not least, we should recall the familiar saying of the Lord in John 3:5 that no one can enter the Kingdom of heaven without being “born of water and the Spirit.”

But it’s that same passage from John 3, which suggests where the charismatic angle may come in, since although John 3:5 alludes clearly to baptism, the main emphasis in the conversation with Nicodemus is on the role of the Spirit, not the water rite.  It is the Spirit that gives life, and the Holy Spirit isn’t bound to the water, but is free to blow, like the wind, where he wills.

Back in the early days of the charismatic movement (and I remember those days fondly), confirmation was seen as the ideal time to be “baptized in the Holy Spirit” and to receive whatever spiritual gifts the Spirit chose to impart.  But it was recognized, quite properly, that the Spirit wasn’t limited to giving himself through any ritual, whether baptism, confirmation, or anything else.

And as for the instruction expected before being eligible to be confirmed, the historic Anglican position is that the absolute minimum is that confirmands learn by heart the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments.  But the Catechism was also regularly taught as a part of confirmation preparation, and it used to be common for bishops to quiz young people on how well they knew it.  But those days are long gone.

David Handy+

[13] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-14-2010 at 11:20 AM · [top]

Utah Benjamin (#12),

Your questions open up a whole can of worms that would probably take this thread way off topic, but I’ll try to answer your valid questions very briefly.

1.  No, all provinces of the AC practice infant baptism, and the 39 Articles clearly forbid anyone to reject the practice.  However, the very signficant fact remains that in much of the Global South, the baptism of adult converts greatly outnumbers the baptism of infants or young children.  Which was also the case in the early church, until about the middle of the 5th century.  And thus, in my terminology, the theological norm (believer’s baptism_) was also the numerical norm (i.e., in practice), as is always the case in a missionary situation in a predominantly pagan area.

2.  I regret to say that I do NOT forsee a day anytime soon when Anglicanism as a whole will move away from infant baptism as the statistical norm.  But I am quite hopeful that someday, hopefully sooner rather than later, a great many Anglicans in the Global North will wake up and realize that the initiation of converts is the proper theological norm, even if far more infants and children continue to be baptized than adult converts.  And I’m hopeful that the terrible abuse known as “indiscriminate baptism” (or that liberals love to call “open baptism”) will be weeded out as the intolerable scandal that it is.

#3.  I think I’ll avoid giving myself away on that one, for now.  I’ll leave it to you to guess.  Suffice to say that as a priest, I’ve baptized lots of babies and young children over the last two decades of ministry.  But what I can divulge is that in every single case, without a single exception, I’ll been very insistent in my sermon before the baptism that the basis for baptizing the child is NOT that he or she is already a Christian since they are born to Christian parents (as if we were merely ratifying or sealing that pre-existing reality), but rather that it’s the sacrament rite itself that MAKES them Christians, which they weren’t before.

As Tertuallian said so well (about AD 200), “Christians are made, not born.

Calvin (and I regret to say, Thomas Cranmer) were dead wrong about that.

David Handy+

[14] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-14-2010 at 11:37 AM · [top]

I have no theologians to cite, and references to beliefs below refers only to beliefs that I have heard from by some people—perhaps only few, at “ground level”, over many years:
1) I would wonder if interest in confirmation is not to be renewed by the attitude and slogans of the revisionists—e.g., “all the sacraments for all the baptized”—which seem to suggest that baptism is a sort of magic ceremony that perpetually entitles one to be regarded as a Christian in good standing without any assent whatsoever to the doctrines of the Church at any time during one’s life.
2) I have no theologians to cite…but some evangelicals at least do not believe in the doctrine of baptismal regeneration, regardless of what the BCP says, except as a conditional thing “covering” you as a member of the covenant by virtue of your standing in a Christian family until such time as you possess powers of reason such as to assent to the faith personally yourself. Confirmation is thus highly important, to some people who, people who paradoxically, do *not* regard it as a sacrament.
3) The charismatics I know do not associate confirmation with the baptism of the holy spirit. The latter is not associated with any prescribed church rite; some receive it from laymen in private homes, rather secretly. Some “experience” it at occasions separated from any kind of ceremony whatsoever.

[15] Posted by Toral1 on 7-14-2010 at 11:47 AM · [top]

I would much prefer that we do not touch infant baptism.  Leave it alone and leave it in place.

[16] Posted by cennydd13 on 7-14-2010 at 12:01 PM · [top]

Thanks, David.  Hopefully I haven’t taken the conversation too far off track; one’s understanding of baptism informs one’s understanding of confirmation.  Though I’m now a baptist pastor, this conversation interests me because I once was a youth director in the Episcopal Church, and I often wondered why we had a confirmation class each year—although it often was a good experience for our teenagers.  I never quite found a good answer for why we did it each year, in part because it didn’t really interest me (which it should have as a staff member at the church, I admit).  I remember one conversation with a Sunday school class of young teenagers I had: I was announcing the annual slate of confirmation classes and requirements.  I described it as an opportunity to learn more about the Christian faith so that the students could be able to own their faith in Jesus as their own.  A 10th grade gal spoke up: “Isn’t that what we do in youth group?”

After learning much about confirmation this morning, I can say that I have never seen a confirmation curriculum (I sampled many in years past, and one actually came across my desk yesterday in the form of a sample in a magazine) that teaches based on the summary Dan Martin gives in this post.  Most curricula aimed at youth seem to say, “Well, now that you’re not kiddies anymore, it’s time you learned about the Bible, Jesus, and the [insert your particular denomination here] Church.

[17] Posted by Utah Benjamin on 7-14-2010 at 12:01 PM · [top]

Utah Benjamin (#17),

You’re welcome, brother.  I’m glad you explained where you’re coming from.  Let me simply add that I think that “indiscriminate confirmation” is even more objectionable than indiscriminate baptism.  To assume blithely that every 12 or 13 or 14 year old is now converted and ready to own the Christian faith for themselves is totally absurd and makes confirmation meaningless.

Of course, what ultimately underlies such perverse practices as indiscriminate baptism and indiscriminate confirmation and communion is the whole Constantinian or Christendom arrangement that was foundational to Christianity for the last thousand years or more.  Now that we’re plainly in a post-Christendom era, where the marriage of Christianity and western civilization has ended in a bitter divorce, that changes everything.  Infant baptism goes hand in hand with a Christendom social situation and stands or falls with it.  Or so I firmly believe.  But I’m a voice crying in the wilderness on that score (among others).

If you’re a Baptist, let me recommend the tremendous book by the English Baptist NT scholar, George (G. R.) Beasley-Murray, called Baptism in the New Testmanet.  Be sure to get the expanded second edition of 1972, not the earlier (but still fine) first edition of 1962.  It’s massive (over 300 dense pages) and highly technical in parts, but it’s far and away the best book on the subject.  In particular, note that Beaseley-Murray is a sacramentalist.  That’s much more common in England than in America.

David Handy+

[18] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-14-2010 at 12:15 PM · [top]

I once sponsored a person for cofirmation. The bishop was very clear that the candidates should not expect anything to happened upon the laying on of hands. My guess is that nothing did. I like the idea of the bishop receiving folks into TEC and maybe this is a justication. Or is it a rite in search of a theology.

[19] Posted by Pb on 7-14-2010 at 12:27 PM · [top]

Utah Benjamin and Lakeland Two (#11),

It might help clarify matters if I point out that back in 1970, when TEC removed the requirement that you had to be confirmed in order to be eligible to receive communion (following the lead of the RCs on that one), one of the main reasons for that important change was to remove the pressure to herd young people through confirmation classes like cattle or sheep so that they could start receiving communion.  By detaching communion from confirmation and allowing younger children to start receiving communion years before they undertook standing before a bishop and professing the faith for themselves, it was hoped that the abuse I’ve called indiscriminate confirmation could be weeded out. 

Alas, as so often happens, the best intentions of the revisers didn’t really work out as planned.  But again, all of this is ultimately rooted in a Christendom mindset that assumes that everybody in western societies is born a Christian, or at least into a Christian culture.  The still prevalent assumption is that they may be very bad Christians who don’t know or practice their faith, but they’re still at least nominally Christian and should be treated accordingly.  Sadly, that has become a very, very dubious assumption.

David Handy+

[20] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-14-2010 at 12:30 PM · [top]

As per usual, an anecdotal post. 

I have been confirmed in the Christian faith three times:  at about 13 years of age in the LCMS, at about 37 years of age in the Christian Reformed Church, and at about 50 years of age in the Episcopal Church.  Reasons for three confirmations: I moved around a lot and there was not always a denomination available of which I was already a member and each of these Churches required mastry of their cathechism and confirmation to become a member of the local congregation. 

For comparison:
I attended a LCMS day school grades 2-8 where the first hour of every day was given to the study of religion, rotataing 6 weeks of Luther’s Small Catechism, 6 weeks of church history, 6 weeks of hymnody, and repeat…for 5 years.  In 7th and 8th grade we spent our hour under the tutledge of our pastor with more study of catechism and doctrine and confessional writings to prepare us to take our place as participating members of the LCMS.  This was topped off with a public examination before the congregation the Sunday before confirmation on Whitsunday.  For me there was also a meeting between my parents and the pastor to secure permission for me (a minor) to be baptised the Sunday before my confirmation.

A move and change in circumstances found me the guest Adult Bible Study teacher in the Christian Reformed Church, the pastor attending my class as an example to the men of the congregation because, at that time, women did not teach men in that denomination.  Two years later, my seven students now increased to over thirty and the advanced group moved on into another class with a different format, I felt that I really should “join the Church”.  The pastor advised against that on the grounds that I had more freedom and would continue more effectived as a guest.  I spent one year in an adult confirmation class studying the Heidleburg Catechism, underwent a grueling examination before the Board of Elders who were charged with assessing my knowledge of church doctrine and my commitment to Jesus Christ. Then I was confirmed as a member of the CRC.  The pastor was right; in addition the Holy Spirit breathing down my neck, I now had the whole board of elders monitoring me as well!

Another move, no LCMS, no CRC, but an invitation to teach Adult Bible Class at the Episcopal Church (dismal failure; Episcopalians generally have little interest in reading, mush less studying, the Bible). This was before the 1979 revisions were in place in that parish so the liturgy was almost word for word what I grew up with in the LCMS The hymns were for the most part unsingable, but you can’t have everything.  I took the adult confirmation class…twice. I backed away from confirmation the first time because of a crass remark about how much money the parish was sitting on; I expressed surprise that the parish had that much money in the bank and the priest said, “What do you expect us to do with it, give it to the poor?”  I was a full time volunteer with Habitat for Humanity working as Director of Family and Children’s Services (no pay, but a title that allowed the schools and welfare department to treat me as an equal).  I knew considerably more about the plight of the “poor” in the community than the priest could comprehend.  I needed a church home, took the class again, the bishop came and I was officially confirmed in the Episcopal Church.  I worked Alter Guild, sang in the choir, served as a Reader, coached a friend through his required Bible study to become a Deacon, filled the pulpit on one occasion, and moved out of state when they tried to draft me for the Vestry. 

I would rank the three confirmation preparations in decending order: LCMS, CRC, Episcopal.  The examinations: I rank CRC and LCMS (Episcopal had none. Confirmation ritual: Epoiscopal, LCMS, CRC.

The Catholics have a very good program called, I think, “continuing conversion”.  An adult desiring to join the Catholic Church has an adult sponsor, the Bishop has a wonderful service for all the catecumens in the diocese at the beginning of their catecumenate.  I have not witnessed the Catholic Confirmation.

More information that anyone wants I am sure, but I do find the level of Bible, doctrine, and church history knowledge simply appalling in the Episcopal Church and I think it speaks to where the church is today.  Someting needs to be done.

Frances Scott

[21] Posted by Frances S Scott on 7-14-2010 at 01:08 PM · [top]

One facet barely touched on here is the need for theological education—catachesis, as Packer would put it—for those young adults AND adults AFTER the normal age of confirmation.  It has been pointed out above that the act of confirmation allows for a person to affirm his/her experience of new life in Christ; additionally, it should start that person on the Christian life journey and toward an understanding of her role as a Christian both individually and in the Church.  All too often Confirmation ENDS the “learning” phase; it should be the earliest part of the beginning of such education. 
I am convinced that part of the reason for the failures in the Episcopal Church is the lack of true theological education for ALL congregants.  The folks know very little about the truth of the Trinity and its work in the Church and the world.  They know a lot about extraneous things—MDG’s, the “blessing” of abortion, the rights of GLBTs to marry, etc.  But they know NOTHING of the holiness of God, the need for salvation, the grace of sanctification.  I know that sounds condemning but I bet there are others out there who agree!

[22] Posted by drjoan on 7-14-2010 at 01:09 PM · [top]

Let’s get our facts staight.  The Order of Confirmation found on page 296 of the Book of Common Prayer (1928) is the same service as the one found on page 413 of the 1979 book.  There is not anything about “completion of baptism” in the traditional rite.  While the wording may be different, the purpose and intent of the rite is the same in both books.  The problem of allowing unconfirmed people of any age to receive communion is another whole matter, and I cannot see any reason to be concerned with how the RCs deal with it.

[23] Posted by GB on 7-14-2010 at 01:12 PM · [top]

I taught confirmation class for 3 years.  The state of church and Bible knowledge of our youngsters, to me, was simply apalling.  Shocking.  I couldn’t believe how little was there.

[24] Posted by Looking for Leaders on 7-14-2010 at 01:16 PM · [top]

#21 Frances Scott—I found the remark by your priest concerning the savings account held by the parish to be cynically amusing.  Of course, a lot needs to be done in the area of continuing education for everyone in the Church.  Since we cannot agree on what the Church should teach theologically, we tell everyone to study for themselves and decide what they believe.  Its clear that many people never get around to doing that.

[25] Posted by GB on 7-14-2010 at 01:36 PM · [top]

Okay, speaking for a recent confirmation in a diocese of the Church of Ireland *coughmy nephewcough*:

It’s a big (conglomerated) diocese - to give you some idea, the amalgamated diocese covers the same terrority as six equivalent Roman Catholic dioceses.

Recent confirmation was of six children.  Numbers in the CoI are, naturally, much smaller than in the majority RC here in Ireland and the population is very scattered.

My nephew was confirmed because he wanted to be.  I hesitate to boast, but he was an All-Ireland Scripture Contest first place winner, so I’m fairly certain he’s well catechised and not simply because his father is a rector but because he’s genuinely interested grin

The one advantage of the small numbers, it seems to me, is that the children want to be confirmed and it’s not just a rite of passage that everyone goes through.

[26] Posted by Martha on 7-14-2010 at 01:45 PM · [top]

I’m a little surprised to see the email conversation opened up here, but that’s okay.  Already this thread evidences the difficulties inherent in a discussion on the sacrament (or Rite, for some) of Confirmation.  I initiated the conversation with Dan and quite a few others in response to the theological and scriptural blowout evidenced by the Pentecost and post-Pentecost Pastorals of the ABoC and the PB. The superficialities and the faulty conclusions articulated are the consequences of a root problem, that being our understanding of the purpose and praxis of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God.  As a corrective track for doctrine and catechesis, proper work on this problem will take a long time; preceded by much untangling.  However, while engaging immediately in that doctrinal and catechital corrective (as it has in some instances), we should not wait for the long time to be concluded before invoking the Holy Spirit with an expectation of the clear manifestation of the evidences - beginning with accepting Pentecost as foundational for both the believer, and for the assembly of believers.
So many pushed buttons already.
In the same way that Kendall Harmon spoke to the need for all to be in repentance for the state of TECUSA today (see his Colorado addresses), I am stating that our focus - as a consequence of that repentance - should now be on the Holy Spirit as we look to concretely make necessary changes and adjustments.  As Reasserters have laid down the comprehensive issue of Holy Scripture as the underlying problem in the Church rather than “just” sexual preferences, it will be readily agreed that the even greater comprehenive issue is that of the Holy Spirit.  The Truth shall set you free, and the Holy Spirit will lead you to that Truth.

All hands on deck.  This is it.

[27] Posted by Rob Eaton+ on 7-14-2010 at 01:46 PM · [top]

Frances (#21),

Thanks for sharing your personal pilgrimage in such detail.  I think it’s very illuminating.  FWIW, I grew up in Sioux Falls, among a sea of Lutherans (mostly Norwegian-Americans in the old ALC), and I was glad that my family was Presbyterian, not Lutheran, since the confirmation classes were much shorter and less demanding.  But “indiscriminate confirmation” was definitely the norm in all the “mainline” denominations.  Like all the other 9th graders in my church (a large, affluent, left of center PCUSA one), I took confirmation class after becoming a teenager and was duly confirmed at the end of 9th grade.  I pitied my LC-MS friends, since they had to go through at least two years of confirmation classes.  Ironically perhaps, three months after my confirmation, I was actually converted at a Billy Graham crusade.

Alas, you’re right, Frances (and L for L, #24).  Confirmation class is all too often a joke in TEC.  It’s a farce, a mere empty formality.  But so is the usual overall Christian education program for adults in lots of TEC churches.  And yes, when confirmation is almost forced on young people (or at least is the expected thing) the confirmation service all too easily comes to resemble graduation from high school: you’ve finished school and you’re never seen again.

But again, that’s all a symptom of the deeper problem, the old obsolete Christendom mindset.

David Handy+

[28] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-14-2010 at 01:49 PM · [top]

Pb and David Keller,

The charismatic renewal was evident by personages in the House of Bishops.  The rest were either scared to death of it, and either side-stepped it or rebuked it, or in denial.
My point was that the charismatic renewal should have taken the challenge right then to provide in depth study and teaching regarding the obvious illustration of Confirmation to the apostolic action of the same.  Without that study, TECUSA was left with a complete disregard (even if unintentional) for Confirmation, and as a result, of the work of the Holy Spirit.

There was a minimal publication regarding Confirmation and it was a product of the House of Bishops.  They in fact did not study the issue to death but simply invited certain persons to speak to it without much conclusion, a typical HOB process.  Most of my library is in storage due to construction.  If someone else has it and can relay the publication info, that might be helpful - or not.

[29] Posted by Rob Eaton+ on 7-14-2010 at 01:58 PM · [top]

I cant speak to the sacramental nature of confirmation, but as a father I know this: we desperately need a program and process that grabs out youth at an increasingly young age (9?)and orients them in a comprehensive way in regard to their role in the church and with Christ. To often, preparation confirmation is a routine, where you are part of a larger group of 13 somthings that attend a few classes and memorizing a few things.

I also expect that in many TEC churches confirmation process is going increasingly be used for indoctrination of the wrong kind.

[30] Posted by Going Home on 7-14-2010 at 02:04 PM · [top]

Pb,
I missed your other comment about the bishop.  That was a foolish statement on their part, and derives only from fear.  I’ll leave it to you to define the fear.
    At the least, that bishop did not recognize the power of simply a human touch, nor, even more so, the matter of faith.
Would that someone had asked that bishop about the expectations of Holy Communion, or even of their ordination.
Can you hear Jesus, in response to the person who said, “I want to see again”, saying, “Now, I’m going to lay hands on you, but do not expect anything to happen.”

[31] Posted by Rob Eaton+ on 7-14-2010 at 02:09 PM · [top]

#28 I agree. See my previous post about the laying on of hands.

[32] Posted by Pb on 7-14-2010 at 02:11 PM · [top]

Rob+ (#27),

Well, I’m so glad you’ve joined the discussion.  Since this whole topic was originally your idea, maybe I’ll back down now and let you guide the conversation here.  And if I’m catching your drift, you want us to focus on the mystery of the Holy Spirit and how he works, and what role he plays in the whole initiation process.  I’m all for that.

Confusion and controversy certainly abounds about the third person (and neglected member) of the Trinity.  But just for the sake of discussion, I’ll throw in that I think that one of the virtues and gains in the 1979 BCP rites of initiation is that it corrected the former 1928 book in several regards, not least in ending the 1928 experiment and innovation that made that peculiar reading from Acts 8 about the Samaritans the mandatory epistle.  The unfortunate but predictable result of assigning that epistle for regular use at confirmations was to suggest that all Christians share the miserable state of those Samaritan believers until apostolic hands are laid on them.  That is, they presumably lack the gift of the Holy Spirit until the bishop confirms them.  That erroneous notion was reinforced by the common use of red as the liturgical color for confirmations (no matter what liturgical season the bishop’s visit fell in) and by the singing of hymns to the Spirit, like Veni Creator Spiritus.

It was this theological abberation that the revisers of the 79 BCP were chiefly trying to counteract when they insisted that “Holy Baptism” was “FULL initiation” into Christ’s Body and when the formula that they settled on to accompany the newly restored chrismation in baptism stressed emphatically that the Spirit was given in baptism and not just in some later confirmation rite.  Namely, “N. you are sealed by the Holy Spirit IN BAPTISM and marked as Christ’s own forever.

Unfortunately, however, that one line rubric (about Holy Baptism as full initiation) raises as many questions as it answers or as many problems as it solves.  As I noted above, it’s simply not true to say that the water rite is full Christian initiation, period.  Rather, I vigorously contend that the only acceptable view, in light of the witness of the Scriptures and the normative patristic tradition, is that “Holy Baptism,” understood as a unified rite including washing, anointing, and firsst communion, is merely full SACRAMENTAL initiation into Christ and his Church.  But full initiation proper must include conversion, repentance, and faith as well, or it simply isn’t the baptism of the NT and the early church.

By making “confirmation” a repeatable rite in 1979, through the parallel service of “Reaffirmation of Baptismal Vows,” the revisers wisely opened the door to recognizing that we can and should recieve the Holy Spirit many times, over and over, indeed constantly in our lives.  Just as the present tense command in Epn. 5:18 suggests: “Be continuously filled with the Spirit.”

David Handy+

[33] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-14-2010 at 02:17 PM · [top]

Rob+ (#29),

My guess is that the main official ECUSA study that you’re referring to is Daniel Stevick’s short book (with a very long title) that was published in 1973 as Supplement to Prayer Book Studies 26.  Stevick was the liturgy prof at EDS in Mass. and that very bold and lucid study bore the rather formidable title:

Holy Baptism together with a Form for the Affirmation of Baptismal Vows with the Laying on of Hands by the Bishop, also called Confirmation.

Prof. Stevick was assisted by other liturgy profs such as Leonel Mitchell of Seabury-Western and Marion Hatchett of Sewanee.  Together with Louis Weill of Nashotah and others, these visionary but perhaps naive reformers dreamed of reunifying the disintegrated western initiatory rites of washing, anointing, and first communion in a single service (a tradition the Eastern Orthodox never lost and continue to this day).  Daniel Stevick tried to explain the raionale by distinguishing between two very different types of confirmation (or theologies of it) that he called (to be as neutral and objective as possible) “confirmation A and B.”  That is, Confirmation A is the older and eastern kind, the baptismal anointing with chrism that represents the giving of the Spirit, and thus it reflects the idea that the bishop (or in the east the priest as his deputy) is the one who does the confirming.  Whereas “Confirmation B” is the later, more familiar Protestant innovation of seeing confirmation as a rite by which those baptized as infants claim the faith for themselves and thus “confirm” the vows made on their behalf when they were too young to talk.

Fortunately, the two need not be seen as mutually exclusive.  Those who were first filled with the Spirit on the Day of Pentecost in Jerusalem (Acts 2:4) wwere refilled again with the Spirit after persecution arose (note the “all” were filled in Acts 4:31).  Thankfully, as Luke 11:13 suggests, God the Father is more than happy to give us the Spirit anytime we ask, for the first or the thousandth time.

David Handy+

[34] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-14-2010 at 02:40 PM · [top]

David (#18): Thanks!  I’ll put it in my next order if it’s on Amazon.

Going Home (#30):

I cant speak to the sacramental nature of confirmation, but as a father I know this: we desperately need a program and process that grabs out youth at an increasingly young age (9?)and orients them in a comprehensive way in regard to their role in the church and with Christ. To often, preparation confirmation is a routine, where you are part of a larger group of 13 somthings that attend a few classes and memorizing a few things.

I actually touched on this in my sermon this past Sunday.  To avoided derailing this post, let me just note that the best “program” is parents/family who are passionate about following Jesus, supported by a church body passionate about following Jesus.

[35] Posted by Utah Benjamin on 7-14-2010 at 02:44 PM · [top]

[4] Warren M,

What was stated to my RCIA class (My wife and I were received this past Pentecost), is that the Bishop chooses whether or not to delegate presiding at Confirmation to the presbyters in his Diocese. Given the orthodoxy of our parish and its religious educators, I suspect that they are correct, but have not undertaken an independent verification of what they taught.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[36] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 7-14-2010 at 04:22 PM · [top]

[23] GB,

My own personal experience, and consequently my surmise, would suggest that at least some significant causation of the “current unpleasantness” in TEC can be traced directly to what you described as follows [emphasis mine]:

Since we cannot agree on what the Church should teach theologically, we tell everyone to study for themselves and decide what they believe.  Its clear that many people never get around to doing that.

Unfortunately, that too, is a part of the heritage of Anglicanism.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[37] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 7-14-2010 at 04:41 PM · [top]

For Confirmation instruction contents, there has been a very fine resource on the Diocese of Albany website for some years—from the episcopacy of Bishop Herzog.

But you are right, Keith, about the lack of, and therefore variation within, what is taught for Confirmation.

The BCP Catechism is very weak, and I much prefer to use Luther’s Small Catechism—easily available, very understandable, and we are in communion with them.

[38] Posted by BravoZulu on 7-14-2010 at 05:12 PM · [top]

Further, as the 1979 BCP speaks of Baptism as full incorporation into the Church, this means that nothing else would be missing, necessary, or even desirable.  What a horror story that is!

Crafty people could figure out that confirmation is necessary only for other steps such as vestry membership or ordination—for those not desiring or even wanting to avoid both of those activities, why bother to do the unnecessary thing and be confirmed?

[39] Posted by BravoZulu on 7-14-2010 at 05:15 PM · [top]

I have not read everything here,yet
But my experiences 1976-89..I taught Confirmees, that the Confirmation service in AAPB (Australia) was in two parts.
The first was commitment, you make 3 promises,turn to Christ, repent of your sins, renounce evil.
The second part is when the Bishop lays hands on you to be Filled with the Holy Spirit. Then expect God to do something.
I taught from Scripture that in Acts when people were filled with the Holy Spirit they spoke in other tongues, so expect this to happen to you.
My great joy at Confirmation time was to see and hear the kids speaking in tongues, some as they still knelt before the Bishop, some when they got back to their seats, others when we met again (I always took them for experiential teaching for a month AFTER Confirmation).
Mostly 95% of confirmees spoke in tongues..  Hey! fabulous
experience… Teach and it happens.
Brian+

[40] Posted by Brian on 7-14-2010 at 05:29 PM · [top]

BravoZulu (38)
re: Luther’s catechism
Might I suggest falling back to the Catechism and Offices of Instruction of the ‘28?  Should not modern Piskies be more concerned to remain in communion with those who preceded them than with the ELCA? (Certainly anyone who actually maintains the “faith as this church has received it” is not in full communion with either ELCA or 3/4 of TEC)  Not much point in being Anglicans if we are going to teach Lutheran theology.

[41] Posted by tjmcmahon on 7-14-2010 at 05:33 PM · [top]

I hope the following two-fold schema is helpful in this very interesting thread.  Here are two ‘historic’ catechetical pathways to consider.  (I am indebted to Tory Baucum+ at Truro Church as well as Simon Chan, John Westerhoff III, Aidan Kavanagh et al. for this classification.  J. I. Packer has a new book out on Catechesis, with some historical perspective, which I highly recommend as well)

FROM THE FRONT-PORCH—the historic/Patristic 4-stage model of “Catechetical Evangelism”:  In the early years of the Church, when “Christians were made and not born” (quoting Tertullian), an individual seeking membership in a local household of faith had to go through a long period of catechesis prior to baptism.  The process was marked by four stages: (1) evangelization (inquiry and introductory summary of the faith), (2) catechesis (long-term instruction and mentoring), (3) enlightenment (final pre-baptismal instruction), and (4) mystagogy (post-baptismal instruction concerning the rituals and deeper mysteries of the faith, especially the Eucharist).  This four-stage approach reflected the ministry context of the emerging Christian community.  The Church existed as an outpost of resident-aliens in a pagan and pluralistic world—a world in economic disarray, social and political instability, and cultural decline.  Conversion involved a radical transformation from one way of life to another, from the stories of bondage to idols and power structures to The Story of God’s rescue mission in the person and work of Jesus Christ.  We must remember that this was normative in the Patristic era (at least prior to Augustine).  Infant baptism was exceptional, and continues to be, in mission-field situations today.

FROM THE FONT—Liturgical Catechesis:  Originating in the medieval period, this is, essentially, a two-stage model (baptism & confirmation).  Those who are born, baptized, and raised to maturity in Christian homes and church settings start from a different place, but head toward the same destination as those who come to faith through the catechetical evangelism of the Church.  The catechetical process may differ in its starting place and order—with baptism preceding confirmation—but the aim is the same:  “to form, equip, and deploy disciples of Jesus Christ who fully participate in the life and mission of the Church.”  Children, youth, and, perhaps, young-adults are the catechumens who, like their counterparts from unchurched or non-Christian backgrounds, undergo preparation through study, skill-development, and formation, but for the particular purpose of “ratifying and confirming” the solemn promises and vows previously made on their behalf in infant baptism.  In the Order of Confirmation of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, the bishop prays for their strengthening in the Holy Spirit, the daily increase of “the manifold gifts of grace; the spirit of wisdom and understanding,” and “true godliness,” all this implying a deliberate course of training in discipleship.  Because this pathway is completely circumscribed by the liturgical life of the Church, it is often referred to as ‘liturgical catechesis.’ The two-stage model is typical of ‘Christendom’ and any stable situation where Christian parents are able to raise their children in the faith through family nurture and ecclesial formation in the Church.

I would suggest, with David Handy, that the older 4-stage model (from the FRONT PORCH) demonstrates the health and vitality of a church that is actively winning converts in a predominately non- or post-Christian mission situation.  For that reason, it should be upheld as normative.  But, as we all can appreciate, a healthy church also knows how to raise up Christian families who are able to bring their children to maturity in the faith as they participate fully in the sacramental life and teaching ministry of the Church.  Here the two-stage model has its obvious merits, theologically and practically.  We need not turn this into an either/or issue.

It is my great hope that Anglicans in the West can appreciate the merits of both and be more fully committed to the vision of the Patristic model.  This will entail, of course, liturgical revision—but in fidelity with the received ‘Great Tradition.’

[42] Posted by Phil Harrold on 7-14-2010 at 07:22 PM · [top]

David,
It wasn’t Stevick’s book, I’m pretty confident.
I thought it was an HOB Theology Committee production; I hope I’m not confusing it with what the committee of the same name produced in 2005 for GC 2006 on Initiation Rites.  For an unfortunate review, see “Muddying the Waters of Baptism: The Theology Committee’s Report on Baptism,Confirmation, and Christian Formation” by Prof. James F. Turrell*, an article which “examines the 2005 report of the Theology Committee of the House of Bishops ....” And re: your comments on the various heavy hitters and their influence on things, have you read Ruth Meyers ATR article that also was published prior to GC 2006?  “Fresh Thoughts on Confirmation.”  “This essay explores the theological, liturgical, and pastoral principles underlying the rite of confirmation in the 1979 Book of
Common Prayer and considers contemporary pastoral concerns, including the role of the bishop and the ritualization of a person’s affiliation with the Episcopal Church.”  Inner workings insights are valuable there re: baptismal rite emphases on mission and evangelism.  Neither essay (nor apparently the HOB publication) dives into the waters of the Acts of the Apostles, but they are interesting nonetheless.
And their existence, along with discussions and conversations and debates over the past two centuries alone, proves the need for doctrinal stability.
1979 can talk intention all it wants, but without Acts 1:8 there is simply no ummph.
I’ll do some internet research in the next couple of days on that earlier publication, unless somebody else gets to it, if only to get it straight for my own chronology.

BTW, again, in the same way that the efficacious act of baptizing is not reserved to presbyters or bishops, neither does God reserve the prayer for the empowerment in the Spirit only to bishops.  However, as public sacrament, local elders should be the water baptizers (as the BCP rubrics demand preference), and bishops, as apostolic witness, and with joyful expectation of the public sacrament, should request confirmands (as the BCP rubrics imply), lay hands on them, and expect the baptism of the Holy Spirit to take place (if it hasn’t already been received) with evidences.
How does that compare to your “SACRAMENTAL initiation”?

[43] Posted by Rob Eaton+ on 7-15-2010 at 12:32 AM · [top]

One aspect that the comments haven’t addressed directly yet is the place of confirmation when it comes to the baptism of adults. For some reason, Anglican churches (in Australia at least) still insist on confirming those who were baptised as adults. What are they actually confirming? That they still believe the faith they declared at their baptism a few months ago? I’d hope so! I can see a role for confirmation for those baptised as infants - not sure why the bishop has to do it, but it has a role. Confirming baptised adults, however, is theologically confusing.
On the point about indiscriminate baptism, I regret to add that traditionally in Australia many confirmations were pretty indiscriminate as well. Number of confirmations is one statistic they have to report to the diocese, so most vicars are keen to make that number as high as possible. Although, now that many churches have allowed baptised children to receive communion, the “I want my child to get confirmed so they can receive communion” factor is reduced. Also, many evangelical churches now have a proper preparation programme for confirmation, and insist on church participation as a pre-requisite.
Andrew Reid

[44] Posted by spicksandspecks on 7-15-2010 at 03:33 AM · [top]

Andrew (44),
Why would the apostles do the same, that is, lay hands on someone who has “already” been baptized in water?  They certainly did not consider the laying on of hands as a re-baptism, as if redundant.  NOR, I would propose, did the apostles consider this same laying on of hands for Holy Spirit empowerment as a further initiatory rite!
Identifying it as such has certainly caused centuries of confusion.  As has the name given it.  And so you have asked why or what are we “confirming” in an adult believer, a situation which has already demanded their proclamation of faith in Jesus Christ.  Remove that track from your consideration.
The question is (and not rhetorically, but positively), what does the sacrament of “Confirmation” confer which is different than what baptism confers.
Despite all the confusion, there are still two separate and distinct sacraments (or Rites, if you will), and always have been (if the argument goes that “Confirmation” appeared ex nihilo at a point of necessity, then the apostolic laying on of hands and expectation for Holy Spirit simply dis-appeared, or got divinely pulled; elsewise there would be three distinct existing rites).  SOMEbody is trying to keep the message alive.  So then, again, what is the Holy Spirit attempting to accomplish through the sacrament of Confirmation that is unique to the order and life of the Church?

[45] Posted by Rob Eaton+ on 7-15-2010 at 06:22 AM · [top]

Many thanks to Dr. Harrold of TSM for his insightful and balanced #42. 

I agree with you, Phil, that we need not set up a rigid either/or dichotomy as if we were forced to choose once and for all between either the “front porch” (pre-Christendom) model or the “from the font” (medieval/Christendom) model.  I contend that there is no one best model of Christian initiation and training that is set in concrete and applicable to all the various conflicting cultural contexts in which the Church finds itself.  Here as elsewhere, the attempt to adopt a “one size fits all” strategy is sheer folly.

Gratefully,
David Handy+

[46] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-15-2010 at 08:01 AM · [top]

I agree with #45. I have come to see confirmation as lay ordination.

[47] Posted by Pb on 7-15-2010 at 08:23 AM · [top]

Rob+ (#43),

Thanks for a thoughtful response.  OK, if it wasn’t Daniel Stevick’s book you had in mind, then I can’t put my finger on what the HoB paper was.  Nor have I kept up with all the discussions within TEC on the matter, I must admit.  However, I have read Ruth Myer’s important book Continuing the Reformation, and found it surprisingly helpful in tracing the continuing evolution of the debates (i.e., her liberalism didn’t get in the way as much I expected).

But I’ll throw out a teaser, Rob.  Even if the HoB had lousy reasons to make the decision they did about retaining “confirmation” in the mid 70s, and even if the bishops went about deciding such a crucial, momentous matter in a sloppy, shallow, careless way (which as you note is sadly par for the course with them: act first, justify it later), I do believe that the decision itself was probably the right one, even if made for all the wrong reasons. 

As Christians we believe in divine providence, and here I think we can detect the hidden heavenly hand at work behind the scenes, guiding the destiny of the Church in a mysterious way beyond the comprehension of the human figures involved.  Personally, I would see this as parallel to the retention of the apostolic succession and the historic three-fold ministry at the time of the Reformation, when it’s pretty clear that this happened more due to politicaL considerations than to a commitment to sound theological principles.  Elizabeth I and James I (”No bishop, no king!”) probably retained the episcopate for all the wrong reasons, but the key thing is that they did retain it, for which we can be profoundly grateful.

And that gets back to my insistence above that the only valid sense in which the oft-cited basic maxim of the 1979 BCP can be held to be true, i.e., the only way in which we can properly understand it to be true that “Holy Baptism is FULL initiation” into the Christ’s Body is if we supply the implied word “sacramental” before “full initiation.”  Sacramental initiaion and Christian initiation are NOT synomymous.  They aren’t even close to being the same thing.  Sacramental initiation is only PART of the overall process of making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey all that the Master commands us. 

It may be justifiable to alter the order of the components by baptizing before making disciples and teaching them to obey all the Lord’s teachings (at least in a Christendom social setting), but it is certainly NOT justifiable to truncate the whole process and declare it to be complete when the sacramental initiation is totally detached from repentanced and faith.  The massive evidence of millions of baptized (and even confirmed) half Christians, pagans, or virtual pagans in this country as well as far more in Europe is conclusive proof that by itself baptizing, anointing, and communing those who have never experienced genuine conversion is fraught with tremendous peril, downright foolish, and devastatingly counterproductive.  IOW, reuniting the rites of washing, anointing, and first communion (full sacramental initiation) is most assuredly NOT ENOUGH, without also restoring the broader context of making authentic disciples that is at the heart of the total process of Christian initiation (the true “full initiation”).

David Handy+
Passionate advocate of recovering the ancient catechumenate and that “4 stage” model Dr. Harrold mentioned

[48] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-15-2010 at 08:38 AM · [top]

P.S.  If that last post seems too long and complicated, let me sum it up in the pithy, memorable saying of the Rev. Terry Fullam, our problem in the Episcopal Church (and all the liturgical, “mainline” churches, I’d add) is that:

We’ve been sacramentalizing people, not evangelizing people.

Precisely.  And that’s a typical Christendom mistake, assuming that people will somehow pick it up by osmosis from growing up in a Christian culture, even if the local parish or the person’s own family fails to do the job.  Well, maybe that worked in the early 2nd millenium, but it most certainly doesn’t work in the early 3rd millenium.

David Handy+

[49] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-15-2010 at 08:52 AM · [top]

Terry also said that in most churches to role of the minister was to minister and the role of the congregation was to congregate.

[50] Posted by Pb on 7-15-2010 at 09:28 AM · [top]

Pb (#50),

Right.  That’s part of the unfinished business of the original Protestant Reformation.  The Bible and the liturgy were returned to the People of God, but not ministry.

Which gives me a chance to explain (yet once again) why someone like me who is a loyal son of the TEC Diocese of Albany and proudly “3-D,” or evangelical, catholic, and charismatic, and by no means predominantly Protestant or low church, should nonetheless choose the moniker NRA and call for a New Reformation.  The main reason for selecting that label is my firm conviction that RADICAL change is called for in Anglicanism. 

I’m 100% convinced that gradual, incremental, evolutionary change simply won’t be sufficient to deal with the severe and deep-rooted problems we face.  Rather, rapid, drasstic, sweeping change is necessary now that the old Christendom social context that’s absolutely foundational to Anglicanism as we’ve always known it has disappeared or is rapidly withering away everywhere you look. 

But revolutionary change need not be Protestant.  After all, there was a Catholic Reformation too.  And patristic, pre-Christendom Christianity allowed lots of room for lay ministry and for charismatic gifts to be exercized by all the Body of Christ.

But perhaps in no area is the need for truly radical, sweeping change more obvious and urgently necessary than in the area of Christian initiation and the making of disciples in our post-Christendom world.

David Handy+

[51] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-15-2010 at 11:01 AM · [top]

Confirmation Fom The Catholic Perspective:

My understanding as a newly received Catholic is largely based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church ([hereinafter CCC] promulgated in 1997, the Revised English edition of which was issued in 2004, IIRC. I believe that is the edition hosted on the ‘Net) and on what additional information I recieved via 18 months in RCIA. So, my memories and opinion are not authoratative, but the CCC is authoritative.

CCC, Part Two, Section Two, Chapter One, Article 2 (comprising 1285 through 1321) addresses the Sacrament of Confirmation. Paragraphs bearing on this thread are cited below [footnotes omitted, italics in the source, bold emphasis (excluding paragraph numbers) is mine]:

¶ 1285 Baptism, the Eucharist, and the sacrament of Confirmation together constitute the “sacraments of Christian initiation,” whose unity must be safeguarded. It must be explained to the faithful that the reception of the sacrament of Confirmation is necessary for the completion of baptismal grace. For “by the sacrament of Confirmation, [the baptized] are more perfectly bound to the Church and are enriched with a special strength of the Holy Spirit. Hence they are, as true witnesses of Christ, more strictly obliged to spread and defend the faith by word and deed.”

For a sense of what is meant by completion of baptismal grace see ¶ 1316, below.

¶ 1286The descent of the Holy Spirit on Jesus at his baptism by John was the sign that this was he who was to come, the Messiah, the Son of God.

Note that this was a separate action apart from the baptism by John, perhaps a not inconsequential fact.

¶ 1316 Confirmation perfects Baptismal grace; it is the sacrament which gives the Holy Spirit in order to root us more deeply in the divine filiation, incorporate us more firmly into Christ, strengthen our bond with the Church, associate us more closely with her mission, and help us bear witness to the Christian faith in words accompanied by deeds.

¶ 1290 In the first centuries Confirmation generally comprised one single celebration with Baptism, forming with it a “double sacrament,” according to the expression of St. Cyprian. Among other reasons, the multiplication of infant baptisms all through the year, the increase of rural parishes, and the growth of dioceses often prevented the bishop from being present at all baptismal celebrations. In the West the desire to reserve the completion of Baptism to the bishop caused the temporal separation of the two sacraments. The East has kept them united, so that Confirmation is conferred by the priest who baptizes. But he can do so only with the “myron” consecrated by a bishop.

¶ 1291 A custom of the Roman Church facilitated the development of the Western practice: a double anointing with sacred chrism after Baptism. The first anointing of the neophyte on coming out of the baptismal bath was performed by the priest; it was completed by a second anointing on the forehead of the newly baptized by the bishop.102 The first anointing with sacred chrism, by the priest, has remained attached to the baptismal rite; it signifies the participation of the one baptized in the prophetic, priestly, and kingly offices of Christ. If Baptism is conferred on an adult, there is only one post-baptismal anointing, that of Confirmation.

¶ 1292 The practice of the Eastern Churches gives greater emphasis to the unity of Christian initiation. That of the Latin Church more clearly expresses the communion of the new Christian with the bishop as guarantor and servant of the unity, catholicity and apostolicity of his Church, and hence the connection with the apostolic origins of Christ’s Church.

¶ 1293 In treating the rite of Confirmation, it is fitting to consider the sign of anointing and what it signifies and imprints: a spiritual seal.

¶ 1298 When Confirmation is celebrated separately from Baptism, as is the case in the Roman Rite, the Liturgy of Confirmation begins with the renewal of baptismal promises and the profession of faith by the confirmands. This clearly shows that Confirmation follows Baptism. When adults are baptized, they immediately receive Confirmation and participate in the Eucharist.

 

 

 

 

[52] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 7-15-2010 at 11:12 AM · [top]

The laos was the whole people of God. When the ministry was given to the ordained clergy, the charisms reamined where they always were. Guess that is a radical thought.

[53] Posted by Pb on 7-15-2010 at 11:20 AM · [top]

I apologize for the extraneous lines on my post at [52]. I accidentally hit the Submit button instead of thePreview button.

Although the CCC is explicitly Catholic, not Anglican, it does shed some light on the reasoning from Scripture and Sacred Tradition which, IMHO, must needs be dealt with in any discussion of what the Church has done, and why it has done it, since its institution by Christ. I have tried, as succinctly as possible to highlight those portions which point directly to Scripture and Tradition which might help us differentiate which practices regarding Confirmation are appropriate and which questionable.

After all, 500 years ago we would all have been Catholic.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[54] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 7-15-2010 at 11:33 AM · [top]

I just re-read my post (#21) and I certainly hope that neither of my 8th grade classmates read it!  Our day school daily hour of religion was: 6 weeks Luther’s Small Catechism, 6 weeks BIBLE HISTORY, 6 weeks hymnody/ church history(from Acts through the Reformation, emigration of the Lutheran German Saxons to America, and the establishemnt of their seminaries and teacher’s colleges—-taught over the 8 year curriculum).

As to the rite/sacrement of “confirmation”: for me it was the opportunity for me to “confirm” publically to the gathered family of God in Christ Jesus that I do believe what is expressed in the three creeds, that I do renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways, and that I do henceforth intend to lead a Godly life… by the grace and with the help of God.  And it was the opportunity for the Pastor/Bishop to affirm to the gathered people that my confession was acceptable to that church body.

Although I had strongly desired to be baptised from the age of 8, my parents did not want me to be baptised at that time because I had a deep cut in the bottom of my foot and the Four Square Gospel Church I was attending baptises by immersion.  So, I suffered 7 years of being the only unbaptised child in my school.  The Lutheran school was two blocks from home…a safe walk and a good education…but this was during WWII and my classmates were second and third generation Germans, many spoke German at home.  Neither of my parents had finsihed grammer school, they were from Southern and Primitive Baptist backgrounds, and they were a bit suspicious of my being “baptised a (German)Lutheran” ... this in spite of 7 years of hearing my recitations of catechism and supporting scripture passages! The visit from my pastor helped them understand that my baptism would be my PUBLIC confession and acceptance as a Christian.  I had fully lived an active, evangelical, Christian life since the age of five.  The Holy Spirit was active and evident in my life.  In obedience to the Gospel, I had to be baptised!

Was the gift of the Holy Spirit conferred with the laying on of hands at each of my “confirmations”?  Yes!  and I needed this gift.  Did I speak in tongues?  I don’t think so, not until many years later, but I often sang songs without words just as I had before my confirmations.

Define baptism and Confirmation any way you like and the definition will not fully express what God does in the process.  Words are weak and inadequate, but they are the best we have to work with.

Frances Scott

[55] Posted by Frances S Scott on 7-15-2010 at 12:22 PM · [top]

As I said, SOMEbody wants what is encapsulated in Confirmation to remain visible and active in the Church.
The bishops retained Confirmation; wonderful.  I would have liked to have seen them try to get rid of it… Then, later, General Convention shot down the compromise forced by the Liturgy Commission between them and the HOB., and so also caused the retention of Confirmation; excellent.  No argument from here against the result being good despite the means.
We need the sacrament.  We need what its most primitive basis intends.  We need bishops modeling the ancient imperative from Jesus for empowerment.  If we continue to call it Confirmation, fine; let’s move forward in assisting our young baptized to be confirmed in their faith.  If we need to take advantage of the sacrament for catechesis, God bless us, and let’s make use of the most effective training materials and methods.  But let us also recognize those things as attachments, not as descriptors of the essence. 

Perhaps we should make use of the references in this thread to Terry Fullam, gifted teacher from within the charismatic renewal that he continues to be in tapes and books.  For those of you who know his teaching on this subject, what did Terry have to say re: Confirmation?

[56] Posted by Rob Eaton+ on 7-15-2010 at 06:05 PM · [top]

To analyse the Anglican rite of Confirmation we surely have to consider the views of the Anglican reformers in some detail, since they effectively created our modern service. In order to look at why Thomas Cranmer, Peter Martyr, Nicholas Ridley and others did things the way they did, we have to look at the earlier background to the issue.

The idea of confirmation as a rite separate to Baptism arose late in the Patristic period. There was no separate rite when Tertullian wrote his “On Baptism” (about 206 AD). He describes the baptism service used by his church, wherein baptism in water is immediately followed by anointing with oil and laying on of hands. This service signified that anointing with the Holy Spirit occurs at conversion.

However, 50 years after Tertullian we see that there has been an innovation in Africa: Cyprian of Carthage in his epistle 72 (written about 256 AD) writes of a separate confirmation rite, administered by the bishop, wherein the anointing with the Holy Spirit is symbolised/granted. This is clearly an innovation in the African church.

Its probably not co-incidental that Cyprian and the African church were by this time out of step with the rest of the Church on other issues relating to baptism, e.g. the reception of those baptised by heretics.

At any rate, the idea of confirmation as a separate rite spread throughout the Church during the following centuries. However such an idea is not found in the teachings of the Apostles, nor in the first two centuries of the Church’s existence.

When the Anglican reformers came to examine the issue, they noted this. Some Scholastics and some Church Fathers had justified the concept of separate rites on passages in the Book of Acts, where the Holy Spirit is granted to Samaritans and to disciples of John the Baptist separately from their baptism, through the laying on of the Apostles’ hands. However, other Scholastics admitted that Confirmation could not be justified by those passages, and it could only be justified as a later tradition.

The Anglican reformers agreed with this latter view. They saw the passages in Acts as referring to peculiar situations, not normative practices of the Apostolic church. They retained a Service of Confirmation as a means of dedication and a mark of maturity of the believer, but denied that the Holy Spirit was conferred (for the first time) in it. The preface to the 1549 Book of Common Prayer emphasised that Confirmation contributed nothing to salvation (which was dealt with in a sacramental sense entirely by Baptism) and discouraged parents from putting their children forward for Confirmation on the basis that they were missing something without it. Rather, the Anglican Reformers saw it as something that a believer should volunteer for, when he/she felt ready and prepared for it.

Note also that the Anglican Reformers decreed that Confirmation should be done by the Bishop, not because this was necessary for some sacramental reason, but so that the Bishops could ensure that it was being done on a proper basis, i.e. as a mark of Christian maturity, not as supplying something missing in Baptism. Given the general state of the education of parish clergy in England at the time (little better than the abysmal situation alluded to by Roger Bacon in the 13th century) this was wise.

[57] Posted by MichaelA on 7-15-2010 at 10:01 PM · [top]

H. Potter wrote at #54

After all, 500 years ago we would all have been Catholic.

Don’t worry - we still are!

Rob Eaton wrote:

The bishops retained Confirmation; wonderful.  I would have liked to have seen them try to get rid of it…

If its any consolation, Richard Hooker felt the same.

However, perhaps what we need to do is return to the Anglican Reformers’ concept of Confirmation being both catechesis and a mark of christian maturity for those who desire it. I note from the posts above that many still have this concept, which I think is a good thing.

[58] Posted by MichaelA on 7-15-2010 at 10:10 PM · [top]

Actually, MichaelA, no you are not Catholic. You may be catholic, but the fact that you don’t recognize the difference between the two is all that is necessary to demonstrate the existence of your error.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[59] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 7-15-2010 at 11:48 PM · [top]

Keith Töpfer,
We Are Catholich as the church is the holy Catholick Church and we are members of her.

[60] Posted by Bo on 7-16-2010 at 12:34 AM · [top]

You still can’t get it right, H. Potter.

Remember that you wrote “After all, 500 years ago we would all have been Catholic”. You can use capitals as you choose, but that sentence is only true in the sense that the Anglican church still is catholic, in the same sense that it was 500 years ago.

[61] Posted by MichaelA on 7-16-2010 at 02:09 AM · [top]

Back in #56, Fr. Rob Eaton asked if any of us could share what Terry Fullam+ thought about confirmation.  I was never part of St. Paul’s, Darien (though I attended a few services there while in serminary at Yale), so I can’t speak to that in any comprehensive way.  But I do fondly cherish the memory of one utterly delightful saying of that prominent father of charismatic renewal in TEC.  He testified about his own experience in this highly ironic and revealing way.

When I was baptized, the Church prayed that I receive the Holy Spirit.  When I was confirmed, the Church prayed again that I’d receive the Spirit.  Likewise, when I was ordained a deacon and later a priest, the Church again prayed that I’d receive the Holy Spirit.

Well, now I have received the Holy Spirit.  And the Church doesn’t know what to do with me!

Yep.  That really says it all.

The wind blows where it wills…

David Handy+

[62] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-16-2010 at 08:11 AM · [top]

MichaelA (#57),

I hope you’ll take it as basically a friendly amendment if I add some more to your post about the Reformers’ view of confirmation.  On the Continent, both Luther and Calvin had little good to say about confirmation, which they were extremely suspicious of as a post-biblical development that had often in practice overshadowed baptism (which of course was instituted by Christ himself).  OTOH, Bucer had more appreciation for its potential value as a pastoral rite and he apparently helped convince Cranmer of this. 

Unfortunately, the Reformers blithely and innocently assumed (in their ignorance, i.e., with absolutely no historical warrant) that confirmation had always been what they wanted it to be: more a matter of the laying on of hands (attested in Acts, etc.) than it had been of being anointed with chrism and they presumed (wrongly) that confirmation had always been more about “confirming” one’s baptismal vows than about conveying the Spirit.  But to be fair, nobody really know much about the historical evolution of baptism and confirmation back in the 16th century.

Back in the 13th century, a canon law was passed in England that made reception of confirmation a mandatory requirement for receiving communion.  That is, in AD 1281, a Council at Lambeth, presided over by ++Peckham (of Canterbury) laid down a new church law that henceforth no one could be admitted to holy communion until they’d been confirmed by a bishop.  However, this had nothing whatsoever to do with receiving instruction in the Chrisstian faith and life nor was there then any idea that it involved affirming for yourself the vows made at your youthful baptism by others on your behalf.  Instead, this medieval statute had everything to do with the fact that large numbers of the baptized were never bothering to get themselves confirmed at any time in their lives, which the bishops deplored.  Back in those days, confirmation was a rather perfunctory rite, often administered whenever a bishop happened to travel through an area (and sadly, it wasn’t at all unusual for the bishop not to even bother to get off his horse to put his hand on the confirmands and anoint them).  No wonder confirmation was lightly esteemed.

However, I must take issue with one line in your post, MichaelA.  In your 2nd paragraph, when describing the unified rite known to Tertullian about AD 200, you show your Protestant/Sydney bias by stating that the postbaptismal anointing that immediately followed baptism represented “that anointing with the Holy Spirit occus at conversion.”  May I respectuflly suggest that here you’re reading your own low church evangelical views into Tertuallian.  He would never have said, as you suppose, that the Spirit comes automatically at conversion.  On the contrary, as the sacramentalist that he was, Tertullian clearly does regard the anointing itself as the means by which the Spirit is conveyed, and definitely NOT as a mere symbol of an earlier gift of the Spirit.

But the witness of the Fathers on that highly disputed point is extremely varied and confusing.  For instance, about AD 400, the great St. Chrysostom very emphatically insists that the Spirit is given through the water rite, even though he also makes a great deal out of the importance of the later chrismation that follows.  OTOH, St. Cyril of Jerusalem (about AD 350) equally emphatically insists the Spirit is given through the ritual anointing, and that it’s because we are thus sacramentally anointed that we become little “anointed ones,” like Jesus Christ, the Anointed One.

But Tertullian, Chrysostom, Cyril, and most of our other early patristic witnesses all took it for granted that the vast majority of those being initiated into the Church were adult converts like themselves, who thus had been washed, anointed, and communed as believers.

The great gift of the Reformers was to reemphasize the absolute need for personal repentance and faith, after that had been obscured and basically lost from sight during the long heyday of medieval Christendom in western Europe.  And that’s why I was so insistent above that baptism MUST NOT be seen as “full initiation” apart from conversion, repentance from sin, and true faith in Christ.  Baptism when divorced from its universal NT context of repentance and faith (because administered to infants) is no longer recognizable as the baptism of the NT and the pre-Christendom church.

David Handy+

[63] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-16-2010 at 08:57 AM · [top]

Rob Eaton+,

We seem to have wandered far from the original topic you wanted to discuss, namely to open a frank conversaation about the proper, orthodox understanding of the Holy Spirit and his mysterious work in our lives, and what connection that has (if any) with the rite of confirmation, in light of all the manifold theological errors on display for all the world to see in the PB’s ridiculous Pentecost letter and all the falsehoods she attributes to the leading of the Spirit.  As a way of atoning for my role in taking much of the discussion far astray myself, let me add a comment here on what I think gets to the heart of the PB’s errors about the Spirit.

Like so many of our liberal foes, the PB simply assumes, without even bothering to justify the point biblically or theologically, that the Spirit is free to guide us “into all truth” (John 16:13) in a way that contradicts all previously disclosed truth because the Spirit is ASSUMED to be totally autonomous.  As independent and autonomous as TEC wants to be as an Anglican province, and as totally independent as we Americans like to think we are as individuals.

IOW, the PB simply ignores the wider context in John 16, where Jesus in fact makes it very plain that the Advocate/Comforter/Paracletos whom the Father will send will not speak anything on his own authority, but rather he will take what is Christ’s and make it known to them.  In John’s Gospel, Jesus does only what he knows his heavenly Father does, and likewise the Spirit only teaches what Christ teaches and the Father wishes.  None of them is independent and autonomous or acts contrary to the others.

The PB exploits the fact that the NT tells us much less about the Holy Spirit than about Christ or the Father, and she assumes that she is free to take the Spirit as a mere empty cipher or symbol that she can fill out with any meaning she pleases.

Alas, while the Lord makes it clear in the gospels that to call the work of the Spirit the work of Satan is a very serious matter indeed, the one unforgivable sin, the utterly deceived PB falls into the opposite trap and does the exact reverse.  She blasphemously attributes to the Holy Spirit (whom John calls “the Spirit of truth”), what is really the work of Satan, the Father of lies.

Scary.  Very, very scary.  The dire warning of Isaiah clearly applies to her and her liberal ilk:

Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness.”  (Isa. 5:20).

David Handy+

[64] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-16-2010 at 09:24 AM · [top]

[61] MichaelA,

Unfortunately, I fear you are the one who “can’t get it right.” You wrote [emphasis added]:

that sentence is only true in the sense that the Anglican church still is catholic, in the same sense that it was 500 years ago.

Despite your attempted dismissal of the (very real) distinction between capitalized and uncapitalized usage in spelling catholic, your quoted comment is demonstrably in error from a simple historico-logical fact. 500 years ago (that would have been 1510 AD) the Church in England was in full communion with the successor of Peter (i.e., the Bishop of Rome). That is no longer the case today.

Ergo, for you to state that the catholicity of the Church in England 500 years ago is unchanged from the catholicity of the Church of England today is false, on its face!

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[65] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 7-16-2010 at 10:46 AM · [top]

Keith,
I’m Catholic, the fact that the Pope has made some errors in recognition of that via communion is his problem, not mine.

When Rome broke from the other sees it didn’t cease to be a part of the Catholic Church, any more than those who claim ‘of Peter’ did in Corinth.  Likewise when Canterbury broke with Rome, there was no loss in the real Catholicity of the Church, only an increase in the squabbling among the members.

[66] Posted by Bo on 7-16-2010 at 12:29 PM · [top]

Keith,

The fallacy in your #65 is that you equate “catholicity” with “being in full communion with the bishop of Rome”. They aren’t the same, and that is why my post was correct, on its face!

[67] Posted by MichaelA on 7-16-2010 at 11:11 PM · [top]

[67] MichaelA,

Wrongo, sport! I never referred to “catholicity. Try reading what I actually wrote, rather than inferring what I meant. I write what I mean, to the extent of my ability. If you want to discuss catholicity, that is a different topic than what constitutes being Catholic, and despite your avoidance of the implications, the use of the upper case ‘C’ has a specific denotation. Your change of terminology to ‘catholicity’ suggests that you apparently do not want to recognize that denotation and further suggests that we are not going to come to any sort of understanding. So be it. May God bless you in your journey toward salvation.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[68] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 7-16-2010 at 11:31 PM · [top]

[68] H. Potter (aka Martial Artist)

I never referred to “catholicity.”

But you did.  You are in fact the first person to use the word on this thread.  And you paralleled the word “catholicity” with the word “Catholic” in [65].  Here is where you introduced the word.

Ergo, for you to state that the catholicity of the Church in England 500 years ago is unchanged from the catholicity of the Church of England today is false, on its face!

What is the statement referred to in this quote?

that sentence is only true in the sense that the Anglican church still is catholic, in the same sense that it was 500 years ago.

Maybe I am simply missing something essential, but it seems to me that you just denied asserting what you clearly asserted.

carl

[69] Posted by carl on 7-16-2010 at 11:46 PM · [top]

Sorry, that should have been

And you paralleled the word “catholicity” with the word “catholic” in [65].

I just reflexively capitalize the word.

carl

[70] Posted by carl on 7-16-2010 at 11:49 PM · [top]

H. Potter,

You are clearly attempting to avoid the issue. Tap dance as much as you like - all you do is expose your inability to cope with a simple issue.

We Anglicans are catholic (or even Catholic if you like), and that has nothing to do wtih being in communion with the bishop of Rome.

[71] Posted by MichaelA on 7-17-2010 at 02:45 AM · [top]

Strange, David, isn’t it, that just when you made the comment about being off track and attempting to comment your way back to the point, it goes flying off track.

David, you’ve got it.  When Church leaders willingly or ignorantly undermine the work, ministry, and teaching of the Holy Spirit, it gets very, very scary.  The Holy Spirit is what makes it work right.  The unforgiveable sin is clearly associated with negating or undermining the work of the Holy Spirit.  And that goes for both doctrine and praxis (as in “the acts”).  What’s the problem?  When the Holy Spirit is denied, vacuous holes exist in the Church.  And that leaves room for OTHER “spirits” to influence or even directly disseminate their own version of truth.  And how will the Body of Christ become the Temple of the Holy Spirit if other spirits are acting as leavening cancers?  Granted, while here on earth it is not an either / or situation (the Church is full of unrepentant sinners).  Mercifully, that does leave room for correction prior to judgment.

How brilliant is the Holy Spirit’s inspiration leading Paul to write such astute passages of both reflection and directive teaching regarding this spiritual warfare for the life of the Church.
That is, in both the First Corinthians 12 and 13 discourse, and the parallel discourse found in Romans 11 and 12 (in the daily lectionary just this week), Paul makes the connection that a major consequence of properly focusing on the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church is to recognize the usual work of the enemy - the world, the flesh and the devil - to tear the fabric of that Church apart, and so we should be particularly vigilant against those things that divide us (“love is not rude, love is not arrogant”.....“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord”).  Both in praxis, and in doctrine.  Jesus would say, “Recognize the signs…”  Paul would say, “Just know that when you set yourselves to be on task with and about the Holy Spirit, you will be tempted to tear each other apart.  And if you do not have Love, then you have nothing.”
And so darkness and confusion descend even in the Church as a consequence of the sincere intention to get it right about the Holy Spirit, because we give in to the temptation set before us by the enemy.  We must WILL to be the loving people we called to be in the Spirit.
“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

And, no surprise, if we stop recognizing the work and life of the Spirit of God, or we DO intentionally focus on the Holy Spirit and the enemy successfully steps up the efforts to tempt us to be distracted, to foil, to undermine, to stop be loving toward each other, and thus disrupt the focus, then doctrinal confusion will entail, and the Spirit-ability to test and approve what God’s will is will be severely crippled.  Thus, our situation today, both in the Church at large, and in this thread.  And thus again, that is why the depths to which we have sunk in Holy Spirit doctrine and praxis must be counter-manded by a massive, primary focus on the Holy Spirit.  And while you are on focus, stand firm in the faith, recalling the armor of God.

1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

[72] Posted by Rob Eaton+ on 7-17-2010 at 03:55 AM · [top]

MichaelA,
I think you have read me wrong, from your comment at (58) based on a quote from me.
Let me rephrase the colloquialism:  I want the sacrament of Confirmation to have a prominent place in the life of the Church, and the House of Bishops would have had a losing fight on their hands if they had tried to remove it.

[73] Posted by Rob Eaton+ on 7-17-2010 at 04:05 AM · [top]

Rob+ (#72),

Thanks for your kind words.  I agree with you.

David Handy+

[74] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-17-2010 at 07:55 AM · [top]

Rob Eaton+,
In general I agree with what you wrote directly above, but:
We ARE, not WILL BECOME the temple of the Holy Ghost.  1 Corinthians 6:19 With salvation comes the Holy Ghost and

It seems to me the unpardonable is giving Satan credit for the Holy Ghost’s work (I wonder how many who burned others at the stake are in that category?)...

[75] Posted by Bo on 7-17-2010 at 08:00 AM · [top]

[69] carl,

I misspoke (miswrote?) in stating that I had not referred to the word, rather I didn’t introduce it into the discussion except in necessary use to reply to the comment of another. However, there is a difference between being Catholic, which denotes one’s belonging to an ecclesial community that is in full communion with the Bishop of Rome, and being catholic, which can denote either or both of a particular ecclesiologal order, and one’s approach to the many disciplines which one explores to understand this world and our proper role in it, i.e., embodying a certain “universality” (which is after all the sense of the word “catholic”). Of course, this doesn’t even begin to address the issues of what the different connotations of the two usages are.

Neuhaus states it as follows in the Introduction to his book The Best of “The Public Square” where he wrote:

“To be Catholic is also to be lower case catholic. The book you have in your hands is not only catholic in its religious and cultural reach but is also catholic in the many subjects engaged. Theology, philosophy, politics, education, bioethics, law, marriage, child rearing, and much else get their turns….”

My comment was directed most specifically at MichaelA who seems alternately to understand the distinctions (denotative and connotative) between the capitalized and uncapitalized usages, and then to deny that such distinctions exist, or if they exist have any meaning. And it was MichaelA who first used the term in the uncapitalized sense, to which necessitated my use use of “catholicity” was simply a response.

If you still don’t understand, I would be pleased to continue the discussion via PR (or better email) rather than continuing the discussion on this thread.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[76] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 7-17-2010 at 11:14 AM · [top]

Keith Töpfer, H. Potter, Martial Artist et al;

I’m Catholic, the pope’s opinion not withstanding. The Prayer Book has the capitol ‘C’ ‘Catholich Church’ in the creed, so it is the ‘King’s English’, regardless of the thoughts of the Bishop in Italy.  If you mean ‘in communion with the Bishop of Rome’ you can say that, and leave no one doubting your meaning.  That way you can give up playing ‘case police’,

[77] Posted by Bo on 7-17-2010 at 11:23 AM · [top]

[71] MichaelA,

Given that words convey ideas, i.e., they have meanings and express ideas. What you seem unable or unwilling to grasp is that capitalization of the word catholic changes its denotation. Therefore, you may assert that Anglicans are Catholic (I have already acknowledged that they are, in a number of senses, catholic), but that assertion is, quite simply, patently incorrect. I won’t bother to extend the same invitation to you as I made to carl, nor will I reply further on this thread for the reasons stated in my comment [76].

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[78] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 7-17-2010 at 11:27 AM · [top]

[78] H. Potter (aka Martial Artist)
What you’re not ‘getting’ is that we aren’t impressed by your definition, and use the capitals in an historic and English sense.  You can ‘use your own dictionary’ if you wish, but don’t be surprised when we don’t.  Those in communion with Rome are NOT the only portions of the Catholic Church that gets to use the uppercase letters.

[79] Posted by Bo on 7-17-2010 at 11:49 AM · [top]

Keith Potter,

To clarify: I don’t have a problem with the Roman Catholic Church calling itself such. Its a good name.

The point where I and a number of others disagree with you is the idea that what made the English Church “catholic” in 1510 was its being in communion with the Pope. I wouldn’t have thought there were any surprises here: most Roman Catholics would believe as you do, and most Anglicans wouldn’t. Its probably not something we can profitably take much further.

[80] Posted by MichaelA on 7-18-2010 at 07:18 AM · [top]

One hesitates to point out to my dear friend HP, formerly known as MA, but in reality KT, that, in the English speaking world, there are quite a number of churches that have adopted the word “Catholic” into their names- or in some cases, just held on to it after they split from Rome or one of the other “Catholic” churches.  Several of these are Continuing Anglican churches, but we also have the “Old Catholics” and others.  All capitalize the name.  And in my copy of the Oxford Universal Dictionary (Dad’s copy of the OED having been given away decades ago) the capitalized word “Catholic” appears to be proper usage in any reference to the Church Universal, or members thereof.  I shall not be using lower case “c” in Anglo Catholic anytime soon.
  And in any case, the earliest cited reference I have for “Catholic” referring to the Church of Rome (known in western Europe as “the Church” prior to that time), in English, is 1579.
  Now, can we please get back on topic?

[81] Posted by tjmcmahon on 7-18-2010 at 07:31 AM · [top]

David Handy+

I agree with most of your post at #63. My apologies for taking so long to respond.

You wrote

“Unfortunately, the Reformers blithely and innocently assumed (in their ignorance, i.e., with absolutely no historical warrant) that confirmation had always been what they wanted it to be: more a matter of the laying on of hands (attested in Acts, etc.) than it had been of being anointed with chrism and they presumed (wrongly) that confirmation had always been more about “confirming” one’s baptismal vows than about conveying the Spirit.  But to be fair, nobody really know much about the historical evolution of baptism and confirmation back in the 16th century.”

I would be really interested to know your basis for these claims. The reason I write this, is that my impression of the Reformers (particularly the Anglican Reformers) has been the opposite – that they were highly accomplished in church history, ecclesiology and liturgical history.

I am surprised also at the way you characterise their understanding of Confirmation. It almost sounds as though you are taking the Reformers *disagreement* with certain patristic and medieval uses as meaning that they didn’t *understand* them – which doesn’t necessarily follow.

“May I respectuflly suggest that here you’re reading your own low church evangelical views into Tertuallian.  He would never have said, as you suppose, that the Spirit comes automatically at conversion.  On the contrary, as the sacramentalist that he was, Tertullian clearly does regard the anointing itself as the means by which the Spirit is conveyed, and definitely NOT as a mere symbol of an earlier gift of the Spirit..”….”

We will have to disagree about that. I note that you were the one who complained about the thread going off topic! In an attempt to keep it on-topic, let me re-state the important point about the dates and add a point about Justin Martyr:

* Justin in about 153 AD describes the initiate being washed with water, followed immediately by the taking of bread and wine by the whole assembly (including the newly baptised person). He does not mention laying on of hands or anointing with oil. 

* Tertullian in about 206 AD tells us that baptism with water was followed immediately by laying on of hands and anointing with oil.

* Cyprian in about 256 AD for the first time appears to describe the laying on of hands and sending of the Spirit occurring separately to the baptism service.

* By medieval times the Reformers were confronted with a situation where a confirmation rite was being performed separately to the baptism service, often much later. They rightly did not regard this rite as arising either from Apostolic or sub-Apostolic practice. The question was, what to do with it?

Some of the non-Anglican reformers decided to omit it completely. The Anglican Reformers decided to retain a “Confirmation Service” that was more catechesis, but with a concept of special commissioning, and with no sense of chrismation.

There was no mention of the Holy Spirit being invoked, but rather laying on of hands was seen more in its New Testament sense of being a special commissioning from the elders of the Church. Confirmation was only to be administered to those who sought it voluntarily and who could demonstrate understanding of the tenets of the faith.

For those interested, a full copy of the Preface, Catechism and “Confirmacion” from the 1549 Book of Common Prayer can be found at http://justus.anglican.org/resources/bcp/1549/Confirmation_1549.htm

[82] Posted by MichaelA on 7-18-2010 at 08:43 AM · [top]

Oops, I wrote in #82 that there was no mention of the Holy Spirit being invoked in the 1549 service of “Confirmacion”. That is not correct! Firstly, the Bishop lays his hands on the “children” in the name of the whole Trinity. Secondly, he asks the Lord to send the Holy Spirit upon them with manifold gifts of Grace, including the spirit of wisdom, understanding, counsell, knowledge, etc.

What I meant to write was that the bishop does not ask for the Holy Spirit to be poured out on the believers for the first time, nor in any sense reminiscent of the sending of the Spirit upon the Samaritans or the disciples of John in the Book of Acts.

[83] Posted by MichaelA on 7-18-2010 at 08:52 AM · [top]

MichaelA (#81 & 82),

Lest this thread continue to meander far from the direction that Fr. Eaton originally intended, I’ll reply very briefly and we can continue the discussion privately, if you wish to do so.

I agree that in general, the main English reformers display a wide, if often spotty, knowledge of the Fathers, and some of them, including Thomas Cranmer and especially John Jewell, took pains to try to show that their teaching was consonant with what they understood (rightly or wrongly) the mainstream patristic teaching to be.  But the topic of the history of Confirmation is plainly an exception to that general rule. 

Unfortunately, no western church leader in the 16th century (Catholic or Protestant) knew much of anything about the convoluted historical evolution of Confirmation and how it had become accidentally detached from Baptism and Communion over the course of the preceding thousand years.

The classic study of these matters is by the outstanding English (Anglo-Catholic) liturgical scholar J.D.C. Fisher.  Canon Fisher’s two-volume set that traces in detail the extremely complicated evolution of Christian Initiation in the West has stood the test of time very well, and is still considered reliable and standard by scholars all along the theological specturm.  See his classic Baptism in the Medieval West, and his follow up book on the Reformation period.  Both in the Alcuin Club series of liturgical studies.

And, to close on an irenic note, I repeat that despite my somewhat disparaging remarks above about the Reformers and Sydney style Anglicanism, I have vigorously stood up on this thread for the Reformers’ great contribution concerning Christian initiation, i.e., which was to insist, quite properly, that any Christian initiation worthy of the name has to include, at some point, the indispensable element of personal repentance and faith.  Luther, Calvin, Bucer, Cranmer, and the rest of them were entirely right in their instinctive and characteristic stress that even in a Christendom social world it was absolutely essential that every person claiming or wanting to be a Christian publicly profess and demonstrate their faith.  As I said above, any ritual initiaion process that doesn’t include that all-important aspect of personal conversion and faith simply isn’t recognizable as the baptism of the NT and the pre-Christendom Church.

As you’re probably well aware, Michael, I’m very, very critical of the Protestant Reformers on some major issues, not least in my emphatic rejection of the (unbiblical) notion of sola scriptura and in my ardent and thoroughly catholic sacramentalism, but nonetheless, I remain profoundly grateful for the courageous witness of the Reformers and their recovery of a Pauline gospel of salvation by grace through faith, aparts from works.

David Handy+

[84] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-19-2010 at 09:51 AM · [top]

Oops, I was replying to #82 & 83.  Let me fill out the bibliographic data.  The classic historical studies I was referring to above by Canon J. D. C. (John Douglas C.) Fisher are as follows:

Christian Initiation: Baptism in the Medieval West, published in 1965 by SPCK as volume #47 in the Alcuin Club series.  And the sequel by Fisher is called Christian Initiation: The Reformation Period.

But for a more up-to-date work, see the absolutely masterful study by Maxwell Johnson (a Lutheran convert to Catholicism who teaches at Notre Dame), The Rites of Christian Initiation: Their Evolution and Significane, 2nd edition, Pueblo, 2009.  I can’t praise this fantastic book enough; historically, theologically, and pastorally, it’s superb in every way.

David Handy+

[85] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-19-2010 at 10:28 AM · [top]

But getting on topic, let me try to redirect us back to the crucial role of the Holy Spirit in the whole conversion and initiation process.  Historically, both John 3:5 and Titus 3:5 have been understood as thinly veiled references to baptism/Christian initiation, and rightly so, and both passages put strong emphasis on the Spirit’s role without spelling out if it was ritualized in any way beyond the water rite of baptism itself. 

John’s Jesus tells Nicodemus that no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being “born of water and the Spirit.”  Similarly, the author writing in Paul’s name sums up Paul’s gospel well by exulting in the reality that God “saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of generation (i.e., baptism) and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace…” (Titus 3:5-7).

Please note that the wider context in both chapters, John 3 and Titus 3, provides a splendid example of what I like to call “3-D” Christianity (evangelical, catholic, and charismatic).  If we look at both passages in light of the important question, “How does someone become a Christian?”, we can see the evangelical, catholic, and charismatic dimensions clearly showing up in both chapters.

The Protestant, evangelical emphasis that we become Christians through faith in Christ is especially strong and clear in Titus 3:5-7, but it’s also manifestly present in John 3, which includes the much-loved 3:16, where the promise is that everyone who believes in Christ receives eternal life.

The catholic dimension is less obvious, but still there in the sacramental allusions to baptism in both chapters.  That is, the Catholic answer that we become Christians through being united to Christ through the rites of initiation almost certainly underlies the reference to being born from above through water and the Spirit in John 3:5 and in the passing reference to a bath that regenerates in Titus 3:5.

But the real emphasis in both John 3:1-7 and Titus 3:5-7 actually falls on the gift of the Holy Spirit and of the new life that comes through Him.  That is the charismatic or Pentecost answer to our question, i.e., that we become Christians by being born anew/from above or “renewed” and regenerated by the Holy Spirit.  It is the work of the Spirit, not the role of faith or baptism, that is elaborated and stressed in both places.  The Letter to Titus exults in the fact that we are not only regenerated and renewed by the Spirit (whom the Nicene Creed calls “the giver of life”) but also in the twin fact that the Spirit is “poured out” upon us “richly” or “lavishly.”

Alas, that is NOT the experience of all too many Christians, who indeed all too often seem to resemble the Samaritans in Acts 8, who believed and were baptized without receiving the Spirit (or at least without manifesting the charismatic gifts that were commonly expected in those heady early days).  All too many Christians today, if asked, as the Ephesian “disciples” were asked by Paul, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?” (Acts 19:2), would have to replay sadly but honestly, “No, we’ve never heard about any such thing.”

It’s unclear just when the ritual practice began of combining with baptism an anointing with perfumed olive oil (chrism) to represent the Spirit’s central and essential role in the making of Christians.  However, we do know that it’s absolutely universal from the end of the 2nd century to the time of the Reformation and that this baptismal anointing is by far the most important as well as the most widespread of all the later rites associated with baptism (such as putting of the wet old clothes and putting on new white garments).  It’s quite possible that the practice of such a baptismal anointing began in NT times, but certainly it can’t be proven that the many references to being “sealed” or anointed by the Spirit in the NT are more than metaphorical (e.g., 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13-14; 1 John 2:20).

There are plenty of good Anglicans who see such associated rites as mere optional visual aids with no more than explanatory value, i.e., as helpfully highlighting aspects of the meaning of baptism in a basically educational way (such as the widespread modern custom of giving of a special memorial candle to the newly baptized as a momento or our Anglican custom of “consignation,” i.e., tracing the sign of the cross on the baptized’s forehead).  And there are plenty of us faithful Anglicans (myself included) who see the baptismal chrismation as much MORE than that, as genuinely sacramental and a true means of grace.  Personally, I wish the 1979 BCP had made the post-baptismal consignation with chrism mandatory and not optional. 

But the fact remains that the exact signficance of these added baptismal rites is quite controversial and will probably always be controversial and somewhat divisive until Christ returns in glory and all such mysteries are finally solved or rendered forever irrelevant.

But what should NOT be at all controversial is that the work of the Holy Spirit is aboslutely essential to being a Christian, “a little anointed one” who bears the image of the Christ, The Anointed One.  Moreover, as Fr. Eaton has rightly insisted, contrary to the PB and her heretical ilk, the Holy Spirit is not some vague blurry entity with no fixed identity but is rather “the Spirit of Christ.”  Niether should it be controversial (though alas in TEC it is) that the Holy Spirit is most definitely not a teacher of wild “new things” whose teaching lacks an anchor in a given and unalterable core content.

Nonetheless, it remains true and profoundly significant, as John 3 makes clear, that “the Spirit blows where it wills.”  And that same Spirit who can’t be pinned down refuses to be confined to the Church’s expectations or bound like Prometheus to its ritual patterns.  Thanks be to God!

David Handy+

[86] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-19-2010 at 11:46 AM · [top]

Handy,
I’m no theologian, but Christ speaks of being born of water and spirit in a passage that emphasises the flesh and the spirit, physical birth is of water, spiritual birth is from above.  The folks in Cornelius’ house show forth the baptism of the Holy Ghost (the birth from above) well before the water is applied.  Do you claim that they were not saved before the water baptism?

The washing of regeneration and renewal in Titus 3 is by the Holy Ghost (the ‘ie’ is your addition, not the Holy Ghost’s and breaks the unit of ‘regeneration and renewal’ for partisan reasons not in the text - but then what should we expect of one who denies that Paul wrote the letter?)

5Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.

6That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

7Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.

Where is this born from above of water and the spirit in John 3?  I see being born of water (the first birth, and of the Spirit - born Again), but there is no ‘born of water’ except as a corresponding term to ‘born of flesh’.

You do get it right when you say “...The Letter to Titus exults in the fact that we are not only regenerated and renewed by the Spirit (whom the Nicene Creed calls “the giver of life”)....” which of course leaves the water as the outward sign of an inward grace…..

[87] Posted by Bo on 7-19-2010 at 12:37 PM · [top]

Brother Bo (#87),

I’m well familiar with your interpretation of John 3:5, having spent many years in evangelical Protestant circles.  Let it suffice to say in reply that the notion that being “born of water” refers to an earthly birth from the water sack within the womb in contrast to the heavenly birth which is purely spiritual and untainted by any connection with a liturgical rite is a thoroughly Protestant notion that was totally unknown before Zwinglian (anti-sacramental) forms of Protestantism arose; and indeed, it seems downright Gnostic in tendency to me, as if material things were an unworthy medium of supernatural grace.  In any case, if you prefer to look at it this way, the interpretation of the new birth or the birth from above that sees it as being the single event spoken of in John 3:5 is not some idiosyncrasy of mine but the universal consensus of the whole Church (East and West) for the first millenium and a half.  Similarly, that’s the way the entire catholic tradition took (and takes) Titus 3:5 and its passing reference to “the washing of regeneration,” and that sacramental interpretation remains the view of the vast majority of the world’s Christians on the planet today.  IOW, if I’m in error, I’m in very good and extensive company.

But since you’re so concerned to be biblical (and that’s an entirely proper concern), let me call to your attention that little preposition “by” in Titus 3:5 and how profoundly significant it is.  Namely, if you think Titus is by Paul himself, then the greatest of the Apostles and the hero of Protestants states that God saves us BY the washing that gives regeneration!  That is, baptism does indeed save us (as also stated in 1 Pet. 3), when the rite is conjoined with true faith in Jesus Christ our Savior.  However, I hasten to add, it’s also true that baptism by itself is no guarantee of future salvation, as the Apostle makes clear by the parallel with the Israelites passing through the Red Sea and yet perishing in the wilderness in opening part of 1 Cor. 10.

OK, I’m teasing you a little bit, Bo (and running the risk of taking this thread way off topic again).  But the underlying issue at stake is really quite important.  Are the sacraments mere ordinances and symbols of God’s grace, or are they actually effectual instruments and channels of that saving grace?  And if you accept the latter idea (the sacramental principle, affirmed even in the very Protestant 39 Articles), then the relevant question as far as this thread about confirmation is concerned is this: is “Confirmation,” as understood by Anglicans since the Reformation as a “mature” affirmation of your own personal faith in Christ and a “confirmation” of the baptismal vows made on your behalf when you were a child with the laying on of hands by the bishop, is that rite a true sacrament and means of grace or not?  And if so, in what way or to what effect?  Or to be more precise, what is the connection, if any, between Confirmation and the giving of the Holy Spirit? (i.e., whether given for the first time [as held by Gregory Dix] for indwelling, or, after being given in Baptism [as held by Darwell Stone, Michael Ramsey and other Anglo-Catholics and most Christians] is the gift of the Spirit in Confirmation a later, additional shot of the Spirit for our “strengthening”)?

Amicably,
David Handy+

[88] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-19-2010 at 03:51 PM · [top]

Let me correct and augment my earlier bibliographical comment (#85).  I was working from memory then, and I’ve since gone back and checked it out (yes, I know, belatedly) and sadly, I was mistaken on a couple points.

First, the proper title for Maxwell Johnson’s stupendous introductory textbook on Christian Initiation is The Rites of Christian Initiation: Their Evolution and Interpretation (not Significance).  The original edition came out in 1999, but the expanded and updated second edition just came out in 2009.

More important, perhaps, it seems that I was wrong in thinking that Johnson is one of those “catholic and evangelical” Lutherans (ala the Pro Ecclesia type) who’ve become Roman Catholics.  Yes, he teaches at Notre Dame, but apparently he hasn’t yet swum the Tiber.

Also, just for the sake of completeness, Canon J.D.C. Fisher’s second volume on the Reformation period came out in 1970 (also by SPCK).

But I’d also like to add that a particularly relevant book for this thread on confirmation is the excellent historical study by former TEC prof Leonel Mitchell (who taught Liturgics for years at Seabury-Western), simply called Baptismal Anointing.  It’s a revised and improved version of his 1964 dissertation done at General Seminary under Boone Porter, and was also published by SPCK as #48 in the Alcuin Club Collection.  Seldom is such an impeccable and detailed historical work written with such clarity, verve, and accessibility for the non-specialist.  And professor Mitchell was one of the chief experts involved in drafting the radically revised initiatory rites in the 1979 BCP.  I recommend the book highly.

David Handy+

[89] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-19-2010 at 04:17 PM · [top]

David Handy+ wrote at #84-86:

“Lest this thread continue to meander far from the direction that Fr. Eaton originally intended, I’ll reply very briefly and we can continue the discussion privately, if you wish to do so.”

First, to be accurate, the “direction” was set by Sarah Hey, and she in turn referred to Dan Martins as well as Fr Eaton.

Secondly, the responsibility for any meandering lies at your door: you seem intent on telling us about your concerns on a plethora of issues: sola scriptura, the protestant movement, your efforts to defend the reformation, catholic sacramentalism, Sydney Anglicans, evangelical protestants etc etc. The issue is confirmation.

“Unfortunately, no western church leader in the 16th century (Catholic or Protestant) knew much of anything about the convoluted historical evolution of Confirmation and how it had become accidentally detached from Baptism and Communion over the course of the preceding thousand years.”

This is not credible. The 16th catholic and protestant church leaders whom you have the temerity to criticise were extremely learned in the Church Fathers. It had been part of their academic/theological training since their youth.

You appear to commit the fallacy of concluding that because the Reformer’s writings do not mention particular issues that YOU think are important, that therefore they were unlearned. Your reason for this is apparently that you practice baptismal chrismation, and you don’t want to confront the fact that the Anglican Reformers rejected the practice as not being Apostolic. You don’t have to agree with the Anglican Reformers, but suggesting that their decisions were based on ignorance is not credible.

“The classic study of these matters is by the outstanding English (Anglo-Catholic) liturgical scholar J.D.C. Fisher.  Canon Fisher’s two-volume set that traces in detail the extremely complicated evolution of Christian Initiation in the West has stood the test of time very well, and is still considered reliable and standard by scholars all along the theological specturm.”

Canon Fisher’s somewhat tendentious work is rarely referred to by scholars. In any case, his academic qualifications or lack thereof are not the point: If Fisher’s thesis is that the Reformers were as ignorant as you set out in your post (and I am not convinced that that was truly Fisher’s position), then it is not credible.

What we do see in the Reformers’ writings is that their primary sources are found in Scripture. In this respect they are no different to the other academic/spiritual writers of their day, whether Catholic, Anabaptist or whatever. To the extent that they don’t refer to every patristic mention of confirmation, it is most likely because they did not think them relevant. This is hardly surprising: Just because a particular confirmation rite arose in Gaul in the 5th century and was still influential in the Middle Ages, does not mean that the Reformers were under any obligation to analyse it in detail except to ask: Is this consistent with Apostolic teaching?

“It’s unclear just when the ritual practice began of combining with baptism an anointing with perfumed olive oil (chrism) to represent the Spirit’s central and essential role in the making of Christians.”

What is clear is that Justin Martyr writing in 153 AD did not know such a practice. Tertullian writing in 208 AD did know it in his own churches, but for all we know, the practice he outlines may have been restricted to the African churches

“However, we do know that it’s absolutely universal from the end of the 2nd century to the time of the Reformation”

No, we don’t. All we know is that an anointing with oil was included in the baptism service in Africa at the beginning of the third century. There is no indication that it was more widespread than that. As time goes on, we start to see it mentioned in other accounts in other places but it seems to have been a slow process.

“and that this baptismal anointing is by far the most important as well as the most widespread of all the later rites associated with baptism (such as putting of the wet old clothes and putting on new white garments).”

Again, this is far too sweeping, particularly for the early centuries.

“It’s quite possible that the practice of such a baptismal anointing began in NT times, but certainly it can’t be proven that the many references to being “sealed” or anointed by the Spirit in the NT are more than metaphorical (e.g., 2 Cor. 1:22; Eph. 1:13-14; 1 John 2:20).”

I would have thought that we can be fairly confident that the practice of baptismal anointing did *not* begin in NT times. Not only is there no reference to it (even obliquely) in the New Testament, but Justin Martyr writing in 153 AD covers the baptismal service in some detail and does not mention it.

Secondly, I would not describe the three New Testament passages to which you refer as “metaphorical”. They clearly describe a *spiritual* reality, that Christians are anointed with the Holy Spirit when they believe the good news. But there is not the slightest hint in the New Testament that this spiritual reality was ever reflected in a ceremony of anointing with oil, whether in a baptism service or otherwise.

Off-hand, the only time I can think of where the Apostles refer to anointing with oil is in James 4, where it is used on a sick believer – clearly not a reference to baptism.

“And there are plenty of us faithful Anglicans (myself included) who see the baptismal chrismation as much MORE than that, as genuinely sacramental and a true means of grace.  Personally, I wish the 1979 BCP had made the post-baptismal consignation with chrism mandatory and not optional. ...”

Thank you for finally admitting your personal interest in this discussion. Whilst you personally might practice baptismal chrismation, in a discussion of the practice of the Reformation (which you initiated) we have to remember that baptismal chrismation was rejected by the Anglican Reformers. It wasn’t that they weren’t aware of it; they just didn’t think it was an Apostolic practice, nor even a sub-Apostolic practice (and they were right).

[90] Posted by MichaelA on 7-19-2010 at 09:19 PM · [top]

Handy,
Where do you keep your time machine?  Without it how do you know what was ‘unknown’?  I can understand a claim that ‘no mention of the ‘protestant view’ has survived’, but to claim it was ‘unknown’ then (rather than unknown to us now), is, well, a bit of bold claim, the proof of which is rather lacking.

Being in ‘good and extensive’ company doesn’t excuse being in error.  I notice that you fail to mention Acts 10.  Why is that?  Do you pretend it isn’t there?  Is there some water baptism that Peter didn’t know about that preceded the one he wished made available?

1 Peter 318For (AJ)Christ also died for sins (AK)once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might (AL)bring us to God, having been put to death (AM)in the flesh, but made alive (AN)in the spirit;

19in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,

20who once were disobedient, when the (AO)patience of God (AP)kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of (AQ)the ark, in which a few, that is, (AR)eight (AS)persons, were brought safely through the water.

21(AT)Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—(AU)not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a (AV)good conscience—through (AW)the resurrection of Jesus Christ,  22(AX)who is at the right hand of God, (AY)having gone into heaven, (AZ)after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him. 

I’m no Greek scholar, but the folks who did the NASB were.  The semicolon marks an independent clause in English, a closely related intervening thought (the stuff after the semicolon is related to but not part of the ‘main sentence’), when you parse the sentence, these clauses ‘stand alone’ and ‘beside’ each other.  So now, if you ‘parse out’ the ‘independent clause’ you get

18For (AJ)Christ also died for sins (AK)once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might (AL)bring us to God, having been put to death (AM)in the flesh, but made alive (AN)in the spirit 21(AT)Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you—(AU)not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a (AV)good conscience—through (AW)the resurrection of Jesus Christ,  22(AX)who is at the right hand of God, (AY)having gone into heaven, (AZ)after angels and authorities and powers had been subjected to Him.

When the sentence is thus simplified even a fancy dancer like you should be able to get that baptism corresponds to a spiritual fact: Christ being made dead in the Flesh but Alive in the Spirit. Correspondingly that baptism saves us through the resurrection of Christ (not through being dunked, sprinkled, oiled, or handled).

Are the sacraments mere ordinances and symbols of God’s grace, or are they actually effectual instruments and channels of that saving grace? 

According to Article XXV ” And in such only as worthily receive the same, they have a wholesome effect or operation:” 

One who has been baptised by the Holy Ghost will find that water baptism to be a certain sure witnesses, and effectual signs of grace, and God’s good will towards him, by the which He doth work invisibly in him, and doth not only quicken (in the eyes of the congregation), but also strengthens and confirms his Faith in Him.”  One who chooses baptism (by water), unworthily brings to themselves the greater peril.

[91] Posted by Bo on 7-19-2010 at 10:58 PM · [top]

MichaelA (#90),

Clearly I stepped on a raw nerve in your case.  I’m sorry if I caused offense.  To use your own language, it looks as if we may have to agree to disagree on some very fundamental issues, since you are so deeply committed to some Protestant principles and a Sydney perspective that determines what is plausible or credible for you, whereas I am equally committed to a far more catholic position that is in many ways antithetical to yours. 

You are, of course, entitled to your opinions, Michael.  But you aren’t entitled to your own facts.  And the universality of baptismal anointing from the late 2nd century to the Reformation is indeed a FACT, and very well attested.  And it’s simply not true that Canon Fisher’s thoroughly documented studies aren’t considered standard by liturgical scholars.  They are regularly referred to in the scholarly literature.  For example, just check out the now standard textbook in Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran circles called The Study of Liturgy, now in its 2nd edition from Oxford U. Press and used in most “mainline” seminaries in the English speaking world.

But I will admit that I’ve done more than anyone else to take this thread off on various tangents.  And I’ll further admit that upon rereading my numerous posts above, I regret that I can see how some of them come off as rather arrogant, dogmatic, and even condescending, as if I were lecturing a bunch of beginner seminary students.  For that I’m sorry.

David Handy+

[92] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-20-2010 at 08:15 AM · [top]

Bo (#91),

I seem to have stepped on a raw nerve in your case too (alas, not for the first time!).  You and I may also have to agree to disagree since in many ways we apparently live on different theological planets.  Admittedly, I wrote in a rather provocative manner above, but I tried to leaven it with some humor, however that evidently wasn’t enough to prevent causing offense.

I’ll try one more time, brother, and we’ll see if I can communicate more clearly and less provocatively.  I was responding to your claim, Bo, that the well-known reference to being “born of water and the Spirit” in John 3:5 doesn’t refer to baptism.  And the essence of my retort was that seeing it an allusion to baptism is the overwhelming majority view of Christians in all times and places, and the BCP implicitly understands it that way (e.g., in the first rubric about baptism in the 1979 BCP).

Beyond that, I was contending for a genuinely sacramental understanding of baptism as a true means or channel of grace, and not merely a bare symbol of it.  And that is also an important part of our Anglican heritage that’s reflected even in the extremely Protestant 39 Articles.

As for Acts 10, or indeed the crucial but confusing witness of the book of Acts as a whole when it comes to the complicated relation of the giving of the Spirit to conversion, baptism, and the laying on of hands, I am by no means unaware of the thorny problems raised by Acts.  Nor was I trying to evade them.  The discussion on this thread just hadn’t wandered far in that direction.

If you truly want to know more about what I think about such things, I’d be happy to oblige, but perhaps we should conduct that discussion privately.  But IIRC, you come from a Baptist background, Bo, and if so, I would commend to you the same marvelous book on baptism that I recommended above to Utah Benjamin.  Namely, Baptism in the NT by G. R. Beaseley-Murray, a fantastic English Baptist NT scholar (former head of Spurgeon College in London).  Beaseley-Murray is a mainstream scholar (not an inerrantist), but as I mentioned above, it’s especially notable that he’s also a convinced sacramentalist.  That is a perspective more common among English Baptists than among American ones.

Amicably,
David Handy+

[93] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-20-2010 at 08:42 AM · [top]

Handy,
You are, of course, entitled to your opinions.

Of course we live on different theological planets.  On mine, the Scriptures are the Word of God written, they are without error (in the originals anyway), and they are the standard by which everything must be judged.. 

Don’t worry about having given me offence.  You’ve not. 
Nor have you ‘stepped on a nerve’.  You can’t.  That can come only from those whose opinions matter to me.

You have on occasion given me reason for further study.  That is a wonderful thing.  When I must look to text, I learn.

There isn’t anything ‘confusing’ about Acts 10.  The gentiles got the Holy Ghost, then they got a water baptism.  What is so hard to follow there?  You have to fancy dance a whole lot to obscure the simple facts in the matter.

I’ve seen the citations from Michael.  And his chain of argument, from those very old authors.  I’ve seen assertions from you, but no counterpoint to his citations, only appeals to ‘scholarly this or well accepted that’.

No, you don’t sound like a lecturer at seminary, not a decent one anyway.  Decent seminary profs don’t pretend to study a book with an admixture of error.  Maybe in philosophy class, at a state school, where appeal to the ‘currently accepted’ ‘scholarly types’ works, but not a seminarian.

Find a book on your shelf that respects the Scripture as the Word of God, and supports your position, before you suggest ‘reading material’ for me.

[94] Posted by Bo on 7-20-2010 at 09:06 AM · [top]

Bo (#94),

I wasn’t going to respond to your last stinging comment since further discussion seemed pointless, but I don’t want this thread to end on such a sour, negative note.  Let me try yet one more time to reason with you, brother.

It seems that you misunderstood badly the drift of my comments about Acts and the relevance of its witness for sacramental theology, and especially about confirmation.  I was not questioning the historicity of Acts, far from it.  Instead, I was reminding everyone of the notorious inconsistency in Acts when it comes to how believers receive the Holy Spirit and what external rites the precious gift of the Spirit is connected to, if any.

That is, as you’ll recall, at Pentecost Peter promises the crowd that those who repent and are baptized “for” (not just as a sign of) the forgiveness of sins will receive the same Spirit that Peter and the rest of the 120 did (Acts 2:38-39).  That appears to set forth the ordinary, expected way that people will receive the Holy Spirit, namely when they’re baptized after conversion, just as Jesus also received (or was filled by) the Spirit in conjunction with his baptism in the Jordan.

But if that’s the standard way it happens (as the mainstream of the Church has always taught), things soon get very complicated since Acts shows that people also received the Spirit in other ways and at other times, apart from baptism.  Thus, as you know, Bo, in Acts 8, the Samaritans who come to faith through Philip’s ministry surprisingly fail to receive the Spirit until Peter and John lay hands on them and pray for them.  IOW, they’re filled with Spirit AFTER baptism and it’s instead mediated by the apostolic laying on of hands.

OTOH, in Acts 10:44-45, the opposite is the case, when Cornelius and his Gentile household and friends receive the Spirit BEFORE their baptism.  Nor does the laying on of hands have anything to do with it.

Finally, of course, there is the case of the apostles and the rest of the 120 in the upper room on Pentecost morning, who were filled with the Spirit without any connection to EITHER baptism or the laying on of hands (Acts 2:4).  Similarly, the refilling that occurs at the prayer meeting in Acts 4:31.

All that confusing, conflicting data has given rise to much controversy and endless debate among theologians over how to properly understand the relationship between the divine gift of the Spirit and the familiar rites of baptism and confirmation.  That’s the relevant background for making sense out of the comments of Fr. Dan Martins and Fr. Rob Eaton and myself above.

With all best wishes,
David Handy+

[95] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-22-2010 at 08:23 AM · [top]

Handy,
The One Baptism is that of the Holy Ghost, and the water merely an outward sign of an inward event.  Until you’re able to honestly address that position, there is no point to pretending to discuss the matter.

I understand that that you contending for a genuinely sacramental understanding of baptism as a true means or channel of grace, and not merely a bare symbol of it.

Obviously, the gift of the Holy Ghost isn’t predicated on water baptism, nor the laying on of hands. That remains true today.  Some are saved before they’re wet, others after, and some who are dunked, sprinkled, handled, and oiled never are.  All who are baptised of the Holy Ghost also desire water baptism, and get it if there life last so long (obedience, and solidarity).

Not all who are water baptised (oiled, handled) come to faith, nor are baptised with the One Baptism (that of the holy ghost).

You still can’t seem to understand that the baptism which matters is of the Holy Ghost. That outward signs are symbols, symbols whose value depends on that which they symbolize.

Living aside the ‘refilling’ which isn’t a conversion event anyway:

Acts 2 REPENT and be baptised, the standard ‘formula’, is not ‘be baptised’.  Nor is the means of baptism mentioned “then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls” Notice that those who received the word were baptised.  One isn’t baptised to receive, one that receives is baptised. 

Acts 8 - water doesn’t cut it (at least not without the trinatarian baptismal words), the Apostles weren’t likely to lay hands on the disciples of Philip suddenly.  Do you think they just ‘plopped hands on’em’? Philip wasn’t getting the baptism right (though he used the words of Peter from chapter 2, he did not use the words of the Lord), what else was might he have been ‘teaching’ wrong, that had to be corrected before those disciples faith was saving faith in Jesus the Christ?  Peter explains to Simon ” 21"You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22"Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. 23"For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.”

Notice that Simon was baptised, and apparently handled, but still needed to repent, and was still under the bondage of iniquity (not merely guilty, but still under bondage), and we know he whom the Son sets free is free indeed.  Not water, not handling, but Repentance and Baptism, that brings freedom!

There is nothing ‘confusing’ about baptism if you aren’t trying to hold to a theory that doesn’t match Scripture.  Of course it gets harder if you’re trying to hold a position that doesn’t match.  Conform your theology to the Scriptures, and you never need fear them again.

[96] Posted by Bo on 7-22-2010 at 09:34 AM · [top]

David Handy+ wrote at #92,

Clearly I stepped on a raw nerve in your case.  I’m sorry if I caused offense.  To use your own language, it looks as if we may have to agree to disagree on some very fundamental issues, since you are so deeply committed to some Protestant principles and a Sydney perspective that determines what is plausible or credible for you, whereas I am equally committed to a far more catholic position that is in many ways antithetical to yours.

No, you didn’t step on a raw nerve at all - I just disagree with you! And I don’t think this has anything to do with “catholic vs protestant” nor any of the other red herrings that you try to drag in. This is an issue of you making a series of sweeping statements that don’t bear detailed scrutiny.

And the universality of baptismal anointing from the late 2nd century to the Reformation is indeed a FACT, and very well attested.

Okay, it looks like we have to go through this the hard way, so be it. Let me put the question again - where is this “fact” attested?

I know about Tertullian writing at the beginning of the third century, and I can accept that he is probably describing a common practice in the African churches, but I can’t see any indication that he purports to describe a universal practice in churches outside Africa. What is the other evidence for your claim that baptismal anointing was a universal practice in the late 2nd century? (or indeed even in the third or fourth centuries?)

And it’s simply not true that Canon Fisher’s thoroughly documented studies aren’t considered standard by liturgical scholars.

Okay, now Fisher’s endorsement is by “liturgical scholars”, whatever that means… Anyway, I don’t care how you want to define it, because my dispute is not with Fisher, but with your sweeping claim that

no western church leader in the 16th century (Catholic or Protestant) knew much of anything about the convoluted historical evolution of Confirmation and how it had become accidentally detached from Baptism and Communion over the course of the preceding thousand years

[97] Posted by MichaelA on 7-22-2010 at 11:04 PM · [top]

David Handy+ at #95,

I am sure you are aware that a common doctrinal response to the questions you ask is that:

(a) The apostles received the Holy Spirit after their baptism for the simple reason that they were baptised some years before the Holy Spirit was conferred on believers.

(b) The visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit on the Samaritans when the Apostles visited was for a specific reason: to confirm that non-Jews could be admitted as full members of the faith.

(c) For the same reason, the conversion of the gentiles in Cornelius’ House was also accompanied by a visible manifestation of the coming of the Spirit, as a sign:

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God.

Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have.” So he ordered that they be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. ...
[Acts 10:44-48]

In this case, the visible manifestation occurrs *before* baptism! But the reason is obvious - God is using this to confirm a very important point of teaching - that gentiles may become full members of the church without the need to become Jewish. 

(d) So also the visible manifestation of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples of John was intended to confirm that these disciples, although baptised, were not in fact believers until they accepted the entirety of the Good News.

I appreciate that there are a number of different theological perspectives on this, but the above view which I have roughly sketched is both common and well-known.

[98] Posted by MichaelA on 7-22-2010 at 11:19 PM · [top]

Handy,
You said “you misunderstood badly drift of my comments about Acts and the relevance of its witness for sacramental theology,” and I didn’t give a short simple answer to that statement.

I’ll try now.
Sacramental effeciveness of baptism would require a cause-effect relationship between the two.  Acts clearly shows that there is no ‘cause and effect’ relationship.  Sacramental theology, in terms of ‘baptismal regeneration’ via water, hands, or oil fails - the ‘effect’ is seen before the ‘cause’.

Now, in each case, those who are baptised of the Holy Ghost who had not already been baptised with water were baptised afterwards.  It follows, then, that the believer will be baptised (life conditions permiting).  Not to recieve the baptism of the Holy Ghost, but because they have recieved it.  It also follows that scripturally speaking, if one has already been baptised with water, one doesn’t get ‘re batpised’ with water.  Instead the change is marked by the laying on of hands.  There’s your tie to confirmation.  But it comes after effective regeneration following repentence, it is not some ‘sacramentally effective’ act.

[99] Posted by Bo on 7-23-2010 at 03:31 AM · [top]

MichaelA (#97, 98),

I’m happy to say that I basically agree with your assessment in #98 of the confusing evidence in the Book of Acts about the relation of the giving of the Holy Spirit to baptism and the laying on of hands.  Yes, of course, brother, I’m well aware of the tradition of interpretation you gave, and I agree that it’s not only “common and well known” but probably right as well.

However, at the risk of sounding condescending or dogmatic, I’ll lapse into lecture moder here in responding to your earlier #97.  You ask what evidence there is for my sweeping historical claim above that an anointing is universally connected with baptism (either before or after it) from the end of the 2nd century to the Reformation.  And the answer is that the historical evidence is massive and overwhelming. 

So here we go.  The earliest witness to a baptismal anointing is Theopilus of Antioch (about 170 AD).  But beginning with Tertullian (ca. 200 AD), and the detailed, anonymous church order known as The Apostolic Tradition, usually attributed to Hippolytus of Rome circa AD 215, the patristic witness piles up quickly and would include Origen (about 250), and another anonymous church order known as the Didascalia (about 275 AD).  From the 4th century on the data proving that a baptismal anointing was considered essential is just overwhelming: e.g., the famous mystagogical or sacramental lectures of Ambrose of Milan, John Chrysostom (while still in Antioch), Cyril of Jerusalem, and Theodore of Mopsuestia.  You’ll not that this list includes both Latin and Greek Fathers in both East and West.  But the evidence also extends beyond the Roman Empire to the far east, with such figures as Ephraem of Edessa, and is also clear from gnostic writings of the 3rd century like the Acts of Thomas (also from eastern Syria/Parthia).

And the cultural context of the ancient Mediterranean world is important to keep in mind here, since it was practically universal for an anointing with olive oil to accompany bathing in the Roman world, so it would’ve seemed natural for a symbolic anointing to go with the Christian bath that we call baptism too.

As for prominent liturgical scholars who support my historical claim that you consider not credible, there are lots of them.  They would include Roman Catholics like Edward Yarnold (SJ), Aidan Kavanaugh, Nathan Mitchell, and Thomas Finn.  Also Anglicans like Paul Bradshaw, Leonel Mitchell, JDC Fisher, Gregory Dix, and Protestant scholars like Bryan Spinks, Geoffrey Wainwright, and Everett Ferguson.  It’s truly a matter of scholarly consensus that a baptismal anointing with the major additional rite associated with baptism in the patristic and medieval periods, although the meaning of that anointing and its status as a full sacrament or as merely a lesser, ancilliary rite remains highly controversial, with no prospect of agreement in sight.

If you really want to check out the evidence, Michael, the briefest summary is probably the short chapter by Canon Fisher and Edward Yarnold on the evolution of the rites of Christian initiation between 500 AD (with John the Deacon in Rome, a figure I didn’t even mention before) to the Reformation in the standard textbook on liturgy these days, The Study of Liturgy, a very balanced, ecumenical work published first by Oxford in 1978, and revised in 1992.  The original editors were Cheslyn Jones (head of Pusey House in Oxford then, representing Anglicans), Edward Yarnold (the Jesuit, representing the RCs), and Geoffrey Wainwright (an English, high church Methodist who teaches at Duke, representing the Protestant world).  After Jones died, he was replaced by Paul Bradshaw of Notre Dame, whom I consider the greatest living liturgical scholar (and an Anglican).  The chapter I’m speaking of by Canon Fisher and Yarnold the Jesuit on the late patristic and medieval development of the iniatory rites is in The Study of Liturgy, pages 144-152.

Full documentation can be found in such splendid collections as Everett Ferguson’s monumental Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology, and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries (published by Eerdmans last year, and running almost 1000 pages; it’s comprehensive, he leaves no stone unturned).  Much shorter and more manageable, however, is the fine summary of the evidence by Yale’s Bryan Spinks, in his Early and Medieval Rituals and Theologies of Baptism: From the NT to the Council of Trent, published by Ashgate in 2006.

You’re free to be skeptical, Michael.  Just check it out and you’ll find I wasn’t exaggerating.

But I will grant you that even if I’m right about the historical evidence, that naturally doesn’t settle the issue theologically as to the propriety (much less the necessity) of including an anointing with chrism (blessed by the bishop) at every baptism.  Certainly it doesn’t settle the debate, if you’re a Protestant or a low church Anglican like yourself.  But I will remind you that it is indeed a part of our Anglican liturgical heritage in that Thomas Cranmer included a chrismation on the forehead in his 1549 BCP, as did Martin Luther with his first attempt at a German baptismal liturgy in 1523.  However, that chrismation was precisely one of the things that Martin Bucer objected to very strongly in his “Censura” of the 1549 book as a nonbiblical rite of merely human origin that was prone to foster superstition and detract from the dignity of the water rite.  Nonetheless, by virtue of its presence in the 1549 BCP, it can’t be denied that a baptismal anointing does have at least a minimal Anglican precedent.

I hope that sheds more light than heat.

David Handy+

[100] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-23-2010 at 09:33 AM · [top]

Sorry for the typos in that long post (#100).  Let me correct a couple glaring ones, so that my meaning is clear.  In the 3rd paragraph, it should read, “You’ll NOTE” the list includes both Latin and Greek fathers.

And in the 5th paragraph, “It’s truly a matter of scholarly consensus that a baptismal anointing WAS the major additional rite…”

Alas, when you’re as verbose as I often am, it’s hard to catch all the mistakes in proofreading a long, complicated post.  Thanks for everyone’s patience.

David Handy+

[101] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-23-2010 at 09:41 AM · [top]

David Handy+ at #100 attempts to defend his claim that:

... the universality of baptismal anointing from the late 2nd century to the Reformation is indeed a FACT, and very well attested.

As I will show in the following post, the evidence very clearly shows the opposite, and indeed indicates that baptismal anointing was not universal in the 3rd century, and probably not in the 4th century.

Re the 2nd century, I earlier pointed out that Justin Martyr writing in 153 AD makes no mention of anointing in the baptism service. “The Didache” in the late first century/early second century also makes no mention of it. That alone should be enough to refute David Handy’s contention of a “universal” practice. But as I shall show below, there are NO positive references to baptismal anointing in the 2nd century, and precious few in the third.

1. David Handy+ wrote:

The earliest witness to a baptismal anointing is Theopilus of Antioch (about 170 AD).

No, it isn’t. The only passage in Theophilos that refers to anointing with oil is in Chapter 12 of Book 1. Because David Handy+ is so fond of claiming that this or that documents says xyz, I think it better to quote the passage in full so that readers can judge for themselves (note that there is a pun here on the greek words for “christ” and “serviceable”):

And about your laughing at me and calling me “Christian,” you know not what you are saying. First, because that which is anointed is sweet and serviceable, and far from contemptible. For what ship can be serviceable and seaworthy, unless it be first caulked [anointed]? Or what castle or house is beautiful and serviceable when it has not been anointed? And what man, when he enters into this life or into the gymnasium, is not anointed with oil? And what work has either ornament or beauty unless it be anointed and burnished? Then the air and all that is under heaven is in a certain sort anointed by light and spirit; and are you unwilling to be anointed with the oil of God? Wherefore we are called Christians on this account, because we are anointed with the oil of God.

It should be obvious that there is no indication in this that Christians were practicing a rite of anointing in their baptism services – every example Theophilos uses is drawn from pagan life; his reference to anointing babies in the 5th sentence appears to be no more than a reference to the common (pagan) practice of anointing children with oil after birth.

2. David Handy+ also wrote:

“and the detailed, anonymous church order known as The Apostolic Tradition, usually attributed to Hippolytus of Rome circa AD 215,...”

This is not academically credible. The work commonly misnamed “apostolic tradition” (it is actually “apostolic regulation” diataxeis apostolike) is of very uncertain authorship and very uncertain date. Eusebius, Jerome and even Photios list numerous works by “Hippolytus”, but they never mention this one. It was discovered in the 19th century and alleged on the most flimsy evidence to have been written by an “anti-pope” in the 3rd century. It is derived from several fragments of latin translation of a Greek original, now lost.

In summary, We cannot safely conclude anything about common practice in the 3rd century from “Apostolic Tradition”, nor even about later centuries.

3. David Handy+ also wrote:

“the patristic witness piles up quickly and would include Origen (about 250), and another anonymous church order known as the Didascalia (about 275 AD).”

This is hardly “piling up quickly”. I agree that Origen in Egypt in the middle of the third century refers to baptismal anointing. The relevance of the Didascalia is limited – it is a late 3rd century Syrian work which appears to be an adaptation of a jewish (non-christian) manual for proselytes, badly adapted as a Christian manual. It may or may not reflect common practice in its own area.

4. David Handy+ also wrote:

“From the 4th century on the data proving that a baptismal anointing was considered essential is just overwhelming: e.g.,...”

Its not “overwhelming”; Its just that by the 4th century we start to see more references to the practice, instead of the occasional and isolated references seen in the third century, and the complete lack of references in the 2nd century.

5. David Handy+ also wrote:

“and is also clear from gnostic writings of the 3rd century like the Acts of Thomas (also from eastern Syria/Parthia).”

Precisely. Many scholars believe that the practice of baptismal chrismation was a Gnostic rite from the 2nd century AD, and which the Christian church then adopted.

“If you really want to check out the evidence, Michael,...”

No, I am already familiar with the evidence which is why I immediately queried your contention.

6. David Handy+ also wrote:

“As for prominent liturgical scholars who support my historical claim that you consider not credible, there are lots of them.  They would include Roman Catholics like Edward Yarnold (SJ), Aidan Kavanaugh, Nathan Mitchell, and Thomas Finn.  Also Anglicans like Paul Bradshaw, Leonel Mitchell, JDC Fisher, Gregory Dix, and Protestant scholars like Bryan Spinks, Geoffrey Wainwright, and Everett Ferguson.”

I can say for a fact that Bryan Spinks and Everett Ferguson do NOT support your contention. Ferguson does think the practice of baptismal anointing was started in the latter half of the 2nd century – but by the Gnostics!

I doubt that any other credible writer supports your historical claim either, although some of the “liturgical scholars” are inclined to adopt tendentious positions on little evidence.

Let’s remember what your “historical claim” was:

And the universality of baptismal anointing from the late 2nd century to the Reformation is indeed a FACT, and very well attested.

Not only is not “a FACT”, but the contrary is “very well attested”. The actual situation is this:

* In the second century we have two clear descriptions of baptism without anointing (Didache and Justin Martyr), and no sources that refer to baptismal anointing at all.

* In the third century we have two clear references to baptismal anointing (Tertullian in Africa and Origen in Egypt) that appear to describe only the rite in their particular area. We also have one or two possible references to such a practice (“Hippolytus” and the Didascalia).

* In the 4th century we finally start to read more widespread references to the practice.

[102] Posted by MichaelA on 7-23-2010 at 11:21 PM · [top]

“9. But in respect of the assertion of some concerning those who had been baptized in Samaria, that when the Apostles Peter and John came, only hands were imposed on them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost, yet that they were not re-baptized; we see that that place does not, dearest brother, touch the present case. For they who had believed in Samaria had believed with a true faith; and within, in the Church which is one, and to which alone it is granted to bestow the grace of baptism and to remit sins, had been baptized by Philip the deacon, whom the same apostles had sent. And therefore, because they had obtained a legitimate and ecclesiastical baptism, there was no need that they should be baptized any more, but only that which was needed was performed by Peter and John; viz., that prayer being made for them, and hands being imposed, the Holy Spirit should be invoked and poured out upon them, which now too is done among us, so that they who are baptized in the Church are brought to the prelates of the Church, and by our prayers and by the imposition of hands obtain the Holy Spirit, and are perfected with the Lord’s seal.”
Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 72

What shall we call that sacrament of “imposition” for the sake of the discussion, if Confirmation as a name is so distracting?  The “sacrament of Impartation” (of the Holy Ghost) seems descriptive.

Then maybe we can get back to the topic at hand.

[103] Posted by Rob Eaton+ on 7-24-2010 at 05:23 AM · [top]

Rob Eaton+,

We have never left the topic at hand. And I am a little surprised at the suggestion that “confirmation as a name” is proving a distraction - all the recent posts seem to be debating issues of substance.

Also, I don’t follow the relevance of your quote from Cyprian. His idea that candidates “obtain” the Holy Spirit through later laying on of hands is not an Apostolic doctrine (Samaria was a special case) and it wasn’t adopted by the Anglican Reformers – it is clear from e.g. the catechism that precedes the 1549 service of “Confirmacion”, that the candidates are assumed already to have the Holy Spirit.

The purpose of Confirmacion in 1549 is to catechize and to confirm. The laying on of hands is done by the Bishop in order to invoke the Holy Spirit to send “the manifold giftes of grace, the spirite of wisdom and understandyng; the spirite of counsell and gostly strength; The spirite of knowledge and true godlinesse” upon mature Christians.

Can we really then say that Cyprian’s doctrine is relevant to an Anglican practice?

[104] Posted by MichaelA on 7-24-2010 at 09:12 AM · [top]

Rob+ (#103),

I thought maybe this thread had died out, but if you’re willing to continue, so am I.  And I too would like to get back to the initial topic you and Fr. Dan Martins were originally discussing. So, if this dance has gotten off on the wrong foot, let’s start all over again.

Since Fr. Martins (who I understand from his own blog is on vacation and thus unable to participate in this thread) helpfully identified where he’s coming from by acknowledging that he was trained in liturgics under Louis Weil at Nashotah in the 1980s, let me do the same.  My own thinking about Christian Initiation has been largely shaped by the prof who trained me in liturgics at Yale in the early 80s, namely, the great (RC) Aidan Kavanaugh.  I took a fantastically rich and stimulating year-long course from him just on Christian Initiation, and it literally revolutionized my whole understanding of that crucial topic.  As you doubtless know, Rob, but other SF readers wouldn’t, Aidan Kavanaugh (OSB) was heavily involved in the drafting of the whole revolutionary Catholic RCIA program and his spectacular book, The Shape of Baptism, and the collection of seminal essays he edited under the very significant title Made, Not Born left a huge, lasting impression on me.

So let me finally answer a question you asked me back in your #43, Rob (which I’m sorry I inadvertently failed to answer, distracted by other things).  Partially in response to my earlier #8, where I first insisted that the ‘79 rubric about Holy Baptism being “full initiation” could only be held to be true if you supplied the implied word “sacramental” before the phrase “full initiation,” you asked me, appropriately enough, how that idea of mine related to the point you made at the end of our #43.  For there you asserted, correctly I think, that God doesn’t “reserve the prayer for empowerment in the Spirit only to bishops” and you seemed to suggest that one way to justify the essentially brand newrite called (somewhat misleadingly) “Confirmation” in the ‘79 BCP was to see it as an opportunity for people who hadn’t received “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” (understood in the charismatic/Pentecostal sense) to do so when the bishop visits and lays his (or her) apostolic hands on them.  Then you asked me how I’d respond to that proposal in light of my prior insistence that Holy Baptism (understood as a single, integrated rite consisting of the bath, the anointing with chrism, and first communion) constitutes only “full sacramental initiation,” rather than full initiation per se.

And I’m happy to say that I have no problem whatsoever with your proposal, Rob.  As a charismatic myself, I’m naturally very supportive of it.  And I’ve alluded more than once above to the truth of John 3:8, i.e., that “the wind blows where it wills,” or as Luke 11:13 promises, that our Heavenly Father is more than happy to give the Holy Spirit to those who ask, whether for the first or the 1000th time.

But personally, I strongly prefer to use the language of being “filled” with the Spirit for such an experience, rather than the old Pentecostal language of being “baptized” in the Spirit, precisely because the latter phrase inevitably suggests a once-for-all event, rather than the repeatable one that I understand “being filled with the Spirit” to be (ala Luke in Acts and similarly the writer of Ephesians’ use of the present continuative tense in the command to “Be filled with the Spirit” in Eph. 5:18).

And yes, I’m all for eagerly expecting some charismatic manifestations of the Spirit to follow such prayers, by the bishop or others, for people to be thus “empowered” (as you rightly put it) for ministry and witness in Christ’s name.

David Handy+

[105] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-24-2010 at 10:21 AM · [top]

MichaelA (#102),

I’m glad to see from your #102 that you’ve done more research in this important area than I supposed, but I’m also very frustrated with you since you seem to be stuck in a very hostile debate mode where you interpret everything I say in the most negative way possible, sometimes distorting my views in the process.

I stand by the sweeping historical claim I made above, namely, the one that the practice of some sort of baptismal anointing was universal (except of course, I’ll add now, in the relatively common case of the emergency baptism of babies in danger of dying) FROM THE END OF THE SECOND CENTURY to the Reformation.  That is, I concede that supporters of the propriety of a baptismal chrismation like myself can’t PROVE such chrismations originated before the time of Tertullian about AD 200.  But I never claimed that, Michael.

As for Theophilus of Antioch, yes, I’ll readily grant that it’s not totally certain that the passage you helpfully cited above is more than metaphorical, but most liturgical scholars still think it probably does refer to an external ritual anointing, although no one can prove it one way or the other.  Just see Leonel Mitchell’s classic work, Baptismal Anointing (1966), which remains the gold standard on the complicated history of that part of the ancient initiatory rites.

And yes, Michael, I’m very well aware of the fierce debates being waged among scholars about the unity, provenance, and dating of The Apostolic Tradition.  That’s precisely why I refered to it as only “usually” attributed to Hippolytus of Rome, simplifying matters for the sake of most readers here.  But if you check out the recent fine commentary on that most important of early church orders, Michael, namely the Hermeneia one, you’ll see that it’s editors, including the Paul Bradshaw and Maxwell Johnnson I mentioned above as outstanding liturgical scholars, think that the section of the AT dealing with baptism and the catechumenate is probably the earliest core of that continually evolving document, and dates to the late second century.

But all this nitpicky stuff probably isn’t best suited for a general blog like this, and as Fr. Eaton has reminded us, it’s not the topic he had in mind when this whole discussion started with Fr. Martins.  If you genuinely want to hash these things out with me, Michael, I’m willing to do so privately.  But instead, you seem intent on distorting my views in order to try to score some cheap debating points.  And I have no desire to play such games.

David Handy+

[106] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-24-2010 at 10:39 AM · [top]

[106] David Handy+

I’m also very frustrated with you since you seem to be stuck in a very hostile debate mode where you interpret everything I say in the most negative way possible, sometimes distorting my views in the process.

For the record, I do not think this is a fair characterization.  What I see is stuff like this.  You say:

The earliest witness to a baptismal anointing is Theopilus of Antioch (about 170 AD).

That’s a definitive assertion, David.  There is no hedging in this sentence.  MichealA responds by citing the passage in question.  Anyone reading the cite ( and you admitted it was the correct cite) will not see within it a definitive witness to baptismal anointing.  So you respond:

As for Theophilus of Antioch, yes, I’ll readily grant that it’s not totally certain that the passage you helpfully cited above is more than metaphorical, but most liturgical scholars still think it probably does refer to an external ritual anointing, although no one can prove it one way or the other.

Whether you will admit it or not, that is a significant retreat from your previous position that does great damage to your credibility.  You did that to yourself.  MichaelA just helpfully pointed it out.

MichaelA isn’t guilty of distorting your position.  He isn’t guilty of focusing on “nitpicky stuff.”  He is simply dismantling your argument in a civil and methodical manner.  It may feel unpleasant to you, but that really isn’t his fault.

carl

[107] Posted by carl on 7-24-2010 at 11:25 AM · [top]

Rob+,

I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but I guess I was preoccupied with other issues that came up on this thread earlier, but now that I’m much more clearly aware of the particular topic you wanted to focus on, let me add yet one more fine book to the many I’ve recommended above.

And that’s the splendid book by two Roman Catholc charismatic scholars called Christian Initiation and Baptism in the Holy Spirit: Evidence from the First Eight Centuries, published by Pueblo in 1991.  The authors are Kilian McDonnell (OSB) and George ap Montague (SM), with Montague (a past president of the Catholic Biblical Association and former editor of the important journal CBQ) covering the biblical evidence, and McDonnell covering the patristic evidence.

I think the relevance of this excellent historical and theological study will become readily apparent if I quote from the Precis at the start:

Up to now the explanations of baptism in the Holy Spirit were based on NT texts, whose interpretation was disputed.  Now eleven post-biblical texts have been identified demonstrating how the early Christian authors understood baptism in the Holy Spirit.  The evidence makes clear that the imparting of charisms, including the prophetic charisms, belong to the celebration (baptism, confirmation, Eurcharist) by which new believers were made part of the Christian community and therefore Christians.

Note the link the authors are concerned to establish between the rites of Christian Initiation and “the imparting of the charisms.”  They go on:

Kilian McDonnell examines the post-biblical texts.  These texts testify to the historical span, geographical extension, and linguistic differention of theologies, liturgies, and cultures, which places the charisms within, or in reference to, initiation.

And among the eleven patristic writers cited by McDonnell are such major figures as Tertullian, writing in Latin in North Africa (Carthage) about AD 200; Hilary of Poitiers, also writing in Latin but in Gaul about 350 AD; Cyril of Jerusalem, writing in Greek in Palestine about the same time; and two of the great Cappadocians: Basil of Caesarea (in AD 366 and then 374-75) and Gregory of Nazianzus when he was Patriarch of Constantinople in 380 AD, both writing in Greek, of course.  Also great Greek Father McDonnell treats is John Chrysostom (in baptismal homilies given while he was just a priest in Antioch, about 390).

And then among the Syriac leaders of the Church of the (far) East, he cites Philoxenus of Mabbug (about AD 500) and Joseph Hazzaya (about AD 700) at Qardu (in modern Iraq).  And as the authors point out and stress:

Almost the ole of the Mediterranean zeaborad bears witness, representing Latin, Greek, and Syriac cutlures.

In brief, these authors demonstrate that the experience of baptism in the HOly Spirit is integral [or intrinsic] to Christian initiation.  Therefore it belongs not to [the realm of] private piety but to public liturgy.  If baptism in the Holy Spirit is integral to those sacraments, which are constitutive of the Church, then baptism in the Spirit [understood in the Pentecoastal/charismatic sense, with the accompanying charisms] is normative.

And the book contains not one but two letters of endorsement from two American Catholic bishops who are themselves charismatic.  And this important historical study bears the following dedication at the front:

To Leo Cardinal Suenens,
who led the Catholic charismatic renewal into the heart of the Church

And let it be noted, that all eleven of the patristic authorities cited by McDonnell as seeing a charismatic dimension to Christian Initiation as involving and sacramentally mediating “the baptism in the Holy Spirit” (that I prefer to call “being filled with the Spirit”) were Church Fathers who practiced, and were theologizing on the basis of, a unified initiatory service that included not only an immersion in water, but also a ritual anointing with oil either before or after the washing.  Moreover, that multifaceted initiatory service was capped off with the first communion of the newly baptized (in the majority of cases, that meant adult converts from paganism).

Rob, if you’re not familiar with that splendid work by two outstanding Catholic charismatic scholars, I think you’d find it quite congenial.  I certainly do.  I also find it very convincing, both historically and theologically.

David Handy+
3-D Christian

[108] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-25-2010 at 03:32 PM · [top]

carl (#107),

I’m afraid you’re engaging in wishful thinking, brother.  MIchaelA has by no means been “dismantling” my argument in “a civil and methodical manner,” as you suppose.  Rather, he has made a whole series of blatant errors in the process of trying to attack aspects of my position above.

At the risk of appearing extemely arrogant and dogmatic (and taking the thread off topic again), let me again try to set the record straight.  As you’ll recall, carl, back in #92, in frustration, I blurted out that Michael was entitled to his opinions (as we all are), but he was NOT entitled to his own FACTS.  I stand by that rather harsh and provocative jibe.

As you know, MichaelA has asserted that I’m “not credible” in my sweeping claim that a baptismal anointing (not necessarily with chrism, I might add) was universally associated with baptism from the end of the 2nd century to the Reformation.  I continue to stand by that strong claim.  It’s indeed well attested, as I would think anyone really familiar with the overwhelming historical evidence would agree, unless they had some really big axe to grind against baptismal anointings or adding any other rites to the baptismal washing itself.

You don’t believe me?  Here’s a similar sweeping statement by profesor Leonel Mitchell (formerly of Seabury-Weatern) in his classic and widely acclaimed study, Baptismal Anointing.  In the first page of his Introduction he flatly declares, “In the present study we shall attempt to examine one aspect of these [initiatory] rites, the anointing with oil which accompanies baptism in all Christian liturgies from at least the third to the fifteenth centuries.”  Now yes, Leonel Mitchell is an Anglo-Catholic, but he’s a moderate one and by no means committed to the extreme Gregory Dix-Lionel Thornton line that makes “Confirmation” necessary to salvation, and more importantly, he’s a good liturgical scholar who here is simply making an objective, factual observation that’s verifiable.  A baptismal anointing of some sort is in fact found in ALL extant baptismal liturgies “from AT LEAST the third to the fifteenth centuries.”

My friend, that is a plain historical fact that’s verifiable (or theoretically, falsifiable).  And MichaelA has not pointed to a single historical exception, i.e., he hasn’t cited a single liturgy of Christian initiation after the end of the 2nd century that omits a baptismal anointing (until the Reformation, of course).  And he hasn’t done so because there are none to be found.

And perhaps more pertinently, Dr. Mitchell is also quite right when he says by way of summary, also in his Introduction (p. svii) that, “The rejection of anointing out of hand by the Reformers as unscriptural [in the sense of anti-scriptural] and medieval can no longer be sustained.

I’ll stop there, carl.  But if you somehow vainly imagine that MichaelA has the better of the historical argument, you’re quite mistaken,  His sometimes wild and inaccurate statements above seem driven by his extreme Protestantism.  In that regard, his idiosyncratic views are as unrepresentative of the mainstream of liturgical scholarship as his peculiar Puritan and hyper-Protestant theological views are unrepresentative of worldwide Anglicanism today.

David Handy+

[109] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-25-2010 at 04:11 PM · [top]

David Handy+,

1.  Firstly, if this thread has gone off-topic (which I don’t think it has), the responsibility lies with you. You have authored almost one third of the posts on this thread (which must be something of a Stand Firm record) and you have pushed this particular barrow from post #7, where you asserted that baptismal anointing was

“...the ancient catholic model, which has thankfully been revived since Vatican II by the Roman Catholic Church in the now familiar RCIA program, the Rite for the Christian Initiation of Adults. And that ancient model remains the proper theological norm, no matter at what age people are received into the Church.”

As I have shown, this is incorrect. It is not a model that is either ancient or catholic, unless one’s version of “catholic” means ignoring the Apostolic and Sub-Apostolic periods, and anything else prior to the 3rd century AD.

2. You then went on to push this particular issue on the basis of “I can drop some names, and I assert that modern scholarship supports my position, so no-one is allowed to dispute what I say”. You appear to have read somewhat within a fairly narrow range, but to be unfamiliar with the original sources, patristic or otherwise.

3. You wrote:

“His sometimes wild and inaccurate statements above seem driven by his extreme Protestantism.  In that regard, his idiosyncratic views are as unrepresentative of the mainstream of liturgical scholarship as his peculiar Puritan and hyper-Protestant theological views are unrepresentative of worldwide Anglicanism today.”

Firstly, I am not interested in “liturgical scholarship” (which is not a recognised discipline, except by the narrow group who claim it) but in “scholarship”.

Secondly, in so far as my academic background is relevant, I took my degree from a secular faculty (mainly agnostic Jews, FWIW). One thing they laid great emphasis on, was checking sources.

4. You quote from a “Professor Leonel Mitchell” who asserts that anointing accompanied baptism “in all Christian liturgies from at least the third to the fifteenth centuries.”

The short answer to this is that quoting an assertion by some academic somewhere doesn’t add anything to the debate. You can always find an academic somewhere to support any (and I mean ANY) position. We have the sources, they are readily accessible, and they not only do not support David Handy+ position, they don’t support Professor Mitchell’s (alleged) position either.

As I indicated above, the evidence is clear:

* There is NO evidence that the Apostles practiced baptismal anointing. 

* There is clear evidence from the sub-apostolic period through to the late 2nd century that the early church did not practice baptismal anointing either.

* There are references in Gnostic works from at least the early 3rd century and possibly earlier to a Gnostic practice of baptismal anointing.

* However, the first reference we get to baptismal anointing (aside from Gnostic sources) is from Tertullian writing in about 208 AD, i.e. early in the third century. There is no indication that he was describing a practice outside the church in Africa.

* The next reference we get to baptismal anointing is from Origen writing in Egypt in 250 AD. Aside from Tertullian and Origen there are no more clear references to baptismal anointing in the 3rd century (although I agree that the Didascalia might qualify).

* By the 4th century, references to baptismal anointing in the Christian church start to increase.

That pretty well sums it up. “Scholars” who try to spin the historical record another way are simply displaying their irrelevance.

5. You wrote:

“And MichaelA has not pointed to a single historical exception, i.e., he hasn’t cited a single liturgy of Christian initiation after the end of the 2nd century that omits a baptismal anointing (until the Reformation, of course).  And he hasn’t done so because there are none to be found.”

I suspect this is also not accurate (i.e. that there are examples of liturgies lacking baptismal anointing after the 2nd century), however it doesn’t concern me anyway: As the old saying has it: “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence”.

When we have a clear record of the church NOT practicing baptismal anointing in 153 AD, then its not enough to say (as David Handy+ would have it): “we have a single record of baptismal anointing occurring in Africa in 208 AD, so that means it must have been a universal practice by then”. It means nothing of the sort.

6. You wrote:

“Dr. Mitchell is also quite right when he says by way of summary, also in his Introduction (p. svii) that, “The rejection of anointing out of hand by the Reformers as unscriptural [in the sense of anti-scriptural] and medieval can no longer be sustained.””

If “Dr” Mitchell wrote this, then he lacks credibility. The Anglican Reformers were aware that baptismal anointing goes back to the patristic period. They were also aware that there is no reference to it in the New Testament, nor in the sub-apostolic period up to the end of the 2nd century. So far as I am aware, the Anglican reformers did not reject the practice as “anti-scriptural” but as unscriptural, lacking support in the ancient church, and unnecessary. This in turn influenced their view of Confirmation as a rite of catechesis to be administered to mature christians.

The judgment of history still shows that the Anglican Reformers were right.

[110] Posted by MichaelA on 7-25-2010 at 06:57 PM · [top]

Handy,
Carl is right, MichaelA has handed you your head on a platter.  You ‘reference’ some source material, and he quotes it showing that what you’ve claimed when you made the reference isn’t supported by the material, and does so with much more ‘genteel’ language than you use.

[111] Posted by Bo on 7-25-2010 at 08:45 PM · [top]

Bo,

Thank you for your kind words. However, I am about to become markedly less genteel towards David Handy+, for the reason explained in the final part of this post:

I had a bit of a browse around material relating to 3rd and 4th century baptismal practices and found out some interesting tidbits, for example:

* The Apostolic Constitutions (late 4th century) at Book VIII, section II, 8 contains an address “to the baptized” which talks about them having been washed, made clean, spiritually regenerate – but nothing hinting at anointing.

* Methodius (late 3rd century) in his “Banquet of the Ten Virgins”, Discourse I, Chapter VIII spends many paragraphs discussing the significance of baptism, particularly the symbolism of the water, but he does not discuss anointing or oil at all. He also discusses the theological significance and symbolism of oil for Christians. Here if anywhere he would surely have mentioned it as playing a role in baptism, but he doesn’t.

* Lactantius (late 3rd century) in his Institutes IV.15 refers to the baptism of Christ, and the significance of the water. He also refers to the Holy Spirit descending upon Christ at his baptism, but not a word about anointing. He refers to the significance of oil for the Christian at several places, but not a word about its use in baptism.

These were all interesting, but what stopped me in my tracks was when I flicked through Everett Ferguson’s “Baptism in the Early Church: History, Theology and Liturgy in the First Five Centuries”. Readers will note that David Handy+ has cited Ferguson as supporting his thesis, including that baptismal anointing was a universal practice in the Christian church from the late 2nd Century onwards.

At page 574, Ferguson discusses the canons of a council held at Phrygian Laodicea in the latter half of the 4th century. He writes:

“This last quoted canon (48) promotes the post baptismal anointing not everywhere practiced in the East before the late 4th century. Such a canonical regulation implies an act not being done and thus may witness to an effort to generalise a new practice”.

If this is Ferguson’s view, I would like to know why David Handy+ didn’t see fit to inform the List about it, when he claimed Ferguson’s support for a contrary proposition?

[112] Posted by MichaelA on 7-25-2010 at 10:32 PM · [top]

In case any point is taken about post- versus pre-baptismal anointing, I should add for completeness that Ferguson also appears to view this latter eastern practice as of late origin.

At page 512 Ferguson discusses Ephrem the Syrian (mid-4th century) and writes that the pre-baptismal anointing “was not part of the central rite originally”, and, “Bathing practices of the ancient world may have influenced the introduction of this anointing into the ceremony…” (i.e. one anointed oneself with oil or ointment before washing, much as we use soap today).

[113] Posted by MichaelA on 7-26-2010 at 02:21 AM · [top]

MichaelA,

This is getting tedious, brother, and alas, it’s apt to get even uglier if we’re not careful.  I will freely admit that I’ve probably been foolish or at least overactive in dominating this thread the way I have by spouting off on all sorts of aspects of the broad, complicated and often controversial topic of Christian Initiation.  I’ve gone out on a lot of limbs here and taken some quite provocative and inherently divisive stands.

But what I find most puzzling and disturbing, brother, is that instead of challenging me on the points where I’m most vulnerable to criticism (which are generally theological, per se), you’ve chosen to attack me on points where my views are actually least assailable or controversial, i.e., on the historical record when it comes to the practice of a baptismal anointing.

I don’t want to get into a tit-for-tat style of refutation here, Michael, but I will if you continue attacking my scholarly integrity as you have repeatedly above.  I know the primary sources, Michael.  I’ve been studying this whole area in great depth for years now, ever since I took that year-long course in seminary on Christian Initiation from my belowed liturgical mentor, Aidan Kavanagh.

BTW, this is a good point at which to voluntarily admit some mistakes above.  One of which was misspelling, alas, more than once, Dr. Kavanagh’s name (there’s no “u” in it).  That’s merely a sign that I tend to write hastily and don’t always check my spelling carefully enough before hitting the “submit” button.

I will also now concede that I made a more significant mistake back in #63 when I stated erroneously that Tertullian, as a sacramentalist, believed that it was the post-baptismal anointing that actually conveyed the Holy Spirit in the integrated complex of initiation rites practiced in Carthage already in his time.  What I should have said is that Tertullian attirbuted the gift of the Spirit to the laying on of hands, which was also part of the initiatory rites he knew.  And I’ll add here that St. Cyprian, about fifty years later, follows Tertullain in that unusual view.  Both Tertullian and Cyprian were commenting on a complex initiatory service that included BOTH a post-baptismal laying on of hands and a post-baptismal anointing.  However, as time went on, the laying on of hands tended to drop out in patristic usage (even though it has a clear and undeniable biblical precedent whereas anointing does not) and instead the anointing or chrismation assumed more and more importance.

I’m willing to admit mistakes, Michael.  But unfortunately, you don’t seem able to do that.

So, pardon me folks, as I resort to a little payback.  I know it may be foolish or inflammatory, but as Paul said in 2 Cor. when in defending his ministry, he finally engaged in some boasting, “you made me do it.”

Michael, you started getting pretty hostile in your #90, where you made several outrageous statements that I didn’t call you on at the time, lest the thread start shedding a lot more heat than light.  But since you’ve kept up the personal attacks, I’ll list some of the howlers or blatant blunders I was alluding to above.

You asserted (in #90), “Canon Fisher’s somewhat tendentious w2ork is rarely referred to by scholars.”  That is a factual claim, rather than an opinion, and unfortunately for you, it’s easily falsifiable.  Just check out The Study of Liturgy, the most widely used liturgical textobook in the world today (original edition by Oxford U. Press in 1978, revised in 1992).  Two major sections in the long chapter on Christian Initiation are written by Canon Fisher, i.e., the one on medieval developments (pp. 144-152, co-authored with Edward Yarnold), and the section on “Lutheran, Anglican, and Reformed Rites,” (pp. 154-166).  And Canon Fisher’s work is accepted as reliable and foundational by RC liturgical scholar Nathan Mitchell in his short summary on the “Dissolution of the Rite of Christian Initiation” (chapter 3, pages 50-82), in the classic collection of seminal essays edited by my mentor Aidan Kavanagh in the important book, Made, Not Born: New Perspectives on Christian Initiation and the Catechumenate, published by Notre Dame Press in 1976.

IOW, I’m not the one displaying my ignorance and lacking scholarly integrity here, Michael: you are.

You also made the astounding assertion in #90 that, “All we know is an anointing with oil was included in the service in Africa at the beginning of the third century.  There is NO INDICATION that it was more widespread than that.

That is simply untrue.  It’s blatantly and provably untrue.  If you have Everett Ferguson’s big book still on hand (and I have my own copy here in front of me), go back and reread it, Michael.  You seem to have overlooked an awful lot of stuff.  Such as the fact that Book 7 of the Apostolic Constitutions does indeed have a baptismal anointing included in it, only following the custom of the Syriac (east Syrian) tradition, the Apostolic Constitutions puts all the emphasis on a PRE-baptismal anointing, rather than the post-baptismal anointing so familiar from western usage.

I’ll stop there.  I’m sorry to engage in such a sharp, personal attack, Michael.  But you started it, not me.

But let me try to end, anyway, on a more irenic note and offer an olive branch in hopes of returning to a more civil and amicable exchange of views.  I do regard you as my brother in christ, Michael, which is sadly something I can’t say about many of our mutural foes on the left who have abandoned the true gospel.  You, as a partisan of Sydney’s ultra-Protestant form of Anglicanism and I, as a loyal son of the Anglo-Catholic Diocesse of Albany, may live on different theological planets, but at least we inhabit the same solar system and revolve around the same sun, the Divine Son, Jesus Christ.  Alas, the heretical PB of TEC and her ilk, don’t just live on a different planet, they seem to live in a different religious galaxy.  ++Katharine Jeffers Schori is NOT my sister in Christ.  She is, at best, my EX-sister in Christ (and only God knows if she was ever in fact truly a Christian, but I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt on that one).

Reluctantly so polemical,
David Handy+

[114] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-26-2010 at 08:35 AM · [top]

David +,

Thanks so much for your very educational posts on the subject of Confirmation.  It is a matter to which I have never given too much thought except for to agree that it is a Sacrament.  I never had need to defend it but if I ever do your information will prove invaluable.

[115] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 7-26-2010 at 08:50 AM · [top]

[114] David Handy+

I know less than nothing on this subject of baptismal anointing, but I do know shallow argumentation when I see it.  When I read sentences like this:

That is simply untrue.  It’s blatantly and provably untrue.

I simply want to scream “Well, then prove it!”  Offer a cite.  An argument.  Something besides “Look at this long list of scholars who I say agree with me.”  The following is at best an argument form authority that depends upon your credibility. 

That is simply untrue.  It’s blatantly and provably untrue.  If you have Everett Ferguson’s big book still on hand (and I have my own copy here in front of me), go back and reread it, Michael.  You seem to have overlooked an awful lot of stuff.

Except he has already demonstrated examples of you claiming scholars for support when they do not in fact support you.  When you do not respond to his specific examples, but instead run away to other generalities, you undermine the very credibility upon which you have founded your argument.

If you want to convince me, you have to do something besides making a general appeal to your authority as a scholar.  You have to offer specific arguments, and actually interact with what your opponent has said.  Telling him to read 30 pages of a book doesn’t count.  At this point I half expect MichaelA will actually cite something from “Everett Ferguson’s big book” to demonstrate your claims are wrong.  That is pretty much my view of how this thread has gone.

carl

[116] Posted by carl on 7-26-2010 at 08:59 AM · [top]

carl (#116),

Since you readily admit that you’ve never studied the rather arcane and obscure topic of the history of baptismal anointings, and since you share Michael’s ultra-Protestant theological views in general, I don’t blame you for tending to side with him until you can see all the evidence for yourself.  And the same goes for Bo, and doubtless, some other SF readers (if any aare still paying any attention to this old, long thread).

But since you challenged me to put up or shut up, let me lay out just a small bit of the sort of evidence I have in mind and show where Michael’s assertions are often unwarranted or wildly inaccurate.

Go back to MichaelA’s #110.  Under his 3rd point, he has the temerity to admit that, “I’m not interested in ‘liturgical scholarship’ (which is not a recognized discipline…)”  Huh??  Not a recognized discipline??  Well, maybe not in Sydney, but in most of the Anglican world, much less the wider Christian world, Liturgical Studies is indeed a major, recognized scholarly discipline and there is at least one faculty member at any “mainline” seminary who specializes in Liturgics.

Note how under his 4th point, he misses the point completely.  His first 3 bullet points are irrelevant because I’ve never claimed on this thread that the practice of a baptismal anointing or chrismation was clearly attested in the NT or before the late 2nd century.  Instead, I’ve freely admitted that the first probable reference to it is in Theophilus of Antioch about AD 170.  And in any case, my theological assertions about a baptismal chrismation being APPROPRIATE and DESIRABLE don’t depend on when or where the practice explicitly emerges into the clear light of day historically.  I’ve never claimed here that a baptismal anointing was mandatory, or biblically demanded, or necessary for salvation, or anything of that sort.  I’ve merely been trying to defend the recovery of that ancient practice as one that’s entirely COMPATIABLE with the thrust of Holy Scripture in underlining the absolutely central aspect of Christian Initiation that involves receiving the precious gift of the Holy Spirit (and hopefully, the charisms he brings as well).

More importantly, the valid principle that Michael rightly insists on under his fifth point, “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” can of course be turned against him.  That’s a two-edged sword that cuts both ways.  Namely, it’s equally true that the absence of any explicit and incontrovertible evidence of a regular practice of anointing new converts at baptism before AD 200 is no proof that it didn’t happen before then.  It just shows that no such practice is attested in our extant records.

More disturbing, however, is the way Michael grossly distorts my views by putting in my mouth words (with reference to the lack of any mention of a baptismal anointing in Justin Martyr in the mid 2nd century, i.e., his First Apology, chapters 61-67).  He attributes to me an idea that I would reject just as much as he does.  That’s the kind of thing I meant when I objected earlier to his tendency to distort my views as well as distorting the historical record.

Similarly in his #113, Michael again misses my point when trying to refute me.  He cites some comments about baptism made in passing by Methodius and Lactantius that don’t happen to touch on the matter of baptismal anointing, but that in no way stands as counterevidence to my actual claims.  Remember that what Dr. Leonel Mitchell and I claimed was that no actual LITURGY that survives from the ancient or medieval world lacks some sort of baptismal anointing.  I never claimed that every patristic writer that ever says anything about baptism also includes mention of an anointing along with it.  But the extant LITURGICAL TEXTS always include a ritual anointing after the time of Tertuallian and the Apostolic Tradition, i.e., from about AD 200 onward.

As for his reference to Everett Ferguson’s citation of a local church canon from Phrygian Laodicea in the late 4th century, there I may have to grant that there could be minor exceptions here and there when it comes to church canons (as opposed to liturgical texts).  But please note that the general drift of that same canon actually tends to SUPPORT my position.  Namely, the very fact that Ferguson says that canon 48 mandates a POST-baptismal that wasn’t practiced EVERYWHERE in the East before the late 4th century implies that such a POST-baptismal anointing was indeed practiced EVERYWHERE thereafter.  And as Michael’s #114 implicitly admits, even in the case of that obscure local canon, it by no means excludes the historical likelihood that the churches being referred to practiced the PRE-baptismal anointing that was traditional in the East (and well attested from the 3rd century onwards, as in the Didascalia and the Gnostic Acts of Thomas).

IOW, I’m not the one playing fast and loose with the historical data here; Michael is.  He throws out isolated little bits of data while ignoring the overall patterns.

But just to show that I have indeed studied the original sources myself and am at least as familiar with them as Michael is, let me point to another local church canon that I find much more significant.  Canon 2 of the (N. African) Council of Orange in 441 AD roundly declared, “By no means should any minister who accepts the duty of baptizing proceed without chrism.

And as for the Apostolic Constitutions, which Michael has erroneously claimed lacks any hint of a baptismal anointing, he seems to have overlooked the repeated reference to such an anointing in Book 7.22, 27, and 44.

But when it comes to seeing the big picture, carl, you have to think it terms of a really big jigsaw puzzle with at least 500 or 1000 pieces.  You can’t cite a few scattered bits of evidence and then say they represent the whole picture, as Michael has done.  That’s why I have kept referring to the most prominent experts on this obscure topic, namely liturgical scholars like Canon J.D.C. Fisher and Professor Leonel Mitchell, who made digging out that little hall closet of church history their specialty.

I know this kind of rather nasty exchange isn’t very edifying, and it’s certainly far from the kind of discussion that Fr. Dan Martins and Fr. Rob Eaton had in mind, but then again, I didn’t start the nastiness, Michael did.

David Handy+

[117] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-26-2010 at 10:01 AM · [top]

Following this contentious debate inspired me to consult the few books I have on the liturgy. What I’ve read certainly seems to support Fr. Handy’s arguments here (and I freely admit I’m theologically inclined to agree with him), like this lengthy passage from Pastor Frank C. Senn’s Christian Liturgy: Catholic and Evangelical:

The Spirit-moment in Christian baptism came to be associated with the rite of baptismal anointing. It is not surprising that the practice of anointing arose as an integral part of Christian initiation, as in 1 John 2:20 (“you have been anointed by the Holy One”) and possibly even in 2 Corinthians 1:22 (“God establishes us…by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hears as a first installment”). Some commentators, of course, have regarded these allusions to anointing as figurative and not referring to an actual rite of anointing. On the other hand, if the actual practice of anointing is discounted, it is difficult to account for the sudden appearance of such rites in the second century. We need to remember that apart from the common use of oil in bathing in the Greco-Roman world, anointing had an even more recognized place in the Jewish ritual repertoire (e.g., the anointing of prophets, kings, and priests in the Old Testament). So it is not surprising that the church adopted anointing as an integral part of baptism. On the other hand, the use of such rites as explications of the Spirit’s presence and work in Holy Baptism need not lead to the conclusion that such rites actually “gave” the Spirit to the newly baptized, as Dix and others maintained.
    With the exception of the Didache which could be the unique witness of a Jewish Christian community, a Spirit-moment did develop in the Christian baptismal rites of the second century. It is present in the Syrian Acts of Thomas, in which we see the pattern of anointing/water bath/eucharist that was to become normative in the Syrian Orient. This pattern is also evident in the Didascalia Apostolorum and in the Armenian liturgy and is commented on by John Chrysostom and Narsai of Nisibis.
    In the Greco-Roman pattern of baptism described in Justin Martyr’s First Apology chapters 61 and 65, the newly baptized are received into the assembly of the faithful for the kiss of peace, the prayers, and the eucharist after being baptized in a “place where there is water.” What this reception amounted to half a century later can be seen in Tertullian’s treatise On Baptism and in Hippylytus’s Apostolic Tradition. Both authors were very conservative and opposed novelty, especially in sacramental practice. According to both authors, the reception of the newly baptized included a post-baptismal anointing with chrism (Tertullian) or the oil of thanksgiving (Hippolytus)....

.

I apologize for the long post, but found those few paragraphs to be a helpful summary.

[118] Posted by JoshuaB on 7-26-2010 at 10:04 AM · [top]

Paula (#115),

Thanks for your kind words.  I’m glad at least someone is getting something positive out of this thread.

David Handy+

[119] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-26-2010 at 10:16 AM · [top]

JoshuaB (#118),

Likewise, thanks for backing me up, Joshua.  The position I’ve been arguing, at least as far as the HISTORICAL evidence goes, is the mainstream, consensus view of liturgical scholars.

For the sake of furthering the educational value of this thread, let it be noted that the 1979 BCP was not alone in seeking to recover the unity of the ancient initiatory rites of washing, anointing, and first communion (including young children, i.e., regardless of age), and making provision for an OPTIONAL chrismation (i.e., doing the consignation [making the sign of the cross on the forehead] with special perfumed oil consecrated by the bishop) in the process.  Namely, the same provision for an optional chrismation is made by the ELCA in their 1978 LBW (Lutheran Book of Worship) and by the Church of England in their 1980 ASB (Alternative Services Book). 

But again, in all three cases it’s optional, although a growing number of Lutheran and Anglican churches are rediscovering the value of including such a ritual anointing in order to highlight the crucial role of the Holy Spirit in baptism.  After all, as John the Baptizer said, he only baptized with water, but the Coming One, Jesus, would bring a greater baptism, one with the Holy Spirit (and fire).  And the baptism of our Lord himself provides the normative model of what is supposed to happen at every baptism, i.e., that the newly baptized receive the Holy Spirit and are empowered for ministry, just as the Christ, The Anointed One, was anointed by the Spirit at his baptism in the Jordan.  A ritual chrismation helps brings out that crucial truth and make it vivid, if nothing else.

Of course, in the Roman Catholic (and eastern Orthodox) tradition, such chrismations aren’t optional at all, but rather are required in the case of adult converts, who are always “confirmed” by the local priest with chrism blessed by the bishop (if the bishop isn’t present himself).

David Handy+

[120] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-26-2010 at 10:30 AM · [top]

It is the practice of the Eastern Catholic Churches to administer all three sacraments of initiation to infants as well as to adult converts.

[121] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 7-26-2010 at 10:39 AM · [top]

Handy,
You’re not only playing ‘fast and lose’ with history, you’re doing so with your own statements!  You’re doing so with the stuff you’ve (finally) begun to cite as well.

But just to show that I have indeed studied the original sources myself and am at least as familiar with them as Michael is, let me point to another local church canon that I find much more significant.  Canon 2 of the (N. African) Council of Orange in 441 AD roundly declared, “By no means should any minister who accepts the duty of baptizing proceed without chrism.”

Shows the MINISTER (who accept the the duty of baptising others) must have the chrism, not the one Baptised.  That supports ‘baptism’ being by ‘license’ (like preaching is today) - or otherwise restricted to certain ministers, but it says nothing about anointing those baptised.

Your claim of Universality in the Early Church - not proven, and now abandoned, even by you, and that claim was the one you used to disparage the reformers.  I think the term is ‘fail’ today for such an event.  In this case ‘historic fail’ as well as ‘theological fail’.  You’ve lost on the text of scriptures (even trying show sacramental effectiveness of baptism from scripture was a fool’s errand), you’ve lost on the known documents from the early Church, and barely managed a ‘good effort’ passing mark on the argument from ‘accepted scholars’.

Thanks be to God that you’re not the seminarian you seem to wish to be…

[122] Posted by Bo on 7-26-2010 at 10:41 AM · [top]

Gosh, Bo, that strikes even me as a bit harsh, and I’m used to trading barbs in graduate seminars. I expect a higher level of debate among Christian brothers and sisters. It’s perfectly fine to disagree with Fr. Handy, even to believe that he’s failed to make a convincing argument for his position. But I’ve been astonished by the sharpness of your comments.

[123] Posted by JoshuaB on 7-26-2010 at 10:51 AM · [top]

Welcome to the club, JoshuaB (#123),

I’ve also been astonished by some of the violent, vitriolic reactions displayed here by some of the most ardent defenders of the Protestant Reformers, even though I’ve run across such extreme reactions before.  It’s as if they feel I’ve somehow gravely impugned the integrity or trustworthiness of the Reformers, when I’ve done my best to be even-handed and I’ve been equally critical of the Catholics at the time of the Reformation, as far as their ignorance of early liturgical history goes.

Let me try to illustrate what I mean.  We have to remember that in the 1500s, and especially the early to mid 1500s, the printing press hadn’t been around long, and thus most of the relevant patristic data was buried in handwritten manuscripts tucked away in various libraries and monasteries.  Nobody, and I do mean NO ONE in the early 1500s had a good grasp on how the originally unified rites of Christian Initiation had gradually separated and drifted apart in the preceding thousand years.  And of course, for both Catholics and Protestants to be ignorant of that complicated history when the source material necessary for understanding it just wasn’t available (for all practical purposes) is no fault of theirs.  I don’t blame them in the least.

However, to REMAIN wilfully ignorant about that historical reality now that the historical data has come to light and been widely published is another matter completely.  It seems rather like the proverbial ostrich sticking its neck in the sand and refusing to learn.

Moreover, I’ve actually gone out of my way to pay tribute to the Reformers on this thread for what I consider their great contribution in the area of Christian Initiation, i.e., recovering a biblical emphasis on the absolute centrality and necessity for personal faith and repentance from sin on the part of all who would claim the name of Christian.  I believe the Reformers were completely right about that.

However, it’s instructive to see that Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Bucer, Cranmer, Ridley, and the rest of the Reformers weren’t the only ones concerned about that in their time.  The best example I know of this is that the first person to recommend the typically Protestant idea that it would be good for those baptized in infancy to own the faith for themselves in some solemn rite when they came of age was actually the Catholic reformer Erasmus.  In 1522, this devout man, the most renowned scholar of his day, and by no means a hardcore defender of everything the Catholic Church did, made this striking proposal:

It seems to me that it would be not (just) moderately conducive to this matter if boys [I guess girls are off the hook] who are baptized, when they arrive at puberty, were ordered (sic!) to be present at discourses (i.e., sermons) of this sort in which it is clearly declared to them what the baptismal profession involves…
They should be asked whether they ratify what their godparents promised in their name in baptism.  If they answer that they ratify it, then let that profession be renewed in public at a gathering of their equals, and that with solemn ceremonies…These things will indeed have greater authority if they are performed by the bishops themselves, not by the parish priest.
”  (J.D.C. Fisher, Christian Initiation: The Reformation Period, p. 169).

Now Erasmus sought many reforms in the life of the 16th century church, but the reforms he called for were mainly moral rather than doctrinal.  He didn’t criticize the Catholic Church leaders for what they taught, but for not practicing what they preached.

Still, it’s significant that the idea of coming up with some kind of puberty rite to complete the sacramental initiation of those baptized in infancy (i.e., almost everyone in Europe except Jews) came from Erasmus the Catholic reformer, not the Protestants.  But it was the Protestants who took the ball and ran with it and creatively devised what is essentially a brand newrite, almost ex nihilo, from the prayers that accompanied the ancient rite of episcopal handlaying and anointing with chrism that was originally inseparable from baptism.

Such are the ironies of history.

David Handy+

[124] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-26-2010 at 12:49 PM · [top]

Paula (#121),

You’re right, and it’s not just the Eastern rite Catholics but the whole eastern Orthodox tradition that administers all three rites of inititaion to those baptized at any age.  Thanks for adding that detail.

But that fact actually helps get back to a point I’ve been harping on very insistently on this thread, which is the need to avoid confusing “full sacramental initation” with what the first rubric in the 1979 BCP rite of Holy Baptism misleadingly calls “full initiation” (as if the sacramental rites were all that there is to Christian initiation, especially when it comes to infants and young children).

To amplify and clarify what I said far above, I myself am fully convinced that it was a prvoidential and good thing that the Episcopal HoB in the 1970s insisted on retaining a later rite called “Confirmation,” even if they did it for all the wrong reasons.  Namely, there was (and there remains) a grave danger that TEC would fall into the same trap as the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Christians and regard the sacramental initiation of infants as all that was needed.  Maybe in a Christendom world like theirs where the whole culture was bonded inseparably with the Christian faith, and especially when that Christian culture was surrounded by a very hostile Muslim or Commununist society that would reinforce the distinctiveness and costliness of what it means to be authentically Christian, maybe I say that made sense in the historical context in which Eastern Christians have lived since the middle of the first millenium.

But I don’t think it makes sense anymore, in our western, post-Christendom world.  Nowadays, in our contemporary social context, we DARE NOT keep equating full sacramental initiation with full Christian initiation.  Or as Fr. Terry Fullam said, we need to stop thinking that sacramentalizing people is a substitute for evangelizing people.

And I give the Protestant Reformers due credit for rightly insisting upon that crucial reality.

David Handy+

[125] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-26-2010 at 01:10 PM · [top]

More on the Reformers.  Having just reaffirmed the great debt the whole Christian world owes to the Reformers insistence upon a personal faith and genuine conversion, let me now try to illustrate something of the rather strange vehemence with which some of the leading Protestant Reformers denounced the episcopal rite of chrismation.  Luther and Calvin in particular seemed to heap abuse upon the twin ideas that:

1. it was necessary for a bishop to have anything to do with admission into the Church, and

2. that it was necessary to be chrismated or “christened” (and yes, the applying of chrism is what lies behind the use of the old term “christening” for baptism).

For example, in his great early theological manifesto of 1520 called The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, attacking the whole sacramental system of the medieval church, Martin Luther wrote with relative restraint (compared to later):

I am not saying this because I condemn the seven sacraments as usages, but because I deny that it can be proved from Scripture that these usages are sacraments.  O would that there were in the church the kind of laying on of hands that obtained in the time of the apostles, wether we preferred to call it confirmation or healing!  But nothing of this remains nowadays except what the Romanists have devised TO EMBELLISH THE DUTIES OF BISHOPS, LEST THEY BE ENTIRELY WITHOUT FUNCTION IN THE CHURCH…(I added the caps, but cf. the attitude of the HoB!)

What is required above all else for constituting a sacrament is that it should be accompanied by a divine promise…But nowhere do we read that Christ gave a promise in regard to confirmation, although he placed his hands on many people.”  (J.D.C. Fisher, Christian Inititiation: The Reformation Period, p. 171).

But later Luther got more worked up over the travesty and mockery of true religion that he believed Confirmation had become.  In a sermon in 1522 Luther heaped scorn on the rite with these words:

I allow that confirmation be administered, provided that it is known that God has said nothing about it, and knows nothing of it, AND THAT WHAT THE BISHOPS ALLEGE ABOUT IT IS FALSE.  They mock our God in saying that it is a sacrament of God, when it is a merely human invention.”  (J.D.C. Fisher, The Reformation Period, p. 172).

It should be noted that while Luther wrote his own German liturgy for baptism (actually twice, and the first attempt in 1523 included a minor baptismal anointing that was dropped in the later 1526 vversion), and although Luther produced a catechetical masterpiece with his magnificent Shorter Catechism (along with a longer one), Luther NEVER produced a liturgy for confirmation, and left that up to the local pastor to devise.

I’ll stop here and take up Calvin and his vitriolic attacks on chrismation in a later post.

David Handy+

[126] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-26-2010 at 01:43 PM · [top]

OK, here’s the sort of incredible rants and ravings that Calvin published from time to time in heaping abuse upon the medieval rite of episcopal chrismation.  Again, I’m taking this stuff from J.D.C. Fisher (ibid., pages 254f.), an Anglo-Catholic who simply lets these violent diatribes go without comment.  He didn’t need to say anything critical.  Let’s just say that it doesn’t show Calvin at his best:

In his attempted refutation of the decrees of Trent, Calvin roundly declared:

I hasten to declare that I am certainly not of the number of those who think that confirmation (i.e., chrismation) as observed under the Roman papacy is an ‘idle ceremony,’ inasmuch as I regard it as ONE OF THE DEADLY WILES OF SATAN.  Let us remember that this pretended sacrament is nowhere recommended in Scripture, either under this name or with this ritual.

But in other places, he really vented his anger at the practice, as in his famous Institutes of the Christian Religion, where he demands with righteous indignation:

...even if they (the Romanists) could prove themselves to imitate the apostles in the imposition of hands…whence do they derive their oil, which they call ‘the oil of salvation?’  Who has taught them to seek salvation in oil??”  (IV.19.5) 

And in his justly famous Commentary on Acts 8, he further assails the use of chrism with these intemperate words:

And with this they joined DETESTABLE BLASPHEMY, because they said that baptism only gives the forgiveness of sins, and that the Spirit of regeneration is given by THAT ROTTEN OIL which they presumed to bring in without the word of God.

Or returning to his “Antidote” to the Council of Trent, Calvin waxed even more vehement, if possible:

But the Papists are worthy of no pardon, who being not content with the ancient rite (i.e., the water rite alone), durst thrust in ROTTEN AND FILTHY ANOINTING, that it might be not only a confirmation of baptism, but also a more worthy sacrament, whereby they imagine that the faithful are made perfect who were before only half perfect, whereby those are armed against the battle, who before had only their sins forgiven them.  For they have not been afraid to spew out these HORRIBLE BLASPHEMIES…Thus a half of the efficacy of baptism is lopped off.

Whew!  How do you like that example of “ecumenical dialogue,” 16th century style?  And let it be noted that, like Luther, Calvin never produced a liturgy for confirmation, since he was so utterly opposed to anything that smacked of the medieval kind he deplored.

Well, JoshuaB, maybe now you can better understand something of the violent reaction of those loyal defenders of the Reformation such as MichaelA and carl.  In some ways, they are merely following the example of their Reformation heroes, who held nothing back in their fierce denunciation of the medieval rite of episcopal chrismation.

Compared with Luther and Calvin, Thomas Cranmer comes off as very mild and moderate indeed, a real Via Media guy.  At least, following the example of Martin Bucer, he saw value in a service of adolescent confirmation of the baptismal vows undertaken by proxy as infants and provided rites for it in both 1549 and 1552.

So it looks like Confirmation is a subject that has stirred up some might strong emotions and fierce language before.  But hopefully we Anglicans can return to a more civil way of exchanging opinions about it.

David Handy+

[127] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-26-2010 at 02:15 PM · [top]

carl (#116),

You dared me to produce more of the massive data I keep talking about with regard to how common and important was the baptismal anointing in patristic times.  It would get quickly tedious to cite passages, and that’s why I have refrained from doing so.

And having beaten up on MichaelA a fair bit already, I hesitate to “pile on” a whole lot more, but let me simply show by a few select examples why I think his attempts to refute my historical claims have been so weak and misleading.  Back in his #112, our brother from Down Under, after admitting to doing only “a bit of a browse” at the 3rd and 4th century evidence, made the startling (to me) assertion that the late 4th century Church Order known as The Apostolic Constitutions, contained “nothing hinting at anointing.”  Well, that’s because he browsed only at Book 8 of that very long document.

Let me actually cite some of the relevant material from earlier parts of The Apostolic Constitutions.  By way of background, this is an anonymous composite work, thought by scholars to have been put together by a Syrian bishop around AD 375 or 380 and it includes portions of the much earlier church orders known as The Didache (early 2nd century), the Didascalia Aposolorum (about 275 AD) and not least, the crucial but mysterious Roman church order known as The Apostolic Tradition (modern editor Paul Bradshaw dates the crucial chapter 21 on baptism around 225 AD).

OK.  In Book III, section 16, we find the following rubrics that refer to both a pre-baptismal anointing with regular oil and a post-baptismal anointing with chrism:

You…O bishop…shall anoint the head of those that are being baptized, whether men or women, with the holy oil…After that, either you, O bishop, or a presbyter under you, shall baptize them in the water…And after that, let the bishop anoint with chrism those that have been baptized.

And in Book VII, section 22f., we find little more about the meaning seen in these rites:

Now concerning baptism, O bishop or presbyter…first anoint the person with holy oil, and afterward baptize him with water, and finally seal him with chrism, that the anointing with oil may be a participation in the Holy Spirit, and the water a symbol of the death (of Christ), and the chrism a seal of the covenants.

However, this peculiar church order reflects the East Syrian tradition that emphasized a pre-baptismal anointing as the medium for the giving of the Holy Spirit (as in the earlier Syrian Didascalia which lacks any post-baptismal chrismation).  That pattern didn’t last, since it failed to conform to the Synoptic Gospel accounts of the model of Jesus’ own baptism in which he was anointed as the Christ, the Anointed One AFTER he came up out of the Jordan.  Later West Syrian writers instead put much more emphasis on the post-baptismal chrismation, in keeping with the rest of the early patristic world. 

For example, the great John Chrysostom, later Patriarch of Constantinople, while still a priest in Antioch about AD 390 explained the different anointings before and after baptism this way: “The myron (i.e., the post-baptismal chrismation of the head) is for the bride; the oil (the pre-baptismal anointing of the whole nude body) is for the athlete.”  He’s drawing symbolic connections that would have been very meaningful and naturally apparent to people in the ancient Mediterranean world but that unfortunately are largely lost on us.  That is, in the Greco-Roman world, anointings with olive oil were common for various functions, including the nuptial bath (as well as most baths), and the rubbing down of athletes (especially wrestlers and runners) before the start of a contest. 

Alas, for us modern westerners, when you mention oil, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the kind you put in your car, or lubricate a squeaky ceiling fan with (i.e., petroleum based 10 W 40 or WD 40), not olive oil.  And thus we also easily miss the profound biblical symbolism that oil bears in so much of the Bible, where it was used especially to anoint kings at their coronation, prophets, and Jewish priests at their ordination.  And we easily forget that Christ is not Jesus’ last name but his title, the Anointed One.

So I guess that among the liturgical and pastoral issues that the recent revival of the practice of chrismation inevitably raises has to do with the wide gulf between the culture of the ancient Mediterranean world and our own modern one is this very real and practical question:  Is a ritual anointing with oil a dead symbol that no longer works for people today?  Even if it be granted that it has impeccable credentials in terms of its biblical symbolism (although admittedly chrismation is a practice without a biblical mandate or any sign of being instituted by Christ himself), has chrismation simply become such a meaningless, artificial symbol that its profound biblical associations are effectively lost on most people?

Personally, that’s the very pragmatic question that tends to haunt me.  But while the problem is certainly real, I think that those biblical associations between oil and the Holy Spirit are too important to let slip away into oblivion.  After all, we as Christians, or “little anointed ones,” are supposed to share in the same anointing and empowering with the Spirit that marked the ministry of Jesus the Christ and his first followers, as seen especially in Acts, where over the over various figures are described by Luke as being “filled with the Spirit.”

It may take some explanation and proper teaching, but my pastoral experience over the last 20 some years when I have ALWAYS, without fail, anointed the newly baptized with chrism blessed by my bishop, suggests that people can indeed catch on to that deep, profound symbolism of that ritual anointing once they are properly taught.

David Handy+

[128] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-26-2010 at 05:30 PM · [top]

Having mentioned in #128 St. John Chrysostom, one of the greatest Doctors of the Church, let me cite here some of his profound reflections on the various baptismal anointings in his day, as expressed in his second Baptismal Homily.  It’s typically eloquent, as befits the man known as the preacher with a Golden Mouth.  And I choose to cite Chrysostom, because unlike most other writers of the 4th century (in both East and West), he makes a special point of insisting that the gift of the Spirit is conveyed through the actual immersion itself, rather than by either the prepatory anointing of the body beforehand or the chrismation of the head (whether beforehand as here, or afterward, as in most other places).  And he nicely combines the typically Latin or western stress on baptism as a sharing in Christ’s death and resurrection (ala Romans 6) with the typically eastern (i.e., Greek and especially Syrian) stress on baptism as a sharing in the baptism of Jesus Christ and his anointing for ministry in the Jordan.

Here is Chrysostom’s immortal description of how baptisms were done in Antioch in his day (about AD 390) as he explains to adult converts just before the Easter/Pascha Vigil what is going to happen to them and what it all means:

(Baptismal Homily II, section 11): As you know, baptism is a burial and a resurrection; the old self is buried with Christ to sin and the new nature rises from the dead ‘which is being renewed after the image of its creator.’  We are stripped and clothed, stripped of the old garment which has been soiled by the multitude of our sins, clothed with a new that is free from all stain.  What does this mean?  We are clothed with Christ himself.  St. Paul remarks: ‘As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.’

(II. 12): And he goes on,
Since you are on the threshold of the time when you are to receive these great gifts, I must now teach you, as far as I can, the meaning of each of these rites, so that you may go from here with knowledge and a more assured faith…

And here I’ll skip Chrysostom’s long explanation of why the exorcisms were done and how the candidates for baptism renounced the world, the flesh, and the Devil and made their solemn profession of allegiance to Christ, leapfrogging ahead to the most relevant parts concerning the baptism itself (the Golden Mouthed preacher was eloquent but could also be long-winded):

(II. 22): “Then once you have made this covenant…by which you pledged yourself to Christ, you are now a soldier and have signed on for a spiritual contest.  ACCORDINGLY THE BISHOP ANOINTS YOU on the forehead with spiritual MYRON [=chrism], placing a seal on your head and saying:
‘N. IS ANOINTED in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.’

And then he explains the symbolism, (II. 23):
It is for this reason that the bishop anoints you on your forehead and marks you with the seal, to make the Devil turn away his eyes…From that day onwards you will confront him in battle, and this is why the bishop anoints you as athletes of Christ before leading you into the spiritual arena.”

(II. 24): “Then after this, at the appointed hour of the night, he strips you of all your clothes, and as if he weere about to lead you into heaven itself by means of these rites, he prepares to ANOINT YOUR WHOLE BODY with this spiritual oil so that his unction may amour all your limbs and make them invulnerable to any weapons the Enemy may hurl.

(II. 25): After this anointing he takes you down into the sacred waters, at the same time burying the old nature and raising ‘the new creature, which is being renewed after the image of the creator.’  Then by the words of the priest and by his hand THE PRESENCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT FLIES DOWN UPON YOU and another person comes up out of the font, one washed clean from all the stain of his sins, who has put off the old garment of sina dn is clothed in the royal robe.

I resist the temptation to keep on quoting this magnificent sermon as it’s quite long, but Chrysostom goes on to describe how the newly baptized for the first time are allowed to exchange the Peace and then participate in the eucharist, being “led to the awesome table which is laden with all good things.”

There is no agreement among the Fathers on exactly how the Spirit is given through the rites of initiation, some attributing it to the pre-baptismal anointing (as in the early Syriac tradition), some to the post-baptismal chrismation (common in the Latin west), and a few like Chrysostom and Theodore of Mopsuestia seeing the Spirit as being given rather in the bath itself, while still putting much emphasis on the accompanying anointings.  As long as the rites of Christian initiation remained firmly bound together in a single service on one occasion, that confusing variety was tolerable and made little difference.  Basically, the Fathers knew that it was the whole process that mattered and it was all edifying and meaningful.

That’s the same fundamental understanding of Christian initiation that I think we need to rediscover and put into practice today.

David Handy+

[129] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-26-2010 at 06:27 PM · [top]

David Handy+

You have just posted one of the longest series of posts that I have seen on Stand Firm (others may have a different experience). I don’t understand the purpose of much of it – e.g. why quote long slabs from the 16th century reformers, apparently just for the purpose of showing that they used intemperate language by today’s standards?

I remain concerned by your claim that ancient sources prove the contention first stated in your post #7 (and vigorously propagated since then) that baptismal anointing is “the ancient catholic model” and “normative” for Christians. Later you expanded this to assert that baptismal anointing was a “universal practice from the late 2nd century”.

You followed this up with assertions that the Protestant Reformers in the 16th century (and their Catholic colleagues/opponents) did not know the history of confirmation. Presumably this is meant to deal with the obvious difficulty that the Anglican Reformers did not include baptismal anointing in any of the versions of the Book of Common Prayer.

1. “You asserted (in #90), “Canon Fisher’s somewhat tendentious w2ork is rarely referred to by scholars.”  That is a factual claim, rather than an opinion, and unfortunately for you, it’s easily falsifiable.”

I have no doubt that you will find some writers who do refer to Fisher (given that the corpus of scholarship on the patristic period is enormous), but my statement remains accurate.

2. “You also made the astounding assertion in #90 that, “All we know is an anointing with oil was included in the service in Africa at the beginning of the third century.  There is NO INDICATION that it was more widespread than that.”
That is simply untrue.  It’s blatantly and provably untrue.  If you have Everett Ferguson’s big book still on hand (and I have my own copy here in front of me), go back and reread it, Michael.  You seem to have overlooked an awful lot of stuff.  Such as the fact that Book 7 of the Apostolic Constitutions does indeed have a baptismal anointing included in it …”

No, my statement was accurate. You assert “its blatantly and provably untrue” and then you come up with ONE contrary example (the Apostolic Constitutions) which you later admit is dated to the mid-4th century. How can that contradict a claim I made about the beginning of the 3rd century?

3. “Instead, I’ve freely admitted that the first probable reference to it is in Theophilus of Antioch about AD 170.” 

No, you *asserted* that the first reference to it is in Theophilos. In my post at #102 I quote the passage from Theophilos, and it is obvious that this cannot be taken as a “probable reference” to baptismal anointing, nor even a possible one.

4. “I’ve never claimed here that a baptismal anointing was mandatory, or biblically demanded, or necessary for salvation, or anything of that sort.  I’ve merely been trying to defend the recovery of that ancient practice as one that’s entirely COMPATIABLE with the thrust of Holy Scripture …”

I beg to differ. In your post #7 you asserted that baptismal anointing (among other things) was “the ancient catholic model” and that it was “normative” for Christians. That is a rather surprising assertion to Anglicans, since the Book of Common Prayer (1549 or later) contains no reference to it. Then in support of that assertion, you claimed that baptismal anointing was “a universal practice” from the late 2nd century until the 15th century.

In fact, it does not appear that it was universal even as late as the 4th century.

5. “Namely, it’s equally true that the absence of any explicit and incontrovertible evidence of a regular practice of anointing new converts at baptism before AD 200 is no proof that it didn’t happen before then.  It just shows that no such practice is attested in our extant records.”

I agree, however in a situation where the Apostles never mention it, and the only two clear 1st/2nd century accounts also do not mention it, there is no reason to assume it.

Furthermore, in a situation where the earliest references to the practice are from Gnostics sources, it is reasonable conclusion that this was originally a Gnostic practice assimilated into the church.

6. “Similarly in his #113, Michael again misses my point when trying to refute me.  He cites some comments about baptism made in passing by Methodius and Lactantius that don’t happen to touch on the matter of baptismal anointing, but that in no way stands as counterevidence to my actual claims. …”

Actually, they do. The texts I referred to, if you read them in full, make it most unlikely that the writers knew of a practice of baptismal anointing. There is no reasonable explanation of why they would omit any mention of the practice when they discuss in detail the significance of baptism and oil for the Christian.

7. “Remember that what Dr. Leonel Mitchell and I claimed was that no actual LITURGY that survives from the ancient or medieval world lacks some sort of baptismal anointing.”

No, you claimed more than that (and I would not have had any problem if that was all you had claimed). Rather, you have claimed (repeatedly) that baptismal anointing was a universal practice from the 2nd century on. It clearly was not. It does not appear to have been universal even in the 4th century.

8. “But the extant LITURGICAL TEXTS always include a ritual anointing after the time of Tertuallian and the Apostolic Tradition, i.e., from about AD 200 onward.”

I have to pull you up on this as well. First, it gives the impression that there are many texts from the third century that refer to “ritual anointing” – there are not. There are only a very few (perhaps 3-4) and there is no reason to think that they are evidence of a common practice. Secondly, the “Apostolic Tradition” is of very uncertain provenance and date. It *might* be from the 3rd century, but then again, it might not.

9. “As for his reference to Everett Ferguson’s citation of a local church canon from Phrygian Laodicea in the late 4th century, there I may have to grant that there could be minor exceptions here and there when it comes to church canons (as opposed to liturgical texts).  But please note that the general drift of that same canon actually tends to SUPPORT my position…”

No, it doesn’t. Ferguson is clearly not of the view that the evidence permits one to assert a “universal” practice, even in the 4th century. The reason I referred to this passage is that I was surprised (given your absolutist assertions about how Ferguson and other academics support your position) that you had not mentioned it.

[130] Posted by MichaelA on 7-26-2010 at 08:07 PM · [top]

I continue my response to the latest series of posts by David Handy+:

10. “And as Michael’s #114 implicitly admits, even in the case of that obscure local canon, it by no means excludes the historical likelihood that the churches being referred to practiced the PRE-baptismal anointing that was traditional in the East (and well attested from the 3rd century onwards, as in the Didascalia and the Gnostic Acts of Thomas).”

No, again you make a claim that is not supported by the evidence. There is simply not enough evidence to conclude that even pre-baptismal anointing was “traditional” in the east from the 3rd century. There are a very small number of references to the practice dating from the 3rd century, with no indication that the authors intended to refer to a universal practice. The only early 3rd century eastern reference is from a Gnostic work, which is one of the reasons why many scholars believe the practice is Gnostic in origin, not Christian.

11. “But just to show that I have indeed studied the original sources myself and am at least as familiar with them as Michael is, let me point to another local church canon that I find much more significant.  Canon 2 of the (N. African) Council of Orange in 441 AD roundly declared…”

???? You have really lost me here. We were discussing your claim that baptismal anointing was “universal” from the late 2nd century onwards - why is a 5th century text relevant?

12. “And as for the Apostolic Constitutions, which Michael has erroneously claimed lacks any hint of a baptismal anointing, he seems to have overlooked the repeated reference to such an anointing in Book 7.22, 27, and 44.”

No, that is not what I claimed. As I point out in my previous post, I explicitly referred to Book 8, in the context of your assertion that there were no examples after the 2nd century of baptism occurring without anointing.

As you should be aware, the “Apostolic Constitutions” are not a single work, but a collection of works by independent and unnamed authors (and of uncertain date, although the work itself is dated to mid-4th century at the earliest), i.e. Book 7 is not written by the same author as Book 8.

I agree that Book 7 refers to a pre-baptismal anointing with oil or ointment, although with the proviso that the anointing may be omitted if oil or ointment are not available.

13. “We have to remember that in the 1500s, and especially the early to mid 1500s, the printing press hadn’t been around long, and thus most of the relevant patristic data was buried in handwritten manuscripts tucked away in various libraries and monasteries.  Nobody, and I do mean NO ONE in the early 1500s had a good grasp on how the originally unified rites of Christian Initiation had gradually separated and drifted apart in the preceding thousand years.”


This is a sweeping and grossly inaccurate statement. The 16th century Protestant and Catholic scholars, whom David Handy+ has the temerity to denigrate, were familiar with patristic sources – it was an essential part of their education, and the majority of them were highly educated indeed.

David Handy+ seems to be relying on the fact that a number of writings from the patristic period have been discovered since the 16th century. However, none of these make a significant difference to our understanding on this area. They tend to be of the nature of “Apostolic Tradition” – a document of highly uncertain provenance and date, from which little reliable information can be gleaned.

14. “not least, the crucial but mysterious Roman church order known as The Apostolic Tradition (modern editor Paul Bradshaw dates the crucial chapter 21 on baptism around 225 AD).”


I am a little surprised at this. At #106 you informed the list that Paul Bradshaw dates this section “to the late second century”. In a context where you have been insisting that baptismal anointing was universal from the late 2nd century, that is a rather consequential change, is it not?

15. Finally, can I just add that I make no apology for setting out a brief survey of the situation dating from Apostolic times (as e.g. in paragraph 4 of my post #110). David Handy+ seems to take offence at it, but it is important that readers follow the overall thrust of the evidence.

[131] Posted by MichaelA on 7-26-2010 at 08:10 PM · [top]

Joshua B at #118,

You quote from a book by Pastor Frank C. Senn’s “Christian Liturgy: Catholic and Evangelical”:

“On the other hand, if the actual practice of anointing is discounted, it is difficult to account for the sudden appearance of such rites in the second century.”

This precisely illustrates the danger of following “liturgical scholars” whose grasp of the historical sources at times can appear very tenuous. Pastor Senn is wrong: There is no evidence for “the sudden appearance of such rites in the second century”. None at all.

I don’t know how to put it more clearly: No second century text refers to baptismal anointing. Furthermore, the texts from the first/second century that do describe baptism (Didache and Justin Martyr) omit all reference to anointing in such a way that we can be confident that they did not know of such a rite.

Unfortunately, these mistakes occur all too often with “liturgical scholars” or “liturgists” – they get into heady flights of fancy according to their particular religious bent, and leave old-fashioned boring *scholarship* behind.

[132] Posted by MichaelA on 7-26-2010 at 08:13 PM · [top]

Well, MichaelA, it sounds like we’ve at least narrowed the scope of our discussion. You argue that there are no 2nd century sources that support the practice of baptismal anointing. But do you grant that the practice was widespread by the 3rd and 4th centuries? If so, how do you explain the origins of the rite? You’ve suggested it has a Gnostic origin. What do you believe compelled the Church to adopt it? From my understanding, and I admit I’m on much firmer territory once we get to medieval and early modern Church history, we actually know comparatively little about 2nd-century Christianity. The same arguments you use against anointing, namely that there is a dearth of sources testifying to the rite, could also be used against paedobaptism. I believe the first mention of that practice comes from Ireneaus around 185 B.C. It was, however, regarded as an apostolic custom. It seems reasonable to believe, then, that considering the Jewish precedent that placed a high premium on anointing, the scriptural allusions cited by Senn (they are of course debatable), and the more definitive record of anointing from the 3rd and 4th century on are enough to believe that despite the lack of sources, anointing was a part of 2nd-century initiation rites. 

By the by, as a Catholic, I probably don’t have quite the same stake in this debate as the rest of you. My support for the practice isn’t dependent upon historical arguments alone.

[133] Posted by JoshuaB on 7-26-2010 at 08:57 PM · [top]

Doh—that should be 185 A.D., not B.C.

[134] Posted by JoshuaB on 7-26-2010 at 09:01 PM · [top]

JoshuaB,

You seem to misunderstand my position and the course the thread has followed. I have not “argued against anointing”, I have objected to misleading statements being made about what the historical record tells us.

I have written a number of times on this thread already, that if David Handy+ (or anyone else for that matter) wants to use baptismal anointing in their services, they should go right ahead - I have no issue with that. My concern is with statements by David Handy+ that baptismal anointing was a “universal” practice “from the late 2nd century” onwards, and that modern scholarship supports such an absolutist claim. He has repeatedly tried to defend that claim, even though it clearly is not the case.

You write:

“But do you grant that the practice was widespread by the 3rd and 4th centuries?”

I think this is arguable for the 3rd century – it may have been, but the evidence simply isn’t there to know (i.e. too few 3rd century references). I have no problem with saying the practice was “widespread” (but not universal) by the 4th century. If that had been all David Handy+ argued, I would have no problem with it.

“You’ve suggested it has a Gnostic origin. What do you believe compelled the Church to adopt it?”

I expect it was adopted because it made sense to do so: Its not contrary to Apostolic doctrine, and it had the virtue of taking an established pagan custom (anointing before or after bathing) and imbuing it with Christian meaning – the early church often adapted pagan practices in this way.

“The same arguments you use against anointing, namely that there is a dearth of sources testifying to the rite, could also be used against paedobaptism… ”

Let me reiterate, I am not arguing against baptismal anointing as such, but against the assertion that the practice was “universal from the late 2nd century onwards”. As for how arguments might be used, the historical record is what it is. And I am not going to get involved in debating paedobaptism: the topic of this thread is Confirmation, and we are only dealing with baptismal anointing because one person has asserted that the Anglican rite of Confirmation should be understood in light of it.

“It seems reasonable to believe, then, that considering the Jewish precedent that placed a high premium on anointing, the scriptural allusions cited by Senn (they are of course debatable), and the more definitive record of anointing from the 3rd and 4th century on are enough to believe that despite the lack of sources, anointing was a part of 2nd-century initiation rites.”

I don’t think you can reasonably conclude that. So far as I am aware, there is no reference in the New Testament to baptismal anointing, nor anything that even hints at it. When you couple that with the failure to refer to it in fairly detailed 1st and 2nd century accounts of baptism, there is just no reason to conclude that it was an Apostolic teaching. The argument that it had been handed down but somehow never recorded by the Apostles or those that followed them for over 100 years is purely speculation.

[135] Posted by MichaelA on 7-26-2010 at 09:43 PM · [top]

Thanks for the detailed reply, MichaelA. That does indeed help clarify your position.

[136] Posted by JoshuaB on 7-26-2010 at 10:03 PM · [top]

JoshuaB (#133), did you want to debate paedobaptism?  I thought you were indirectly asking MichaelA if he was consistent in his approach to historical records.  I agree with MichaelA when he says, “So far as I am aware, there is no reference in the New Testament to baptismal anointing, nor anything that even hints at it.”

[137] Posted by Banned From Stand Firm on 30 Jul 10 on 7-26-2010 at 10:05 PM · [top]

WarrenS,
Not at all. I was, like you say, trying to suggest that there are other issues about which we can sometimes simply hope to fill in the blanks as best we can with limited sources, in light of the way things developed at later periods.

[138] Posted by JoshuaB on 7-26-2010 at 10:27 PM · [top]

[123] Posted by JoshuaB,
I’ve tried to put in the ‘seem to be’s and ‘appears’ where the statement reflects my personal level of (dis)respect for Handy.  Where I have failed to do so, I offer my apologies for not properly marking those.  I’m not impressed by fancy-dancers, those who presume they’re revelators are even less impressive.  I’ve not seen a high level of debate from Handy.  He deals in falsely cited materials, and appeals to ‘authority’ that do not include Holy Writ.  Were you have provided the source quotations from your first post, Handy has to ‘cornered’ to get him to do so, oft as not the material isn’t as he has claimed.  False witness isn’t a debating technique, nor is appeal to an ‘authority’ that isn’t regarded as one by all participants.

Handy (124),
The one you’re commenting on (indirectly by seconding JoushaB), hasn’t said a peep about your statements with regard to the Reformers.  I’ve taken exception to your characterization of the book of Acts, and your ‘puffery’. MichaelA, who is much more genteel than I, has objected to your (mis)characterization of the Reformers.  Again you paint with far too broad a brush.

[139] Posted by Bo on 7-26-2010 at 11:33 PM · [top]

MichaelA,

I’m glad that you’ve adopted a somewhat more civil tone in recent posts here, and I thank you for that.  I’ll try to reply in kind.

You start your most recent series of attempts to refute me (in #130) with the apt obervation that it’s extremely unusual for someone to take over and dominate a thread at SF in the manner in which I’ve admittedly hijacked this one and turned it into a virtual soap box from which I’ve preached to any who would listen about some of my pet ideas about Christian Initiation.  I recognize that this may easily come across, and probably has come across to more than a few readers, as arrogant, condescending, or just plain borish and tedious.  To that charge, I will sadly plead, “Guilty.”

However, it’s not totally unprecedented, as you seem to suppose.  I’ll admit that I pulled a similar stunt back in March, 2008, when Matt Kennedy and I (mainly) sparred over the topic of biblical inerrancy in a seemingly interminable thread that went on and on for three weeks, and finally ended up being shut down due to excessive load times at 407 comments.  I’m sure you can guess which sides Matt and I represented in that dogfight (as the main protagonists, of course, many others joined in the fray).  And I was called worse things on that highly polarizing thread than you have called me here.

Unfortunately, point by point rebuttals quickly get tedious, which is precisely why I’ve tended to resist getting drawn into that style of debate here.  But if that’s the game you want to play, Michael, I’m up for it.

So with apologies to everyone else for subjecting them to such dreariness, and especially with apologies to Fr. Eaton for continuing this long detour from the topic he really wanted us all to hash out, I’ll pick up the guantlet you’ve thown down once more, Michael, and we can joust a bit in the old scholastic fashion.

At the start of #130, you wonder why in the world I brought up all those quotes from Luther and Calvin about confirmation.  That’s a fair question, and others may well have wondered the same thing.  So let me clarify that.  I wasn’t just calling attention to the overheated and vitriolic language that those two great Reformers used in fiercely protesting and denouncing the medieval practice of episcopal chrismation that they so despised.  I was, among other things, trying to suggest that as Thomas Cranmer was in comparison much more moderate and restrained, and in particular, insofar as Cranmer did what Luther and Calvin did not, namely create a normative rite of confirmation for Protestant use, that this admirable moderation on Cranmer’s part provided hope that maybe we Anglicans could discuss this topic more amicably and moderately.

Please don’t jump to conclusions, Michael or anyone else, and presume that I was trying to cast the Reformers in a wholly negative light and dismiss their furious objections to medieval confirmation practices as absurd or unwarranted.  Far from it.

I’m actually sympathetic to such concerns as the Reformers’ suspicion that the practice of chrismation was not a matter of adiaphora but downright harmful in that it was not only an additional rite of human origin that wasn’t directly mandated by Christ himself (of course, for me, that’s not a big problem since I abhor sola scriptura), but more importantly, I’m sympathetic to their grave suspicion that it was actually prone (in their own 16th century social context):

1. to foster quite harmful sorts of superstition and
2. to overshadow the more important and dominical sacrament of baptism itself. 

That is, since the anointing with chrism was restricted to bishops in the Latin western world, and by the 16th century was usually done at an age when people who had been baptized in infancy could remember it, the Reformers were quite right in being suspicious that the tail had come to wag the dog, and that this was deplorable.  This is indeed all too clearly reflected in the fact that many Englishmen customarily referred to baptism as “christening,” because of the anointing connected with it.

I’m also sympathetic to Calvin’s strident protest against the widespread (but inaccurate) idea that baptism conveyed only the forgiveness of sins but NOT the gift of the Spirit (which some people assumed came only from the bishop, ala Acts 8, as with the Samaritans).  Calvin was quite right that such a misleading view (so strongly associated with Gregory Dix in 20th century Anglicanism) amounted to “lopping off half the efficacy of baptism.”

I’m trying to be irenic here, Michael, and build some common ground on which we can meet.

I was also trying to provide some historical background, so that discussions of the Anglican practice of confirmation could be better understood.  And that included pointing out that it was actually Erasmus, the Catholic reformer, who first proposed the novel idea that some sort of solemn rite of ratifying your baptismal vows was highly desirable.

But here I’ll start getting a bit polemical again, Michael.  You’ve made some careless statements along the way here that suggested that no Anglican BCP has ever included a baptismal anointing.  That’s simply untrue.  It’s important that all SF readers realize that both Cranmer and Luther included a baptismal anointing in their first attempt at creating a Protestant initiation rite, i.e., Cranmer in 1549 and Luther in 1523.  But both men very soon dropped that vestigal anointing, as Cranmer did in 1552 (especially after Bucer’s vigorous objection to any such addition to the pristine apostolic rite in his famous Censura of the 1549 book) and as Luther likewise did in his second Taufbucklein of 1526.

IOW, Michael, be careful in issuing charges of making sweeping historical claims that aren’t accurate.  That’s a double-edged sword that cuts both ways.

I’ll stop there for now.  But I will add a general note to everyone that I’m glad that this thread didn’t die out around comment #100, as I thought at first it had.  Because even though this rather academic and historical thread has gone on so long and meandered in so many directions, we’ve actually only begun to scratch the surface of the many highly complex and pastorally important issues connected with Confirmation, much less the wider topic of Christian Initiation as a whole.

David Handy+

[140] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-27-2010 at 09:24 AM · [top]

RE: “I’m actually sympathetic to such concerns as the Reformers’ suspicion that the practice of chrismation was not a matter of adiaphora but downright harmful in that it was not only an additional rite of human origin that wasn’t directly mandated by Christ himself (of course, for me, that’s not a big problem since I abhor sola scriptura),  . . . “

Odd—being opposed to additional rites that weren’t “directly mandated by Christ” has nothing to do with “sola scriptura” at all.  With a pretty looooooonnnnnngggg stretch it might have to do with the Calvinist regulative principle.  But there are masses of Christians who believe in the well-defined concept of sola scriptura who quite loathe the Calvinist regulative principle and certainly who enjoy “additional rites of human origin that weren’t directly mandated by Christ.”

I would be one of them.

but more importantly, I’m sympathetic to their grave suspicion that it was actually prone (in their own 16th century social context):

[141] Posted by Sarah on 7-27-2010 at 09:57 AM · [top]

MichaelA,

I won’t bother to attempt a refutation of all the 15 criticisms or arguments you make against my position in your #130 and 131.  That does NOT by any means that I concede the ones I’m not explicitly disputing here.  It just means that such an exercise would be insufferably tedious and unedifying to most readers.  Instead, let me pick a few representative examples of where I think your arguments are weak, dubious, and unconvincing.

#3.  You again brought up the case of whether Theophilus of Antioch mentions a baptismal anointing about 170 AD, when I thought that poor old horse had been beaten enough.  I’ve already admitted that I should have said that when Theophilus wrote his Apologia ad Autolycum that the following line is probably the earliest mention of a baptismal anointing ritual:

For we are called Christians, because we have been anointed (chriometha in Greek) with the oil of God.

Yet you insist that not only is my interpretation that this probably is more than metaphorical not likely, you go so far as to claim very boldly that it’s scarcely possible.  Are you kidding, Michael?  Suffice to say that I’m by no means alone in taking Theophilus’s brief statement above as most likely alluding to an actual anointing rite.  For example, here’s what Leonel Mitchell says about it:

It is possible, of course, that this too is metaphorical (he’s just discussed a somewhat similar passing allusion to Christians being anointed in Irenaeus), but the parallel to Tertullian’s ‘christi dicti a chrismate’ SEEMS to indicate that the Christians have actually been anointed (Baptismal Anointing, 1966, p. 13). 

IOW, since Tertullian uses virtually the same phrase (albeit in Latin) just 30 years later and we in fact know that he was familiar with the practice of a ritual anointing as part of baptism, it would not be at all surprising if the same was true in the case of Theophilus.

I grant that it’s uncertain and that my initial claim was somewhat exaggerated.  But Michael, your astounding assertion that it’s impossible that Theophilus’ line should be taken as more than metaphorical is actually far more exaggerated.

You seem to have ignored or overlooked the fact that Theophilus is an Apologist, a Defender of the Christian faith who is writing to a PAGAN, a heathen friend named Autolycus.  Like Justin Martyr before him, and like his contemporary Irenaeus, Theophilus is writing for outsiders, not for fellow believers.  In particular, he’s not writing a church order, like the Didache or the Apostolic Tradition.  Therefore, it can’t be blithely assumed, as you seem to have done, that if he was familiar with a practice of baptismal anointing he would have mentioned it more clearly.

And that same objection applies to your repeated insistence that the absence of any clear mention of an anointing in Justin Martyr celebrated account of baptism in his First Apology (chapters 61 and 65 for everyone else) PROVES that no such rite yet existed in the mid 2nd century.  That is simply going farther than the evidence demands.  Now mind you, I’m not claiming that there was such an anointing already in Rome in Justin’s day, I tend to agree with you that the absence of it most likely does show that it hadn’t yet emerged in his time.  But my point is that you make it out to be far more certain than it is.

There was a very extensive, vigorous debate over this point back in 1945-46 in the pages of the British journal Theology, in which such major Anglican liturgical scholars as J.E.L. Oulton, Gregory Dix, E.C. Ratcliff, and Canon A.H. Couratin fought it out, without reaching any conclusive results.  They simply couldn’t agree.  But here is Mitchell’s conclusion about that unresolved debate:

In the opinion of the present writer there is not sufficient evidence to justify adopting…(the thesis that takes) Justin as a witness to the baptismal anointing.  On the other hand, we have CERTAINLY been delivered from having to count him as a witness against the anointing.”  (caps added, ibid.)

Once again, Michael, if you accuse me of distorting the historical data and making unwarranted claims, I’m afraid I’ll have to say the same about you, brother.  But the difference is that my position is suported by the great majority of liturgical scholars, and yours isn’t.

To be tartly polemical for a moment (and I may well regret this later), I’m the one standing in the mainstream of liturgical scholarship, Michael, while your idiosyncratic views are as extreme and eccentric as Sydney style Anglicanism is in the wider Anglican world.

David Handy+

[142] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-27-2010 at 10:18 AM · [top]

Sarah (#141),

Touche.  Good point.  I should have referred to my rejection of the Calvinist regulative principle rather than the broader sola criptura issue.

I’m glad you finally deigned to step in here, since you started this thread, Sarah.  I hope you can help referee this fight.  Your hope that it might open up a conversation about confirmation has apparently succeeded more than you might have thought.

BTW, this may be a good time for me to come clean on why I’m as vehemently anti-Puritan in my own way as MichaelA is equally passionate in his own way here.  As we all know, there’s no one so passionate in distancing himself from something as an ex-something.  Just think of all the folks you may know who are extremely critical of their ex-spouse.  Converts have a natural tendency to be extra hard on the religious tradition that they’ve left behind in order to justify their switch.

And I’m an ex-Presbyterian and ex-Calvinist.  Enough said??

David Handy+

[143] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-27-2010 at 10:31 AM · [top]

MichaelA,

Back to countering your arguments in your #130.  Your 4th point accuses me of being inconsistent and backing off from my original claim (way back in #7) that it’s highly desirable that we recover the ancient catholic model of a unified, but multidimensional initiatory rite that includes washing, anointing, and first commujnion as the proper theological norm today, just as it was in the patristic period.  I had no such intention.  I stand by that claim in #7 as much as ever. 

Maybe I was unclear (could be, I write hastily), but you seem to have missed my point.  I was attempting to say that I wasn’t claiming that a baptismal anointing with chrism was biblically demanded or even anchored in a clear biblical precedent, but merely that chrismation was compatible with the thrust of Holy Scripture.

Let me try to make my position more clear, by citing a rather long passage from Leonel Mitchell’s book.  I agree with him completely when, after surveying the manifold ways in which the ancient Roman world used olive oil for all sorts of purposes, he draws the following conclusion:

Not only did he (the average Roman) cook with it, burn it in his lamps, and wash (bathe) with it, but he used it as a medicine, as a cosmetic, and in religious rites.  The association of washing and anointing was extremely close both in religious ceremonial and in daily life.  Certainly the idea of a sacred anointing would not have been alien to the mind of a neophyte coming to the Church from the pagan world.

When we add to the pagan and secular background the use of oil to anoint kings and priests in the Old Testament, and view all (this) in light of the New Testament proclamation of Jesus as the Christ, the Anointed One, and the Christian people as a royal priesthood, the expression of these ideas in the visible anointing of Christians at their baptism BECOMES ALMOST INEVITABLE.” (Baptismal Anointing, p. 28).

Precisely.  It was the most natural and fitting thing in the world.  IOW, including an anointing with chrism as part of the whole process of Christian initiation is not just COMPATIBLE with Holy Scripture, in the sense of being permissible; I’d say it’s actually highly appropriate and even desirable.

Would you dispute that, Michael?  (Or carl, or Bo, or anyone else?)

David Handy+

[144] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-27-2010 at 10:54 AM · [top]

MichaelA,

In your #131, your 13th argument again accuses me of maligning the Reformers by impugning their knowledge of the Fathers when it comes to Christian Initiation.  But your whole argument is one giant NON SEQUITUR.  That is, just because in general some of the Reformers were indeed quite conversant with the Fathers (and that’s especially true of Melancthon and Calvin, as well as such English Protestant heroes as Cranmer, Jewell, Hooker, and even the Puritan William Perkins), that GENERAL acquaintance with the patristic writings by no means leads to the corollary that they also were well acquainted with liturgical matters in paatristic times.  That deduction simply doesn’t follow from your premiss.

But the most incredible line (in the etymological sense of the term) is your absolutely astounding assertion shortly thereafter that none of the documents that have come to light since the 1500s concerning patristic initiatory practices and theology “makes a significant difference” to our understanding in that area.  What??

How in the world can you say that, Michael? On the contrary, the huge amounts of data that have been uncovered by liturgical scholars regarding the exceedingly complex evolution of the rites of Christian Initiation have absolutely revolutionized our understanding of them.  It’s when you make historical blunders like that that I’m left shaking my head in sheer disbelief and wondering what planet you live on, or what you were smoking before you said that.

Again, as I’ve contended all along, you are of course entitled to your own opinions, Michael.  But you aren’t entitled to your own facts.  Of course, neither am I.

But in the interests of being irenic and more edifying, let me again repeat that while you and I, Michael, seem to live on completely different theological planets, I do recognize you as inhabiting the same solar system as a fellow Christian.  Whereas our mutual enemies, our heretical foes who promote their relativist, antinomian “gospel of inclusivity” that is no real gospel at all don’t even live in our solar system.  They seem to be aliens from another religious galaxy.

David Handy+

[145] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-27-2010 at 11:14 AM · [top]

There’s more I could say in defending myself, but I’m getting weary of this negative, tit-for-tat stuff with Michael.  And I’d guess that most readers are weary of it too (if they’re even paying attention anymore).

So let me offer an olive branch of peace here.  Michael, for the sake of moving this converstion on into more profitable areas, I will modify and temper my histoical claims that you find so objectionable.  All I’ll say from now on here is that a ritual anointing with oil as a part of Christian initiation is overwhelmingly attested as the normative practice of the Catholic Church down through the ages. 

How’s that, brother?  Will that satisfy you?

Mind you, I’m not conceding defeat by any means, just trying to help turn this thread back in the direction that Fr. Dan Martins and Fr. Rob Eaton first intended. 

After all, the really important questions aren’t the historical ones, as to just when such an anointing arose that later developed, mostly by accident it appears, into what we western Christians now know as “Confirmation.”  The much more important questions are the theological and pastoral ones, i.e., not the historical origins of Confirmation, but rather what it can and should mean for us today. 

And in particular, if I’m understanding the drift of Fr. Eaton’s comments rightly, the issue is what connection there is, or perhaps there should be, between Confirmation and the experience we charismatics call being “baptized in the Spirit” or being “filled with the Spirit,” including the expectation that this implies starting to manifest the charismata or “gifts of the Spirit.”  Just as Jesus, the Anointed One, started his charismatic ministry after being filled with the Spirit at his baptism in the Jordan.

Sorry, Rob+, but I’m trying to make amends here and get us back on track again.

David Handy+

[146] Posted by New Reformation Advocate on 7-27-2010 at 11:37 AM · [top]

RE: ” I hope you can help referee this fight.”

No—I don’t see a fight to referee and neither of you have violated blog protocol.  I’ve observed this rabbit trail from a distance and have only found, NRA, that it follows a typical pattern. 

You make a bombastic assertion and when challenged attempt to back it up by some references to “scholarship” and historical sources.  Others than point out that your references do not, in fact, support your original bombastic assertion.  Your response is almost always to then expand the scope of the bombast to something broader, which then expands the conversation exponentially.  Thus, when a bombastic hyperbolic assertion is more targeted, it is easily shown to be false—at which point a more sweeping and grandiose assertion is then made, to try to put the original more targeted [and false] assertion into a “broader context.”  In this way, the more sweeping assertion is meant to cover for the smaller misproven bombastic assertion.

This thread amply demonstrates the typical pattern.

That doesn’t make you a bad person or bad commenter—it’s just who you are and how you perform and it’s okay.

BUT . . . I often enjoy these exchanges.  They stand and speak for themselves, for anyone to read them.  It was obvious that the thread was not going to continue down the primary trail of confirmation in the Episcopal Church, and so a side-trail was pursued.  I don’t think if you and Michael A had not pursued the side-trail that the conversation about the broader trail would have continued, to be honest.  There’s just too much ambiguity and confusion about confirmation in general and its purposes to have much of a blog conversation on it.

As for my own opinion I’m agnostic about the meaning behind confirmation.  I have some thoughts but don’t have strong feelings either way about it.

If MichaelA wants to make a final comment, hopefully he will.  Otherwise, I’ll shut down the thread and we can move on.

[147] Posted by Sarah on 7-27-2010 at 01:44 PM · [top]

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