Picture of Marvin Fitchett
Re: Part Three of the Course, First Assignment, Question 1
by Marvin Fitchett - Monday, 6 August 2012, 5:02 PM

The Church’s history is rich in documentation of the Catholic tradition. This rich history retained the evidence of how their theologians progressed and transitioned in their thinking concerning the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. The Catholic’s richness gave succeeding church leaders, theologians, and students an opportunity to see how they formulated their thoughts before framing their own thinking concerning baptism and confirmation. As I Initially handled the concepts of the sacraments of baptism and confirmation, I perceived them as doors to sacred, however after reviewing their history, it revealed human theorizing which lead to Catholic theology. The effort the Catholic scholars put forth in creating and maintaining this history is commendable. This reservoir of information allows for current knowledge seekers to use the data to progress in a discipline and not repeat the previous mistakes.

Apostolic/ Patristic Periods

During the Apostolic era, adults were the initial participates and once they completed the baptism rites they invited into the Christian community. The requesting adult made their public declaration, asked for forgiveness of their sin, next they were immersed in water, and community laid hands on the adult to receive God’s gift, the seal of the Holy Spirit. This pattern left by the apostles was inspired and set a clear model for the sacrament of baptism. With the passing of each century, the Church gradually steered away of the apostolic pattern of baptism. They arrived at a pivotal errant activity which separated the apostolic proceeding of the sacrament. The errant activity was the postponement and rescheduling baptism ritual to the Sunday prior to the Eucharist celebration. This type of decision postponing the immediate invitation into the community, made liturgically sense, however it deviate from the apostolic model. The adverse conditions were factual, however it deprived many desiring believers of their immediate fitual completion.

In regards to the sacrament of confirmation, and the apostolic era, the new adult’s confirmation was an integral part of the baptism initiation. The adult was confirmed once the seal of the Holy Spirit was received. However, during the patristic era confirmation became a topic of discussion. There were differing opinions as to when the seal was received. The early church initially debated the exactly when God sealed the believer. They agreed the adult received the seal of the Holy Spirit by the end of the initiation.

Medieval Period

During the Medieval Period, traveling monks were evangelizing the newly settled German tribes. The monks’ theorized, every time a German immigrant was baptized their souls would be washed of original sin, marked with Christ presence, and filled by the Holy Spirit. This theory introduced a shift in the meaning of salvation which altered the meaning of baptism. When the German converts participated in the sacrament of baptism, they theorized it would save them and relieved them from the punishment of committing other sins, instead of indicating a new life with Jesus Christ. In the monks’ zeal, they too strayed from the apostolic pattern.

Confirmation in the medieval era was centered on the bishop’s inability to perform the latter part of the baptism ritual, where the imposition of his hands was seen as significant to the ritual. This rite was constantly being postponed and delegated to the parish priest. Rome’s answer to this dilemma was to have two post-baptismal anointing. Then, Pope Innocent I and the Council of Orange authorized the delegation of the rite to the priest with stipulations. These solutions due to the bishop absence during baptism in rural parish were the beginning of the sacrament of confirmation. These actions were inconsistent, and presented an initiative to separate the confirmation action from the baptizing action of the ritual.

Modern Period

The Modern era introduce the reformers and their theories in opposition to Catholic sacrament theology. In particular, Martin Luther experience with the rite of baptism produced his contrasting view of baptism being ineffective. He postulated the initiation into the Christian community (a new spiritual reality) was based on the converts confessing their belief in God, God forgave their sins, and then they were immersed in water and raise into their new communal life. Luther’s theology resembles the pattern set by the apostles. Martin Luther theology was positive, his concepts move the rite of baptism from a mechanical to a spiritual experience. During the sacrament of baptism, the aurora of the rite engaged the adult’s whole heart, mind and body vice the mind and body.

The reformers’ position on the sacrament of confirmation was the sacrament another theory presented by the Roman Catholics which possessed no scriptural foundation, therefore it should not be considered Christian. Martin Luther referred to Catholic confirmation as a “medieval superstition”, but gave a concession for confirmation as a way to prepare children for the Eucharist. Luther’s concession has had an effect on Catholic confirmation. In spite of the positive result of Luther concession, it followed the Roman’s solution to maintain the sacrament of confession. Luther stand was bold initially, and it faded over time. This depreciation in his stands gave the appearance the Catholic hierarchy that their sacrament of baptism was valid.

The Catholic historical evidence is an unprecedented canon of the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. The historical canon allows contemporary theologians and students a reflective view of these sacraments and to decide if they will first accept them and second participate in them. Although the reformers and my reflections discerned the negativism imbedded in them, they are invaluable.

Grade 3 (Good evaluations based on biblical precedents, but some historical inaccuracies.)

(Edited by Dr. Joe - original submission Thursday, 2 August 2012, 05:22 PM)