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What Happened to Confirmation?

I want to reflect for a few posts on Confirmation. It’s almost like you never hear of it happening or when someone mentions it, they usually are Roman Catholic or Lutheran. Did Presbyterians forget about this? What is it? Why did the Church have it? I hope to inspect these questions in a somewhat helpful way and before considering the rite of Confirmation it is helpful to back up and begin with defining the term Church.

What is the Church? It’s not the building, though we refer to the building that way. It’s not an institution though we refer to denominations that way. It is an organism, it is a communion. Jesus described the Church as a vine and Paul described it as a body. Both of these examples find their life in Jesus, who gives vitality to the Church. We are members of Christ, in election, his death, resurrection and now seated with him in heaven. Thus with Christ as the Head and the Church as the body, all baptized persons are members of his body.

The question is raised about our children. Are they excluded from this body? Aren’t they people like us finding joy and awe in the world they live in? Don’t they enjoy learning about God and how awesome he is? They marvel at the works of creation made by God. They gaze at the number of the stars, are mesmerized at how animals act and who eats what. They seem to be non-stop growing in the joy of the Lord in everything from playing in water to playing with musical instruments.

Adults engage in God’s world too. Sure it takes more to amuse us. We aren’t as easily brought into wonder and awe but it still happens. We also are moved when we are reminded of God’s forgiveness and love in Jesus. We spend hours and dollars to witness parts of God’s creation. We started a long time ago learning about God and seeing how his works proclaim his glory.

What does this have to do with Confirmation? Confirmation is the beginning of the road. Confirmation is not when they are brought into the body of Christ, Baptism did that. During Confirmation they have been set apart and recognize God’s Gospel call to them. They are on the journey of growing in the Lord. Confirmation is not the first time they confess Christ as Lord, and it will not be the last time. It is their profession of the faith they hold not a ratification of the faith.

We are the baptized, and because of that we are exhorted to seek the Lord’s Table. Abraham Kuyper wrote in his book “The Implications of Public Confession” that the relationship of Baptism to Communion was like that of a newborn. Born and immediately washed because it was born unclean. But the washing was not the goal because soon the babe is brought to the mother’s breast for nourishment. You cannot desire the sacrament of purification and neglect the sacrament of nourishment.

The admonishment by the Apostle to examine ourselves is given to the baptized. When the Session has deemed that a person is able to recognize their sin and their savior they are qualified to receive the “sacrament of nourishment.” Some may retort that a child should have a more mature confession of faith and perhaps be older. Two thoughts. First every person is different but the call on them is the same. Again Kuyper is helpful, “The number of years required for each individual to be qualified for his personal confession was determined by God at the time of that person’s creation… Through those years baptism sounds the plea: Seek the Lord’s holy supper.” (17)  Lastly, I can understand the desire to see the young ones “further down the road”. But perhaps there’s a reason we were exhorted by our Lord to have the faith of a child rather than an adult.

Examining Children for Communion

When parents want to bring their children before the Elders of the church to be interviewed, they often ask what the process involves. From the perspective of the Elders it is a joyous moment and opportunity to hear the profession of faith out of a young child’s mouth. However, I have come to learn that from the perspective of the child, it is an intimidating process where the seemingly all-knowing men of the church are going to see how little they know.

I thought it would be helpful, for the benefit of the parents (and the children), to write up a short guide to help parents through this process. I use it with my children and when I speak to them about Communion, or go through their catechism in the evening, I work to bring them to a knowledge of at least these five areas. These five areas are the minimal things I would want to and expect to hear from a child. Hearing a child articulate these areas I would be satisfied as their Pastor/Elder that they had a profession of faith that was biblical, that they understood the Gospel, and of course that they could discern the elements of the Supper. (more…)

Corporal Punishment of Children in the Covenant of Grace (5/5)

The relationship children have with parents is not simple and there is concern that too much blame is placed on corporal punishment when it is unlikely responsible for how a child develops and behaves. Additionally, findings of correlation do not prove causation, Gershoff warns.(1) It is difficult to find causation, however many advocates against corporal punishment will make statements confusing causality and correlation. Thus experts and non-experts must speak with caution when making conclusive statements while the field is far from conclusive on finding causation.(2) The current position by Gershoff is that till the effects of corporal punishment is seen by researches, clinicians, and parents producing positive effects not just the absence of negative effects, it cannot be recommended by psychologists.(3) Recent research found that reasoning “backed-up” by a form of corporal punishment is effective at preventing future misbehaviors but this may tend to verbal abuse.(4) (more…)

Corporal Punishment of Children in the Covenant of Grace (4/5)

What is Happening?

With a robust doctrine of Common Grace in place, what are we to understand about corporal punishment and its effects on our children? An attempt to discover what is happening inside our children when they receive corporal punishment must be sought out. For this Christians must differ to expert psychologists in the areas of parent socialization and punishment of children. Christians must listen to those in the common kingdom who have studied the effects of corporal punishment on children and published in peer reviewed journals. Christians must also understand humanity’s proclivity toward rebellion and therefore while appreciating the expertise of those in the common kingdom, Christians are called to guard everything they receive and recognize bias.(1) (more…)

Corporal Punishment of Children in the Covenant of Grace (3/5)

Part of the disagreement would be the purpose of parenting, which gives considerable insight into the materialist cause-effect bent in secularism. A secular parenting model has a goal to bringing about healthy, emotionally stable citizens. Christian parents desiring those same goals however realize short-sidedness, for the Christian parent the desire is eschatological life. The discussion is centered around a primary question, “What is the anthropology and eschatology of all humanity?” Both of these parts in of themselves are large questions that certainly deserve careful and thoughtful answers. (more…)

Corporal Punishment of Children in the Covenant of Grace (2/5)

What to Do – The Christian Mandate

There is no disagreement that parents are to discipline their children. Rightly understanding and interpreting the call from Scriptures such as: “Whoever spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is diligent to discipline him.” (Proverbs 13:24) “Folly is bound up in the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline drives it far from him.” (Proverbs 22:15) “Do not withhold discipline from a child; if you strike him with a rod, he will not die. If you strike him with the rod, you will save his soul from Sheol.” (Proverbs 23:13–14) “The rod and reproof give wisdom, but a child left to himself brings shame to his mother.” (Proverbs 29:15) How are people of the Book to reconcile verses such as these with their understanding of discipline? Corporal punishment is clearly commanded yet there must an understanding that prevents arriving at an absurd conclusion, the hermeneutic must be carefully considered. (more…)

Corporal Punishment of Children in the Covenant of Grace (1/5)

Discipline by means of corporal punishment (spanking) is one of the most practical issues in families today.(1) It remains one of the most widely used means of discipline in American families and according to Robert Larzelere, PhD (Nebraska Medical Center) writing for the American Psychological Association, spanking continues to be “….a subject of controversy within the child development and psychological communities.”(2) It is a subject that polarizes respected experts on both sides of the issue. Almost everyone has experienced or is using corporal punishment as a means of discipline with their children. A method that has been either learned from their own experience or taught by child rearing experts in respective faith based communities. The Christian community long known for being advocates of spanking often making references to “spare the rod spoil the child” (Prov. 13:24) and looking down at secular models that are too passive and therefore non-biblical. What are pastors to do when families who want to raise their children in the Lord recognize that in light of the doctrine of common grace there is wisdom in listening to those non-believers? How are Christian parents to be faithful to verses of the like of Proverbs 13:24 charging parents who spare the “rod” as an act of hatred and not love? Are we being faithful to the Scriptures in spanking or are we making a hermeneutical mistake? (more…)