1. In the early ch., confirmation was part of the rite of Baptism. After the candidates were baptized Easter Eve, they were confirmed with chrism,* prayers, the sign of the cross, and the laying on of hands; Easter morning they were allowed to make their 1st communion (see Catechetics, 13). A remnant of this early practice survived in Luther's Taufbüchlein; it is found in the current post baptismal prayer in which God is implored to strengthen, i. e., confirm, the child with His grace unto life everlasting.
2. With the growth of the ch., and esp. with the increased number of infant baptisms, bps. began to delegate authority to priests, permitting them to baptize anytime. In the E, priests were permitted also to confirm, provided they used chrism blessed by the bp. But in the W, Rome forbade confirmation except by a bp. Where the RC liturgy came into use, Baptism and confirmation became distinct and separate rites. Because of this separation the idea gradually emerged in medieval times that confirmation was a complement to Baptism. At first the rite was greatly to be desired because it gave a Christian the added gift of the Holy Spirit; later it was deemed necessary for salvation. Already in the 1st half of the 12th c. Hugh* of St. Victor referred to confirmation as the 2d sacrament. Confirmation was made part of the RC sacramental system by the Council of Florence* 1439; it was said to bestow grace and a certain spiritual and indelible sign necessary for salvation, equal in power to all other sacraments. In March 1547 the Council of Trent* fixed the RC doctrine and anathematized the Prot. substitution for confirmation.
3. The question whether confirmation should precede 1st Communion has been a knotty one in the RC Ch. At different times and places, esp. in Lat. Am. chs., 1st Communion has preceded confirmation on the premise that the Eucharist is supernatural food, whereas confirmation is supernatural growth. In gen., the hierarchy has favored the precedence of confirmation, esp. since instruction has become part of preparation for the rite.
4. The Gk. Cath. chs. regard confirmation as a sacrament and administer it at the same time as Baptism or as soon as possible after it, even in the case of infants. In the Angl. (Prot. Episc.) Ch. confirmation is a formal rite administered by the bp.; the High Ch. regards it as a sacramental rite conveying the gift of the Holy Ghost, the low Ch. as essentially a personal renewal of the promises made by others for the subject in Baptism. The High Ch. urges the age of 56, the Low Ch. prefers the age of 1416 for confirmation.
5. Contrary to popular opinion, the Luth. Ch. lacks a universally accepted definition of confirmation and a consistent approach to it. It unanimously rejected the RC view (see 2) but was not in agreement as to whether the rite should be reest., ref., or abolished.
6. Luther did little to encourage an ev. type of confirmation, though he approved the 1540 Brandenburg Ch. Order and subscribed to the 1545 Wittenberg Reformation. His emphasis on instruction, esp. in preparation for the Lord's Supper, proved to be a major contribution to a new type of confirmation assoc. not only with Baptism but also with the Lord's Supper. Only in the few cases where confirmation was introd. as a substitute for the RC sacrament was the assoc. with the Lord's Supper not made.
7. The development of confirmation in the Luth. Ch. followed no uniform pattern. Most Luths. in the 16th c. wanted nothing to do with confirmation and regarded the very word as a Romanizing offense. But even in those parts of Ger. and Scand. where the rite as such was rejected, need for instruction connected with Baptism and the Lord's Supper led to a Luth. rite. Efforts were made in a few chs. to reest. confirmation (Hesse) or ref. it (Pomerania). Local circumstances varied; at some places confirmation could be quickly est., elsewhere it was delayed; it was not pub. observed in Hamburg till 1832. See also Denmark, Lutheranism in, 6.
8. In the development of confirmation in the Luth. Ch. there were at least 6 gen. types: catechetical, traditional, hierarchical, sacramental, pietistic, and rationalistic. The first 4 appeared in the 16th c., the last 2 in the 17th and 18th c. In practice it is difficult to find any of these in pure form (except occasionally in an initial stage), because more than 1 influence was often at work. In the latter part of the 19th c. and esp. in the 20th c. it is not unusual to see the impact that all 6 types have made, esp. in the New World and in the younger chs.
9. Where confirmation is assoc. with Baptism and the Lord's Supper, as is usually the case, 3 essential elements of confirmation are: (1) a course of instruction preceding the rite; (2) profession of faith, usually made through an examination and summarized in formal questions in the rite; (3) intercessory prayers by the cong., normally with imposition of hands.
10. In Am., Luth. children are confirmed when they are 1214; such confirmation usually takes place on Palm Sunday or Pent. Adults are often privately catechized in a less formal manner, and pub. confirmed. When children's 1st Communion is separated from confirmation, the latter usually occurs later, with confirmation regarded as a partial fulfillment of the obligation imposed at the time of Baptism to rear children in the Christian faith. Preparation for 1st Communion is then also preceded by instruction; such instruction, though less extensive, shows that the children (usually bet. 8 and 10) can examine themselves (1 Co 11:28) and are able to exercise the right to partake of the Lord's Supper.
11. Baptism, not confirmation, normally marks the beginning of one's membership in the ch. If a person has come to faith by the Gospel prior to Baptism, the sacrament becomes for him a confirmation. Hence a person is not baptized and confirmed in the same ceremony. In such cases confirmation is superfluous and detracts from Baptism.
12. The practice of confirmation has received considerable attention in the Luth. Ch. since WW II. The LWF made confirmation a matter of particular study in order to divest it of for. elements and reconstruct it for present-day circumstances. Similar studies are being carried on by other groups. ACR
RC: M. Bohen, The Mystery of Confirmation (New York, 1963); B. Neunheuser, Baptism and Confirmation, tr. J. J. Hughes (New York, 1964). Angl.: G. W. H. Lampe, The Seal of the Spirit (New York, 1951); Confirmation: History, Doctrine, and Practice, ed. K. B. Cully (Greenwich, Connecticut, 1962). Luth.: Commission on Education, Lutheran World Federation, Confirmation: A Study Document, tr. W. G. Tillmanns (Minneapolis ); A. C. Repp, Confirmation in the Lutheran Church (St. Louis, 1964); Zur Geschichte und Ordnung der Konfirmation in den lutherischen Kirchen, ed. K. Frör (Munich, 1962).
Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
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