8. The Alternative: The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation
Prescript: Here’s a short version of why these two sacraments meet the positive criteria of my 7 theses in the prior post:
1. These unite discipleship with salvation as parts of one whole, Christ’s work and teachings go together here.
a. Baptism as a sacrament unites discipleship into the process of salvation by seeing salvation as the impartation and growth of righteousness. Baptism in this model is an actual salvific act it is necessary for salvation except in extraordinary circumstances, but conveys actual saving grace which seems to cohere better with the NT vision of baptism as the foundation of discipleship.
b. Confirmation does this by recognizing that the person’s faith is in process on the road to the resurrection of the body, which is ultimately what eternal life is about. It’s the process of following Jesus into eternal life, confirmation upholds this.
2. Does not divorce true worship (both in terms of love of God and love of Neighbor) from what it means to be a Christian.
a. Baptism does this by properly acknowledging Christ as having sanctified the waters with his holiness, and calling all men to this as an act of transformational worship that belongs to the Father, instead of my personal proclamation. It takes the focus off me, and puts it on God.
b. Confirmation does this by calling the person into a deeper faith, with even more visible declaration of holiness.
3. Connects Ancient Judaism to Early Christianity and the Christianity of Today
a. Baptism is as St. Paul says, the new circumcision and a justification(a setting things right) that is rendered by grace, through the faithfulness of the Messiah to God’s saving plan.
b. Confirmation is connected to ancient faith through narratives especially in the book of acts where after baptism, there is a special prayer for the impartation of the holy spirit, or a demonstrable strengthening of faith.
4. Has a primarily salvific interpretation of atonement
a. Atonement relates to the sacrament of baptism as a liberation, a freedom from the powers of sin and death, and being liberated into new life. This sacrament avoids the sentimentalism of evangelical theology that equates this liberation with an emotional response that has no responsibility.
b. Confirmation is not specifically salvific, but it’s part of the whole idea of visible discipleship and rightly creates a community of the sanctified, instead of a collective of the imputed.
5. Understands Justice in terms of redemption
a. Justice in baptism is again, seen as a liberation, an exodus. We are buried with Christ, and thus the sting of death that is, the power of sin no longer holds sway because we have followed the messiah through death, into new creation where we are presently able to be seated in heavenly places despite our earthly location.
b. Confirmation is redemptive in that in cohering with the demonstrations of the book of acts, the deepening of faith is seen as a redeptive and active process. While you’re immediately declared right with God, salvatio is a process of growing into new creation though that is in some sense, where we already are.
6. Connects sin to cosmic powers and addresses these
a. Baptism in this view specifically removes the power of original and actual sin, liberating the soul for life in the Spirit of New Creation.
b. Confirmation is a further overcoming of the evils of the world and a further strengthening of faith that good works may abound all the more.
7. Connects the Church as a whole to salvation
a. Baptism does this by seeing literal saving grace as something even children can receive as a literal substitute for circumcision because we are the one people of God, both by birth and by conversion. We believe that having children is part of or faithfulness to the Church, and so those children are baptized into our community because God has laid claim on them until they are confirmed.
b. Confirmation answers the question of subjective appropriation of the faith, because in it, the youth is affirmed by the community as a disciple of the Lord, and brought into the fullness of faith. Infant dedications are a bit hypocritical in that they want the form with none of the actual power to save, when all that’s needed is a rebirth of the practice of confirmation.