I have had a number of people ask whether I will be sharing content from the presentation “Confirmation, Catechesis and First Communion – History and Pastoral Practice” that I am doing at a number of pastors’ conferences. The answer is yes – but you will need to be patient. I am currently working on a book that will examine the history of Confirmation beginning with the New Testament material and then following the development in the western Church up to the sixteenth century, and in the Lutheran church up to the age of rationalism (at least).
I believe such a book is needed for five reasons. First, in order to understand Confirmation in Lutheranism today we need to know the entire history of its development rather than beginning in the sixteenth century (for example Arthur C. Repp’s classic Confirmation in the Lutheran Church devotes two and a half pages to the history of Confirmation before the Reformation). Second, Repp’s Confirmation in the Lutheran Church which was published in 1964 is now dated in its scholarship and a new treatment is needed that engages work done since then. Third, while Repp’s book is a classic and very helpful there are areas where correction is needed (such as in his taxonomy of confirmation). Fourth, the treatment of Confirmation in the majority of scholarship has adopted an approach that believes “Christian initiation” is a single whole comprised of water, anointing and eucharist. An examination of this topic from the perspective of confessional Lutheran theology is needed. Finally, parish pastors recognize that the Lutheran church’s practice of Confirmation is, to put it mildly, a source of many problems and questions. A very strong argument can be made that Confirmation itself and the beliefs it promotes are a large part of the problem (though certainly cultural factors are also very important).
A book that examines these issues in a scholarly fashion is needed. Yet such a book also needs to be written with a perspective that truly understands the landscape that parish pastors face today. Writing from the setting of the parish, I intend to address both of these concerns.
I am currently in the process of working on the book. I have been in contact with Concordia Publishing House. Lord willing, if all goes as author and publisher hope, it will be published by CPH. This is a very large project, and it will take time. But I believe it will make a significant contribution to our understanding of the Lutheran church’s present practice and will offer constructive suggestions for the future.