Wednesday, 29 November 2006

An even worse liturgical invention

A while back we were all discussing the worst liturgical invention. But my wife has now come across one that’s hard to beat. On the weekend she visited a large church, and the church’s newsletter included the following announcement:

Water baptisms: held the last Sunday of every month.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit: held the second Sunday of every month.

One cannot even parody such an announcement, since it is already its own parody. Anyway, my own suggestion was that they should also schedule regeneration for Tuesday evenings and sanctification for the third Friday of every month.


Petter Ö said...

Perhaps it only works sundays? If not, I would suggest regeneration already monday, to be on the safe side.

One of Freedom said...

I guess the insert fell out of her bulletin, it announced the pre-requisite course. Speaking in Tongues: Mondays, now in three easy syllables.

Chris Tilling said...


Perhaps we could fit the judging of the living and the dead in Monday, and the final eschatological completion of God all in all for next Tuesday ...

Jim said...

Only one word will suffice- and I don't mean to be mean (this time): idiots.

Only an idiot believes that God can be controlled and scheduled.

J said...

Your post reminded me of the Charismatic Christian camp that I spent quite a few summers at in my youth. The staff referred to Wednesday as "Holy Spirit Wednesday", because that's when they introduced the idea of Holy Spirit Baptism and Speaking in Tongues to the kids. Looking back, I am simultaneously saddened and amused. I can't say I'm not bitter for being dooped in to practices that have little scriptural or practical basis (for me, anyway).

Anonymous said...

I was just heading upstairs when I broke my 11th commandment: "Thou shalt not stop in the study on the way to bed" - and the punishment for disobedience was swift: I'm laughing so hard there will be no chance of sleep!

Thanks for this post, Ben - and all you guys for the comments. I'd only add that it seems like everyday is hell in this church!

Fred said...

Perhaps I'm missing something. Why wouldn't Christians schedule sacraments at particular times? Confession at 3pm Saturday; Eucharist at 8 & 11 am on Sunday; infant baptisms on Sundays (following the mandatory parental meeting on the third Saturday of each month); annointing of the sick on the first Friday of the month; adult baptisms ONCE a year at Easter; confirmation ONCE a year a couple of weeks into the Easter season; Weddings after a 6-9 month waiting period. Many of these events can also take place by appt, but that's in addition to regularly scheduled times.

I guess the question is: what place is there in Christianity for communal celebration of grace? Or is God bound only to the mood of individuals?

Anonymous said...

Deep Furrows,

you've missed the issue. The issue is not the scheduling of sacraments, it's the separation of water/Spirit baptism.

Ben Myers said...

Yes, Anon: and can you imagine how inconvenient it would be if the Spirit descended like a dove during the water baptism? It would upset the entire month's schedule!

Fred said...

I don't know. The multiplication of baptisms is already a feature in Protestantism, so it's no wonder that some groups are institutionalizing it within their own doors.

It would also seem to me that this trend is well rooted in Western Christianity's division of Baptism from Confirmation. That is, Western Christians have sought for a way of institutionalizing deeper conversion following baptism - as strengthening or what have you.

Although Roman rite Catholic, I think that the East has this one right.


Anonymous said...

Perhaps a bigger issue is our desire to control the work of God in our midst. As Peter's visit to Cornelius demonstrates, that's kind of hard to do.

Anonymous said...

Hi Deep Furrows.

As a matter of historical fact, the separation of confirmation from baptism had no theological rationale whatsoever, it happened due to the insistence of the early Roman and African churches that the anointing and laying on of hands, which were part of the celebration of baptism, be the sole preogative of the bishop. As the church expanded, as infant baptism became the norm, and as bishops were not always readily available, the practice soon developed that the local presbyter would baptise, leaving the "completion" of the rite to the bishop when he was in the area. In other words, it was practical necessity, not theological considerations, that led to the separation of confirmation from baptism. The theology of "strengthening", of confirmation as the "sacrament of combat", dates only from around the sixth century.

Calvin (the loathsome, fissiparous Protestant!) of course rejected the status of confirmation as a sacrament, but he acknowledged its value as a public profession of faith, and also as an incentive to parents to be zealous in catechising their children.

The disaster, in Protestantism, of this rite ever in search of a theology is that it commonly came to be the sine qua non of admission to the eucharist, and so turned the table of grace into the bar of law.

Lyn said...

And glorification on the last day of ... well, that would be the last day.

Mark said...

A wild guess, but I'm thinking this doesn't just mean they baptize with water on one day and a week later perform Chrismations.

Anonymous said...

Just a mischievous thought - how do they make their tea on Holy Spirit Sunday? When I was 'done' Baptist fashion the minister said "it's exactly the same water we will use later for the tea" (honest, it's at least one genuine source of the apocryphal tale) - do they steep their tea bags in vodka on second Sundays?

Anonymous said...

The separation of water baptism and spirit occured in the New testament. You may recall the Apostle observing that his congregation had already been baptised in the Holy Spirit, and therefore realised that they should also be baptised in water. Ergo, they are not the same thing.

Secondly, the confusion of water and spirit baptism results from the frequent coincidence of them: indeed they should occur simultaneously but they are different things.

Thirdly, people often think that the verse about being born of the spirit and of water means water and spirit baptism. No - the 'water' refers to physical birth, not baptism at all, and the 'spirit' refers to spiritual birth which is not the same as baptism in the spirit even though it overlaps with it [although ideally this should occur immediately]. It's quite clear from the text!

Notwithstanding all of this, you can't force God into a human schedule.

Jim said...

Kim wrote- Calvin (the loathsome, fissiparous Protestant!) of course rejected the status of confirmation as a sacrament, but he acknowledged its value as a public profession of faith, and also as an incentive to parents to be zealous in catechising their children.

Calvin was right in this, as he was in so much. There's nothing "grace bestowing" about anything but salvation itself. Other things may be signs of grace received- but only salvation BESTOWS grace- which is what a sacrament is.

And hey! Why be so mean about Calvin!!!! If he were still alive he would have you burned... And I'm wagering you wouldn't care much for that.


Anonymous said...

Hey, Jim, I was just sending up Deep Furrows a bit, all in good fun. Calvin? I used to have an "I Love Calvin" t-shirt - until I wore it out!


Jim said...

I know you were 'funnin'. Me too. It's all part of my Zwinglian wickedness.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim, you wouldn't have a line in "I Love Huldrych" t-shirts, would you?

Jim said...

not with that line on it -- but... i'm sure you would love stuff from these stores!

Michael Westmoreland-White, Ph.D. said...

For Deep Furrows, even those groups which do separate water baptism from baptism in the Holy Spirit (groups which consider the latter to be a "separate work of grace from salvation") would find scheduling the latter to be absurd, I think. One can schedule water baptisms: infant or believers, but the Spirit blows where the Spirit wills. As Peter found out at the house of Cornelius, the Spirit may not wait on water baptism and the official church reps. may have to catch up!!

Fred said...

The Holy Spirit blows where He wills, but in the Catholic understanding of baptism, the Holy Spirit shows up with certainty at every celebration of the Sacrament of Baptism (and every sacrament). I believe the CCC says that God has bound man to the sacraments, but that God always retains freedom to act on His own initiative as well.

I still maintain that the irritation folks feel at Charismatics scheduling Baptism in the Holy Spirit is due to the inconguity between the charismatic emphasis on informal spontaneity and the institutionalization that every Christian group undergoes. I have known several groups in my day who began with the intention of recapturing the life of the Church as expressed in the Book of Acts, and each one of these groups has ended by taking on features of mainstream Christian churches.

This development is no surprise to me any more than seeing acorns grow into oak trees.

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