14 December 2009

Pre-baptismal Catechesis: How much is necessary?

This is a question addressed to fellow pastors: how much catechesis would you require before baptizing an adult who hasn't been attending a Lutheran church, didn't grow up in a Christian home, and wants to be baptized without any prior instruction?

13 comments:

William Weedon said...

Dear Fr. Beisel,

I'm not sure there is a single answer.

I can tell you that we've just completed 1/2 of Bender's Lutheran Catechesis and we'll be baptizing two adults at the Baptism of our Lord. I wanted them to have had the Creed above all so that they could indeed confess it with understanding. I have, however, baptized adults at times right away without instruction; and I've usually regretted it. FWIW.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I would think the minimum would be a understanding of the points of the Creed - whether that is taught over several meetings, or an afternoon chariot ride a la Acts 8. But at the Baptism, the person being baptized will be asked if they confess the Creed - and we want to make sure they know what the Creed is speaking to.

My question is why does the fellow what you to baptize him if he hasn't been attending a Lutheran Church. . . was this a matter of he attended once and asked for baptism, or simply knocked on your door out of the blue?

Pr. H. R. said...

I agree that there is no one size fits all policy on this. In general, though, I don't like to delay baptism. If there is faith expressed in the salvation provided by the Father in the giving of his Son: that faith is given by the Holy Spirit.

So often I will baptize quickly, and then treat the baptized person like I would any other member of my parish who is baptized but not confirmed: they go through full instruction before coming to the Lord's Table.

+HRC

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Thanks for the input. I don't like the thought of delaying baptism too long either. Eric, I especially appreciate your point of saying that the person who is to be baptized will be asked if they confess the Creed. This is very helpful. Perhaps I could send the person the questions that will be asked of them, and whether or not they can answer them. This would probably tell me a lot.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Incidentally, the person in question decided to wait for right now, since there was no chance for any kind of meeting or discussion before he and his wife come home to visit. I will, however, be baptizing their child after Christmas. He had wanted to be baptized along with the baby, but I said not without at least some basic instruction in the Creed and on Baptism. I hope I'm not straining out gnats.

Pr. JPF said...

No, there is not a single answer. I have baptized several dying ones following their questions with simple biblical witness, credal questions, short discussion re the Commandments and the Lord's Prayer ever and anon centered about the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Always, always I was following up on someone else's work, to wit, Hagia Sophia.

Blessed ushers are we...

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

I could see that in the case of emergency, where there was no time for thorough instruction. I did note that our agenda says that baptism is to be administered to children of members or adults after "adequate instruction." Define "adequate." I think Eric's point was a good one.

Uncle Rod said...

What is the difference between baptizing a one week old infant and a thirty-something adult? Is it just the individual's capacity for comprehending what is taking place? Does that ultimately affect our decision as pastor to baptize or not? The baptism is effective in both cases whether the person really understands or not, the concern comes in the post-baptismal spiritual care.
Pr. Schultz

Larry said...

Layman - adult baptized

The case of and for emergency baptism seems at odd with the need of pre-baptismal catechesis. What is the emergency?

Larry Luder

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

I would not hesitate to baptize an adult in the case of an emergency (like imminent death). I think just asking the questions from the baptismal rite about the Creed would be sufficient. "Do you believe in God the Father Almighty? Do you believe in Jesus Christ His Son? Do you believe in the Holy Spirit? Do you believe that Jesus died to take away your sins? etc." Otherwise, it seems that thorough catechesis is necessary.

Rev. Robert Franck said...

This is telling: "wants to be baptized without any prior instruction?"

My typical minimum would be a 10-12 week class on the basics of the Christian faith, along with regular church attendance.

Of course if there is imminent death, that would be another matter, but it seems like this person doesn't really want God's full gifts for some reason.

Rev. Paul Beisel said...

Rev. Franck, I think you and I are basically agreed. The person in question ended up declining to be baptized when presented with the need to confess some basic teachings of Scripture before being baptized.

Brad said...

The eunuch in Acts 8 did not receive an "extended catechesis," so to speak. In preaching the gospel to him, Philip certainly taught repentance and faith--and how these are given, and carried on in us, through Holy Baptism. When the eunuch desired such treasure ("Look! Water!"), it was certainly time to baptize him. For this is the language of faith: more gifts, please. That those gifts can later be tossed aside, or rejected, should not disrupt their delivery. For they also can always be returned to. My 2 cents. Rev. Brad Drew