Confirming Age

When I was growing up, it seemed that most 8th graders would go through the Rite of Confirmation. Today, some churches are confirming children earlier, some later, even in high school. They say that the high schoolers are more serious about learning the doctrine of the church. Is there a better time for this? Does it really matter?

4 thoughts on “Confirming Age

  1. I think it matters.

    I’ve heard people defending the confirmation of children as young as 8, or even earlier. I can see their points, but maintain am not completely certain myself.

    Did Jesus teach the Sacrament only to Adults? or to all mankind? including children?

    At this juncture, this Sacrament alone does not bring one to Salvation. And accepting or giving the Sacrament incorrectly has serious consequences.

    So, to me, it seems wiser to wait until children are old enough to grasp the seriousness of the consequences before including them at the Sacrament table/altar.

  2. As I think confirmation has been incorrectly tied to reception of the Lord’s Supper you really have two different things going on here. Confirmation is tied to baptism. We clearly see this as the very basic form of Baptism is used, where now the child confesses back the Apostle’s creed which they were given in their baptism. Having cut the chain tying the human institution of confirmation to the divine institution of the Lord’s Supper, then I think it would behoove us to take a very close look at how we are exegeting 1 Cor 11:27-29. The English for this is often used as a proof text against paedocommunion. Is it right to translate μη διακρινων as “not/without discerning?” I’m not so sure. Is this talking about the intellectual assent of discerning Christ’s Body and Blood, or is it talking about receiving in faith or in doubt? If we are to comprehend what is going on, then Rome has it right, we may as well use Aristotilean categories to explain the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. In fact it was this Aristotilean logic with the addition of the semi-Pelagian concept of the age of accountability that was used to abandon the practice of paedocommunion in the middle ages. So, I’m not wholly convinced that infants shouldn’t be communed once they are on solid foods (and thus done nursing).

    This then brings us to confirmation. 8th grade may be too young. If you were to keep the rite of confirmation (which I too think is highly debateable), it must not be treated as some sort of graduation or something that was forced upon the child because for 6 previous generations his/her parents and grandparents etc had to be bored out of their mind with an unending stream of facts only to completely forget them as they pick up their copy of Rick Warren’s latest Purpose Driven _____.

    I hope I’m not sounding too cynical. Confirmation in our church, I think, in many respects is like and old junker of a classic car. It has the potential of being a beautiful and very beneficial thing with a major overhaul, but right now as I have experienced (and taught) it, it is more of a lawn ornament that everyone wants to forget.

  3. I think it is difficult to fix a certain age to the rite of confirmation. Generally speaking Lutherans do it at 8th Grade and Roman Catholics do it at around the 11th grade year (give or take). I think that a persons date of confirmation ultimately needs to be determined by their parents and pastor – and even with input from the child themselves. For some it may come earlier and for some later. Maintaining an expectation of confirmation at a certain age can place pressure on those who may not yet be ready and subsequently places the rite on the same level as a graduation – as Tutal mentioned. Then you have children who are not confirmed in the 8th grade feeling “stupid” when intellect may or may not have anything to do with it.
    On that note I think that my biggest problem with todays confirmation processes (as I see them in our churches)is that they have tended to stray away from the fact that catechesis is a life long process that begins at Baptism and does not end until we breathe our last. I am not interested in disposing of the rite, but I do think that Pastors and laity alike need to work to re-establish this most important fact about catechesis. Doing so will probably serve to help with the age-fixing problem I mentioned above.
    Regarding communion. I agree with Tutal (even if he does needlessly make use of big words like “paedocommunion”). If we take “discerning the body” and place rigid parameters around it in arguments against communing younger children (and perhaps even infants) then we must seriously ask the question, how many adult members of our congregations are properly discerning the body according to our standards? The fact is that the Sacrament of the Altar has for many (without them even realizing it) has been lost as a means of grace and a gift of God to his people for the forgiveness of sins. I should clarify here that I am not at all promoting “open communion” where anyone and everyone can receive. However, it is very narrow, I believe, to say that only at a certain age (shall we call it age of accountability?) can one discern the Body of Christ sufficiently to be admitted to the Altar. Indeed if any of us could properly discern the Body, then we would not have need of that which it gives us.
    All of that being said – I too believe that confirmation needs to be more separate from first communion and reconnected with the roots it has in Baptism.

  4. I think communion should be given as early as proper understanding of it can happen. It need not be tied to confirmation.

    Since it wouldn’t be holding up communion, confirmation could then be done later when one is closer to adulthood.

    My 1st communion came two years prior to confirmation. Interestingly, my pastor held nearly all of our class back prior to confirmation 1 year because we hadn’t completed our memory work and otherwise had not done a good job learning the material.

    It was the best of both worlds, confirmation had to wait until we were ready, instead of an arbitrary age and communion was not denied for the sake of confirmation.

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