Rob Hahn presented an interesting article entitled Confirmation Sucks… and while I agree with him as to a number of points he made, my thought is not that confirmation sucks, but more so that there is a lot of room for improvement. Its not so much in the confirmation process itself, but moreso the often lacking Christian education leading up to it.
His analysis of the focus on knowing “about” God vs. “knowing” God is pretty on the spot though. The ELCA has a multitude of amazing resources that can do a great job of presenting much information about God. Where the rubber hits the road though, is making the connection from knowing about God to knowing and experiencing God.
Robs primary objection, is that the focus ends up being more knowing about God, than knowing and experiencing God. Sadly, the resulting outcome of such is pretty predictable. For far too many, they just walk away after confirmation. They were able to jump some hoops, parrot back some information, and then they think, yep, done with that… Most certainly the statistics of youth falling away from the church lend credence to such analysis.
Where I think his analysis falls apart is his assumptions that knowing about God from the get go is not that important, that one can learn what they need to later on. Granted, such a view seems to align with Luther writing’s quite a bit… most assuredly Luther was not impressed with confirmation, albeit he did not prohibit its usage. It’s also true that the apostles didn’t go through a lengthly training program before Jesus asked them to follow Him (all one has to do is look at some of the outlandish statements and questions they asked to find they were pretty lacking Christian education wise).
It is quite true that “knowing” God for some, can come about the hard way through experience, when everything crashes and burns. Its also true, that “knowing” God can come about an easier way, through knowing God a little bit, and knowing a fair amount “about” God first, so that when the hard experiences come, one is somewhat ready.
Yes, scripture alone doesn’t bring one to that point of view… but most assuredly tradition, reason, and the experience of others certainly reinforces it
Yet another aspect that I think is important is God’s action in confirmation. Again, Luther dint hold such in high regard… but then we must consider a couple bits of scripture. First, God’s word doesn’t return void, as noted in Isaiah 55:11, albeit such is something far outside our scope as humans to understand. And yes, we can hose things up as demonstrated in Mark 7:13. Perhaps such might be part of Lather’s justification for his views. On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to see the incredible retention aspects of confirmation when someone returns to the church after a 20-30 year absence. I’d say that without God acting, such would be impossible…
Lastly, there is the basic ad psyche principle of material learned first is retained to a greater degree than later material. It should also be noted, that if later material ends up being in conflict, it could take a long time and significant effort to relearn things another way. Perhaps this is best illustrated by the following video where Father Barron discusses you tube heresies.
Imagine how ones world would be rocked if they grow up in one Bibliological reference frame, only to have to relearn what their church actually teaches years later. Multitudes of conflicts and internal struggles show up due to vastly different Bibliology, with CWA09 being one of the most recent examples of differing reference frames in conflict.
Confirmation is just too important not to be taken seriously. Part 2 will look at some of the problems in greater depth, and part 3 of this series presents some solutions..