I've mentioned before that we are recent converts to confessional Lutheran Christian practice. One huge reason for our switch was that our old church, an ELCA mega-church, was rapidly abandoning anything Lutheran (except Lutefisk) and embracing Reformed teachings. One of the things tossed out was a formal confirmation program for the youth. The timing of our switch was no coincidence; our kids were in 7th and 5th grade in the spring of our big jump. I had been a confirmation leader and had witnessed first hand the things my daughter wasn't learning...things that I had learned in that same church thirty years earlier. Why had they dropped the program? Because parents had complained it was boring for their children. It was boring to learn from a pastor's lectures. It was a burden to memorize creeds and scripture. I wonder if our Norwegian ALC ancestors who went along with the thought that maybe scripture wasn't God's words, but men's words, foresaw the day when their great-great-great grandchildren would not be taught the strong truths of Christianity and never study Luther's Small Catechism. Thank God some brave Norwegians stayed strong.
My daughter was granted the speed version of confirmation, with one year of special sessions with the pastor along with her confirmation class. She was made strong in the grace that is Christ Jesus and learned to give an accurate account for the hope that she has in her heart. She gladly absorbed the lessons, memorized scripture and expressed herself well on Examination Day. I thought that I would be the only parent so moved as we stood at the rail blessing our children on Confirmation Day, but I had company. The sniffles and tears were, to me, a sign of the great joy of parents who saw to it that their children were fully-educated in their Christian faith and were now expressing a desire to be an adult member of the church. It was a truly joyous day.
Last fall, my son began confirmation as a 7th grader and will benefit from two years of the now three year program before he professes his faith to his church. He often comes home with little gems that have me thinking for days. One day, he said to me, "Mom, did you know that the reason we don't want to read scripture or go to church is because of our sin nature. It's our Old Adam telling us not to do those things." Wow. A simple, true and powerful statement. It's our Old Adam telling us that our family needs to sleep this Sunday morning. It's our Old Adam telling us that we don't have to send our kids to boring confirmation classes to memorize scripture. It's our Old Adam telling us that creeds are not important.
Bunnie Diehl highlighted a sermon that deals with our Old Adam and creeds. It is from Pastor Tim Pauls of Boise, Idaho. His sermon, The Benediction of Grace, Love and Communion, is based on 2 Corinthians 13:11-14.
"...there's a special reason why our Old Adam doesn't like saying the Athanasian Creed-or the Apostles' or Nicene Creeds, for that matter. It's the same reason why the creeds were written in the first place: they spell out who God is. They say what God says about Himself in the Bible. They do so in a clear, no-nonsense form that doesn't allow Old Adam a chance to revise who God is. They declare that salvation is solely His work, which should be especially Good News for us who can't manage to say two columns about God without daydreaming. [...snip...]
We live in a different time, where creeds are dismissed as unimportant: "Deeds, not creeds," "missions, not doctrine" is a rallying cry among some Christians, as if these are opposed to each other. This is not a good thing. There is immense pressure upon Christians today not to be specific about who God is. Rather than identify God explicitly, we are encouraged to view Him as a kindly old grandfather who sits in a chair and smiles indulgently while we walk around His living room and break His things. We are given the impression that God gives us a wink and says, "It doesn't matter if you know who I am or keep My laws. Just know that I love you."
If you're married, try that on your spouse sometime: "I really don't care to know your name or who you are or what you do. Just know that I love you and be there at my beck and call." It's not exactly a pledge of deep and abiding love. But that's how Old Adam wants us to regard God. You see, if we get specific about who God is, we upset old sinful natures and people start to fight. But more to the point: if we get specific about who God is, we'll see how astounding His grace and salvation truly are.