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The Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Rite in the Sixteenth Century [Paperback]

By Hughes Oliphant Old (Author)
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Item description for The Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Rite in the Sixteenth Century by Hughes Oliphant Old...

This meticulously researched book recounts how the early sixteenth-century Reformers, steering a course between the old Latin rites on the one hand and the Anabaptist movement on the other, developed a baptismal service that they understood to be reformed according to Scripture. Hughes Oliphant Old's study shows the Reformed baptismal rite to be well thought out, pastorally sensitive, and theologically profound.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Pages   340
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.22" Width: 6.08" Height: 0.85"
Weight:   1.15 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 1992
Publisher   Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company
ISBN  0802824897  
ISBN13  9780802824899  

Availability  141 units.
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More About Hughes Oliphant Old

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Hughes Oliphant Old is John H. Leith Professor of Reformed Theology and Dean of the Institute for Reformed Worship at Erskine Theological Seminary, Columbia, South Carolina.

Hughes Oliphant Old currently resides in the state of New Jersey.

Hughes Oliphant Old has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Guides to the Reformed Tradition
  2. Reading & Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Chri
  3. Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Ch

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Protestantism > Baptist

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Shaping of the Reformed Baptismal Rite in the Sixteenth Century?

The Grounds And Cause For A Reformed Baptism  Mar 17, 2009
This is not your average research project, a point often taken for granted being that Dr Old is fluent in the continental languages, as well as the Latin of the Reformers. The sources he lists would intimidate the majority of theological students, and a glance at the ten chapters filled with foreign footnotes bear testimony to a consummate researcher. The major role players from this period of church history are regarded as heavyweights in their own traditions, whether Catholic or Protestant or heterodox. Dr Old, a paedobaptist by belief, aims to fairly represent all the parties involved, but for the most part accents the Reformed position, and how its particular strengths were brokered.

'They did not have in mind a biblicistic literalism.' Preface

Had the magisterial Reformers been guilty of a biblicistic literalism, it is safe to conclude they would never have arrived at infant baptism. Given the historical problem of Rome, Old's inquiry is as much a searching into the rivalry of traditions as into the minds of the Reformers. The judgment of the magisterial Reformers eventually unfolds as the preferred interpretation of Scripture, and Old benignly avails us of the uneasy trail they had to blaze.

With the advent of Christendom in AD 325, contact with paganism proliferated, and an influx of converts from their ranks meant adults outnumbered infants born into Christian homes. Neither traditions nor rites were uniform in the universal church, and the practice of baptism was tainted by local superstition and pagan custom, presenting the difficult task to the modern historian of assimilating the use of the sacrament from different locations. Added to which, creedal formulae and classical confessions introduced into the early churches had advanced in the Catholic, influencing baptismal rites to adapt in practice. The diocesan rites in the early 1520s of especially Strasbourg and of Constance are thought to be where the Reformed position originated.

Luther published his views in 1523, but in the same year so did Castellani - no doubt upholding the Catholic tradition of regenerational baptism. Dr Old informs, 'The rites of baptism on the eve of the Reformation were dominated by exorcisms.' pg 10 Even though paganism had receded, baptism had become an enacted and convoluted celebration, for 'Originally the exorcisms had supported the catechetical instruction, but as the instructions were gradually given up, the exorcisms alone survived. The catechumenal rites had by this time been so reduced to exorcism that to catechize simply meant to exorcize.' Baptism had evolved in the Dark Ages, and went unchallenged as all about 'chasing out the devil'. Authority had moved away from the Word to the priest and his craft.

The Reformers not only attempted reform, but a return to the New Testament church. They found just cause to be faithful to apostolic tradition and sufficient biblical grounds to baptize all people. Luther initiated the baptismal reforms, even though the Mass reforms enjoyed priority. Translation into the common tongue assisted this effort. Especially Luther's 'Great Flood Prayer' sought to redress the lack of prayer inherited from Catholic practice. 'In the year 1523, Luther was also concerned with the questions of allegorical exegesis, typological exegesis, and the Christian interpretation of the Old Testament. In recasting this prayer, his new insights into the proper use of typology may have prodded him to select biblical types more appropriate to baptism.' p 38
Midwife baptisms administered at home blurred the grace of God through the sacraments - especially when the baptism was later repeated in church, enjoining the first as ineffectual. Appearing as a type of forerunner to Anabaptism, all the Reformers plead and stood against midwife baptism actively.

Bucer in Strasbourg defined the baptismal rites further, and added to the reform impetus. 'They wanted to follow Luther and wanted to appear to follow Luther.' p 45 Before the Anabaptist controversy could be properly addressed, the Reformers hashed out a prevention against separate rites for the two types of baptism: church sacramental baptism and Spirit baptism. Faith is not neglected by the Reformers: that will follow on catechismal instruction and the vows to raise the child in the sound teaching of Christ at home. Supplementary to Luther's 'Great Flood Prayer', baptismal prayers and invocations to Christ to apply the internal Spirit-wrought work in His own time, whilst the preacher applied the outer sign, was aided by a wealth of biblical imagery. 'The prayer is a petition that the child receive the benefits of the sacrament. The image of sealing from Ephesians 1: 13-14 is used, as are the image of new birth from John 3:5 and Titus 3:5, and the image of being buried and raised with Christ found in Romans 6: 3-5.' p 60 Medieval Latin exorcism was dealt its final blow with its replacement by the efficacy of prayer attending baptisms.

In Zurich, Zwingli acknowledged the rites so far brought through reform by his involvement in its polemic against the ever-growing Anabaptist movement there. Zwingli had made a special point in case to strengthen the Reformed baptism as a sign of the covenant. Prominence was given to the work of the Holy Spirit, and the importance of baptism in ecclesiology in relation to its significance as inclusion into God's covenant people, now gained its own place in worship, whilst biblical examples of benedictions to be performed by the preacher were added to the liturgy. 'Zwingli's exegesis has broken loose the stones that Bullinger, Oecolampadius, Bucer, and finally Calvin would make into a very solid argument.' p 112

Oecolampadius from Basel completes the picture in the first generation stage of Reformed history - yet only three chapters into the book (the author deals with Heinrich Bullinger in a separate book). In Basel the first New Testament in Greek was printed. Basel's Reformers were chiefly interested in the recovery of biblical Hebrew and Greek, and spurred on by a renewed interest in faithfulness to 'the whole baptismal rite which would order baptism according to Scripture.' p 73 This contributed to a rich sacramental theology and Dr Old cites the published liturgical rites principally to make his case in reviewing the Reformer's expression of the baptismal rite at an early stage of its development.

Reformed theology was about to mature out of the Scholasticism of the Middle Ages, and in a break with Rome. Hughes Old carefully goes over the history of the conception of covenant theology, the exegesis of baptismal grounding in Scripture, the beginning of catechetical instruction, the necessity of faith, the monergism of the covenant institution, the unity of the old and new covenants, the divinely instituted signs of those covenants, and the blessings and merit that started out as divine promises that even gentiles come to inherit in Christ - all of which is entered upon by grace alone.

'It was from this understanding of the pattern of God's gracious gift of salvation, not only to parents but also to their children, that the Reformers were able to understand a number of New Testament passages.' p 129

Anabaptism, admitting of no church or confessional affiliation and giving rise to private interpretations, was a movement borne in a context where the understanding of sovereign grace in salvation found in classical Protestantism was omitted. These disgruntled commoners with no formal theological education, albeit a few who had theological training in German mysticism, could therefore not gain any ecclesiastical success. Ironically, Dr Old notes, 'At issue in this question of believer's baptism was an attempt to found a new church for the spiritually elite.' p 77

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