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baptism renunciation

Please do me a favour for a minute.

The NZ Prayer Book renunciation in the baptism service is:

Do you renounce all evil influences and powers that rebel against God?
I renounce all evil.

Could you please in the comment box below write a paraphrase of what is being renounced. That is, please “translate” the renunciation into other words – so don’t use the word “evil” but express what you would understand is being renounced using an in other word or words.

If someone already has what you would have put, you can still comment, either just repeat it, or put “what s/he said”.

Promise: no one will make fun of your interpretation. After a number of comments are in I will add a comment explaining why I am asking this.

Thanks in anticipation.

Update: Thanks to all who have participated. Rev. Peter Carrell and I have been discussing the meaning of this text and have been viewing it very differently. We agreed that I do a blog post on this on my site about this. Having received a goodly number of responses, I have now added the issues in a comment. Thanks again.

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39 thoughts on “baptism renunciation”

  1. “I turn away from those things that are dangerous and destructive in the world and in myself”
    That’s pretty much how I explain this part of the liturgy to parents during prep sessions, and to unchurched congregations on the day

  2. I’m not Catholic in the slightest, but my take on it would be:

    “I reject and promise to reject all unholy influences.”

  3. OK, here goes…”I renounce all evil”, = disowning the personal inclination, of our imperfect human state, towards actively persuing evil, i.e. those things which oppose the will and goodness of God.

  4. Christianne McKee

    I take it to mean that I reject anything, be it an inclination within me, or an entity or force outside of me, that aims to destroy or harm anything in God’s creation or to lead anyone or anything away from God.

  5. “I renounce all that might lead me to estrangement from God” or “to separation from God.”

    Though I really liked “Michael,” May 11, 2010 at 8:35 am.

  6. Pete Broadbent

    The CofE version is “I renounce evil” – which is better, because it doesn’t quantify or make grandiose claims. Rather, it says “this is how I purpose to live in the future, living for the good that is found in God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” It’s also part of a threefold declaration of turning to Christ – commitment in the present; repenting of sin – letting go of the past; and renouncing evil – as you walk into the future in a new way of life.

  7. Don Noyes-More

    RE: The Question, I found the following about baptism an interesting read before deciding what to write.

    Roman Catholic: The Council of Trent (1545-1563) reaffirmed the theology of baptism inherited from the middle ages. Among other things, this theology claimed that the unbaptized could not be saved. Since the Roman Catholic Church had adopted the practice of infant baptism as its norm, catechesis had ceased to play any real role in baptism. Renunciation of the devil, parental profession of faith, and the actual baptism with water were the most pronounced features of the Roman Catholic rite of baptism. Baptism was considered necessary for salvation. It was understood to cleanse the recipient from original sin and also to leave the baptizand free of actual sin.

    Lutheran: Lutherans retained infant baptism but altered their understanding of its nature. Luther and other conservative Protestant reformers also quietly abandoned the notion that unbaptized infants are condemned without, they hoped, diminishing the importance of baptism. The Lutheran view of baptism is summarized in a listing of its benefits in Luther’s Small Catechism: “In Baptism God forgives sin, delivers from death and the devil, and gives everlasting salvation to all who believe what he has promised.” Lutherans maintained that baptism, functioning as a promise, simply bestowed these gifts. At the same time, the Lutherans insisted that these gifts can only be received by saving faith. Thus Luther typically argued that infants are capable of faith and that the presence of faith is a condition of effective baptism.

    Reformed: The Reformed tradition retained the baptism of infants, but rejected or diminished the claim that baptism is contingent on the faith of the child baptized. For Zwingli baptism resulted in the incorporation of the child into the community of faith. For him the sacrament functioned as an initiatory sign analogous to circumcision in the Old Testament. John Calvin argued that the theme of baptism is incorporation into the faith and discipline of the church. In the Institutes of the Christian Religion, Calvin maintained that three gifts are imparted in baptism: the sealing of the forgiveness of sins, impulses to reform the believer in newness of life, and communion with Christ.

    Radical: The radical reformers rejected infant baptism and administered this rite only consequent to conscious repentance, faith, and conversion on the part of the recipient. While understandings of baptism differed considerably among various factions, most considered baptism as a profession of individual faith, as a covenant of membership in the believing congregation, and as a preparation for the possibility of martyrdom.

    Anglican: The Church of England retained the baptism of infants, but the English reformation did not produce a distinct pattern of baptismal theology or practice. This is reflected in the Prayer Book of 1552 which contains a baptismal liturgy prepared by Thomas Cranmer. This rite implies some influence from Reformed theology. In practice Cranmer retains some of the inherited Roman Catholic form, rejects other portions of it, and seems in other instances to borrow from the Genevan reforms of John Calvin.

  8. Rather than paraphrasing, I propose the following corollary:

    I will ONLY do good things that are pleasing to God’s eyes, to always love Him with all my heart, all my might and all my soul, and not be tempted nor distracted by anything else.

    You cannot do the above if you don’t renounce evil. The above statement is an affirmation whereas the the original statement is exclusionary.

  9. Try this:

    Do you turn away from powers and persons who broke their relationship with God?

    It’s an interesting exercise – but reminds me of the liturgical meltdown that happened in many American churches some decades back.

  10. I refuse to participate with those entities, whether spiritual or human, who seek to crush, mangle, or destroy the ability of others to love deeply.

  11. Do you renounce all evil influences and powers that rebel against God? = Do you give up all things that lead you to do wrong* and the things that pull you away from God?

    I renounce all evil.
    I give up all harmful, spiteful, destructive, neglectful, unhelpful, selfish, self-serving, abusive, over-reaching behaviors and omissions.

    Let’s just say that “doing wrong” is the same as the evil I renounce.

  12. I am with Michael and Deacon Scott –

    I turn from that which is death-dealing (and as a result – seek that which is life-giving).

    Lord Jesus Christ, I acknowledge you as King of the universe. All creation was made for you. Exercise all your sovereign rights over me. I renew my baptismal promises, renouncing Satan and all his works and empty promises, and I promise to lead a good Christian life. I will try to bring about the recognition of the truth of God and your Church. Divine Heart of Jesus, I offer all my actions that every human heart may accept your kingship. May the kingdom of your peace be established across the world.


    I renounce the devil and all his works, the pomps and vanities of this wicked world, and all the sinful lusts of the flesh.

  15. When I say I am renouncing evil, I am meaning that:
    I am renouncing the comfort of being complacent and lazy of mind;
    I am renouncing the comfort of being ignorant of another person’s pain;
    I am renouncing pride and my own will.

  16. I would assume it a reference to sin, the world, the flesh and the devil? e.g. Paul Ephesians 2:1-3, having just described our the seal of baptism by the Spirit, suggests:
    – trespasses and sins (in which we once walked in death)
    – the following of the course of this world
    – following of the prince of the power of the air (devil)
    – the passions of the flesh (desires of the body and mind)

    1. Thanks for all who have contributed. I wanted to ask the question without influencing anyone in their response.

      I have been having a discussion with Rev Peter Carrell. Peter is responsible for ministry training and theological education in our diocese, so the understandings he holds are very influential on clergy and others in formation.

      My understanding has always been that it is a repudiation of all that is wrong, of all that is sinful. It includes, but by no means is the renunciation of evil limited to, what is “external” to me – it includes the evil of which I am the source, the evil we confess.

      Peter, on the other hand, contends “renouncing evil” does not include renouncing personal sin or a “pattern of sinful living” but takes “the renunciation to be of evil things (e.g. idolatry, occult)”. He has quoted an anonymous member of the Prayer Book Commission to support his position.

      We agreed that I would explore this in a blog post as I had asked several people, clergy and lay, and, as I did here, without prompting in any direction, could not find a single person who held to Peter’s interpretation.

      There is clearly a similar tendency in comments here. Most people interpret the text as I do.

      A quick comparison with other contemporary texts:

      BCP (TEC) USA:

      “Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God”

      Do you renounce Satan and all the spiritual forces of wickedness that rebel against God?
      I renounce them.
      Do you renounce the evil powers of this world which corrupt and destroy the creatures of God?
      I renounce them.
      Do you renounce all sinful desires that draw you from the love of God?
      I renounce them.

      Australian Anglican Prayer Book

      Before God and this congregation, you must affirm that you turn to Christ and reject all that is evil:
      Do you turn to Christ?
      I turn to Christ.
      Do you repent of your sins?
      I repent of my sins.
      Do you reject selfish living, and all that is false and unjust?
      I reject them all.
      Do you renounce Satan and all that is evil?
      I renounce all that is evil.

      Church of England – Common Worship

      In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light. To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him.
      Therefore I ask: Do you reject the devil and all rebellion against God?
      I reject them.
      Do you renounce the deceit and corruption of evil?
      I renounce them.
      Do you repent of the sins that separate us from God and neighbour?
      I repent of them.

      I have never read our NZ Anglican rite as doing anything different in the baptismal renunciation than what the other rites and every Christian rite I know of intends to do in baptism. Question 46 of the NZ Anglican Catechism has
      What is required of those seeking Baptism?
      That they renounce evil and turn from sin to Christ as the Way, the Truth and the Life.

      I have never seen it otherwise than that the baptismal rite effects the requirement of the catechism.

      In my opinion, if the baptismal rite did not include a repentance of wrong, or sin, or personal evil, it would be a grossly deficient rite and not stand in continuity with the Christian tradition. I have never seen this baptism rite as being deficient in this regard. It is of concern to me that someone would be prepared to use such a rite if their reading of it showed it to be so grossly deficient, and even more strongly that a member of the Prayer Book Commission who authored this rite would endorse such an interpretation of this rite. I am concerned that such an interpretation be taught in the formation of our clergy. Just as I was concerned that my own catechesis, which has literally involved thousands of people, was challenged as incorrect. I am reassured by the strong reinforcement of my position both through my discussions with others and the comments on this blog post.

      Thank you to all who have participated.

  17. Bosco;

    Very interesting observations! Do you know that there are some minsters within the Anglican communion who deny that concupiscence is a sin, object to the doctrine of depravity, and disagree with the very concept of original sin? For those ministers, it is very uncomfortable to explicitly require the renunciation of that which they deny even exists.

    I think in the past, these doctrines would not have been questioned, being clearly set out in the articles and homilies (before even opening scripture); perhaps without the requirement to adhere to them, liturgy unavoidably must become more flexible and less precise to allow for the comfortable teaching of these ‘divergent doctrines’.

  18. Peter Carrell

    Hi Bosco
    It is of concern to me that you continue to publish words about my views as though (a) they are my definitive views (e.g. no account being taken of my continuing reflection about what the baptismal service means), (b) I would teach ministers an idiosyncratic view on this or any other matter.
    I do not see that mentioning me or my views or making claims about my alleged influence on people (it is a source of constant surprise to me how little people take notice of anything I say which they do not already agree with) is of relevance to this post.

    1. Greetings Peter
      Our discussion about this has been totally public on your site and I placed the link to that thread so that I am not filtering our discussion. I described the essence of my blog post and you said there that you were looking forward to it. There was nothing indicating you thought your view idiosyncratic, in fact you brought in support from a member of the Prayer Book Commission for your position. We are all, I hope, open to changing our views. Had everyone/most I asked understood the text in your manner I would have similarly acknowledged the discussion, and for my part, as I mention on your site, begun a “product recall”.
      Apologies about any misunderstanding. You are public on your site about your role within the church. I was not having a discussion for example with a young student but with someone well educated and formed whose opinions I respect – that’s why I was taking it this seriously. Finally, just as I might overestimate your influence, I think you significantly underestimate it 🙂

  19. Rev Bosco,

    I agree with your interpretation and not with Rev Carrell. Evil cannot be selective; it is ALL encompassing; it is the absence of goodness. Anything that separates us from God (sin) cannot be good, and, therefore, is evil. Jesus said: say either yes or no. Anything else comes from the evil.


  20. Peter Carrell

    Well, then, I would like to assure all readers, especially any in the Diocese of Christchurch, that a view I might raise on a blog, discuss, perhaps eventually revise, is not necessarily a guide to what I might propose as the correct and/or common view of something in the life of our church. My intention as a teacher/trainer in formal training sessions is to reflect the common life of our church!!

  21. David |dah•veed|

    Peter, that does not sound like theological education that I would relish. That is sort of like spoon feeding the party line. Why not equip folks with the tools to do theology, and leave figuring out what is the common life of the church to them to determine with the tools that they have been given?

  22. Peter Carrell

    Hi David
    I think you would find in NZ where quite a lot of individualism abounds that teaching in line with the common life of the church would not spoon feed a party line so much as remind them of where the ‘centre’ of the church lies, and assist them to figure how far or close what they then did with their learning (under me, under others, under their current vicar) was from that point.

    But I do take on board your point about equipping folks ‘with the tools to do theology’!

  23. What bearing does (e.g.) Ezekiel 3:18-21 have on the broader topic of the duty of a minister to rebuke sin, and ask those entrusted to them to renounce it? I would think it agreed after all that scripture is of greater authority than any prayer book?

  24. David |dah•veed|

    I am sure Vincent that we could cherry-picked the whole of both Testaments and come down to a right proper job description for clergy, but I am not one generally for ripping anything by the roots out of its context, so that is probably not a good idea.

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