6

INITIATION INTO UNITY

The division of the Christians in Africa into three competing communions, each with its own college of bishops, involved conflict over the efficacy of the rituals performed in other churches. Initially, the conflict focused on the ritual of penance: the laxists questioned the efficacy and necessity of the Catholic ritual of reconciliation; the Catholics restricted the intercessory power of the martyrs on which the laxists relied. The rigorists claimed that only Christ could forgive the sin of apostasy and concluded that the Catholic and laxist eucharistic fellowships had both been polluted by the participation of the lapsed. Catholics rejected the eucharistic celebrations of laxists and rigorists as violations of the unity of Christ’s church. Each denied the efficacy of the others’ eucharistic celebration as a pure sacrifice sanctifying the community and qualifying its members for entrance into the kingdom of Christ. The competing churches were soon questioning the efficacy of the primary ritual of purification and forgiveness, baptism. The laxist practice remains unknown but the rigorists rebaptized converts from the Catholic communion. The Catholic bishops debated the necessity of rebaptizing a convert who had originally been baptized in a competing communion.

In the period immediately following the persecution and division of the church, it may be presumed that most of the separated laxists and rigorists had been baptized originally in the Catholic communion. Some of their adherents, however, might have been baptized in the laxist and rigorist communions. Catechumens, for example, might have participated in the rebellion over the reception of the lapsed. The children born to schismatics might also have been baptized in these new communions. 1 In the following years, new members may have made their first approach and commitment to Christianity in these churches. 2 Eventually, some of the schismatics became dissatisfied with their leaders or were persuaded by the

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Cyprian the Bishop
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - History of Cyprian’s Controversies 1
  • 2 - Christians of Carthage Under Persecution 12
  • 3 - Necessity of Repentance 25
  • 4 - Efficacy of the Reconciliation Ritual 51
  • 5 - Indivisibility of the Church 78
  • 6 - Initiation into Unity 100
  • 7 - Purity of the Church 132
  • 8 - Unity of the Episcopate 151
  • 9 - Cyprian’s African Heritage 166
  • Notes 177
  • Bibliography 233
  • Index 235
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