Baptism – Or Child Dedication?

The clock just struck eleven this evening, and Janet went in to bed. I headed outside, and for the first time this year, I am enjoying our firepit. I lit it earlier tonight to roast marshmallows with our grandson Carter, before I drove him home after dinner. I am sitting here in the glow of the fire reliving the events of the day – I have already put the cover on the grill, cooled down from the hamburgers and hot dogs I cooked for dinner, and after I finish this post, I will head in to bed. It’s just a special quiet time for me right now.

Earlier this evening, all three of our children; Kristin (who had surgery last week), Jill, home from Oklahoma for a visit since last Sunday, and Andrew, our only son, were all here in the house. That doesn’t happen much any more – with all of them grown and having their own families. But nonetheless, it reminded me of days long gone. And although none of the kids mentioned it, I thought it was a special time – if only for a little while. Andrew left to get back to his own family, but Kristin, with one of her sons, Carter – and Jill with her 20 month old son, Drew, joined us for dinner in the kitchen. And talk turned to Mother’s Day; and the brunch we intend to have together on Sunday.

With all the grandchildren around the last several weeks, and Mother’s Day approaching, my thoughts turned to kids and moms; and how Mother’s Day is one of the biggest days of the year for what the church refers to as “child dedications.” And we just came off Easter, which is the biggest day of the year for baptisms – so I thought about these different events and how people arrive at the decisions they make about which path to follow in bringing their children to the Lord.

And certainly, it is not my place to judge, but you know by now, that in most things theological, I at least have an opinion. And this decision is particularly important to me as Jill is interested in having Drew “dedicated” while she is in town. So what does this mean? And is it biblical? And what about infant baptism? So, hopefully, without too much controversy, I can set the record straight about these two very well-known, but theologically different events.

To begin with, baptisms have been done for centuries, and most of us who grew up in the church were baptized as infants. Baptism, depending on your theological beliefs, is either a requirement for church membership, an act of obedience to Jesus Christ, or something we just do as acceptable in the church. We bring our children to be consecrated to the Lord, and to be sprinkled (most child baptisms do not include immersion) in order to “ensure” their safety, or even salvation, with the Lord. Hopefully, nothing bad will happen to them, but if it does, many people believe in the the assurance of salvation for their baptized children. And those who are not baptized as children are usually baptized in some way as adults.

On the other hand, there are a growing number of churches who now practice child dedications instead of baptisms. Their thought is that each person must decide for themselves when the right time is to be baptized. From a biblical perspective, they believe that the most parents can do for their children is to promise the Lord that the children will be raised in a Christian environment. And, just as I can’t eat for you, I also cannot in any way ensure your salvation through baptism. I can, however, demonstrate to God my desire to dedicate my efforts to honoring Him by promising to expose my child to Christian teachings, and to the prayer support of friends and family as my child grows up.

The difference of opinion comes into play at this point. From a biblical perspective, every baptism in the Bible, from Jesus, to all the others, including the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:36, and the Roman centurion Cornelius, all were baptized after their profession of faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior – we call this “post profession.” But what about children? Many of them are baptized before they are able to make a “profession” of faith – they are too young to know what they are committing to. What to do? Child dedication to the rescue!

And is it really biblical that baptism should be “post profession?” Well, according to Peter it is. In Acts 2:38, we are told, “Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” So first, you must repent (or turn around and go in the opposite direction), and then be baptized.

Therefore, my encouragement tonight, regardless of where you fall in this age old debate, is to celebrate mothers this week-end and realize that our moms have done the best job they could in raising us to be the best we could be. And that’s tough – especially today. And my prayer is that you will honor the attempts of your mother to raise you in a way that was consistent with the love and caring she had for you. And for those of you who may have lost a mother, or had a mom who fell short of delivering the love and caring that you needed, I will pray for you this week-end, that you may have a special place in the heart of Jesus Christ as He showers you with his divine love. And each of us may consider, child or adult, re-dedicating our lives to God. Amen.

Comments (5)

  • Pat Brown says:

    Very good blog tonight. Tell Janet, Jill and Kristin Happy Mothers Day.

  • petrus says:

    Bible passages that support Infant Baptism:

    1. Acts 2:39: The promise is for you and your children…

    Here Peter states that baptism is “a promise to you and your children”. “Your children” specifically identifies the children of Christians. Furthermore, the word “children” that Peter used comes from the Greek word “teknon”, which also includes infants.

    2. Isaiah 44:3: For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring.

    The coming of Baptism was prophesized several times in the Old Testament. In this verse, Isaiah is prophesying the coming of baptism and is setting baptism up to be part of a “New Covenant” with God, since it is a promise to “your descendants and your offspring”.

    This will be confirmed in the New Testament by Paul, in Colossians 2:11-12:

    3. Colossians 2:11-12: In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, buried with Him in baptism.

    In this passage, Paul states that Christians “are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands…buried with him in baptism”. Paul is teaching that baptism replaces circumcision as the covenant for children.

    If baptism is the “New Testament circumcision” there can be no objection to “sealing” the infant of a consecrated Christian family in Christ’s New Covenant. For Orthodox Christians, this is a clear Biblical example of an Old Testament Covenant for the Jews being transferred over as a New Testament Covenant for Christians.

    4. In the New Testament there are several documented events where newly converted Christians “and their families were baptized” (Acts 16:15, Acts 16:33 and 1 Corinthians 1:16).

    The Greek word “oikos”, which translated means “house” or “household”, has traditionally included infants and children. There are no instances of “oikos” being used in secular Greek or Biblical Greek where its meaning is restricted to adults.

    In the Old Testament, we know that the phrase “he and his house” refers to the total family. The Old Testament use of this phrase clearly demonstrates this by specifically mentioning the presence of children, including young children and infants.

    For example, when Abraham accepted God’s covenant in Genesis 17, all were circumcised: men and boys, “everyone born into the house”. The covenant applied to everyone – infants, children, grown men – regardless of age.

    Questions for those who don’t believe in infant Baptism:

    Why aren’t there any passages in Scripture that forbid the baptism of infants or children?

    If the baptism of infants was not acceptable during New Testament times, where does Scripture mention the alternative: the baptism of the children of Christian parents once they have matured out of infancy? The Bible never gives one example of the baptism of a Christian child as an adult.

    Nowhere in Scripture is there an “age of accountability or “age of reason”, when a child’s capacity to believe the Gospel is developed enough so that he can receive baptism. Likewise, the Bible does not state that every child is in a “suspended state of salvation” until they have reached this age, which one would have to believe if he held to the “age of accountability” theory.

    What specific Scriptural principle is being violated if a child is baptized and matures in his faith?

  • LDC says:

    Petrus,

    With all due respect, as a Greek who has been raised in the Orthodox Church who married a Greek also brought up in the Orthodox Church, and as someone who has been a “Sponsor” or nounos for two infants at the time of their Christening, I confess I found nothing offensive about this post. After reading your comments I took it upon myself to do some light research; maybe I should have been offended. However, even the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America concedes that infant baptism has a long history of debate. To this day it seems not all Orthodox agree…

    I do not believe that Dr. Toussaint is attempting to use this site to initiate theological debate or insinuate that one Christian denomination is any closer to God than another. I feel he is utilizing very personal and extensive life experiences as tools to illustrate how scripture and faith have been a comfort and beacon in his life. Why don’t we accept Transitions by The Book for what it is: a place to celebrate God’s Love as a united Christian community. I’m certain that there are plenty of other sites that encourage heated theological debate and you’re very valid discussion would stand strong.

    As a nounos, I take my role as spiritual guardian seriously. As a parent, I am equally serious about the spirituality of my children. However, in this case I think we can agree that in the end, we’re all just taking different paths to the same destination. Petrus, you’re not wrong, but you’re just not right. It seems to me that we are all concerned with the spirituality of children, does it really matter how we bring them Christ? As Christians, ultimately, we are all on the same team.

  • Petrus-

    Thanks again for your thoughtful comments. The verses you mention are many of the same Scripture references that have been used to support the position of infant baptism for many years. In my earlier years, I was a believer in infant baptism as well, and since then, I have changed my position. While you reference many Scriptures and interpretations of the Greek, rather than trying to respond point by point, I have chosen to use your last question as a basis for a more global response of my position.

    After years of study, while I respect your position, I have come to believe that baptism must follow a profession of faith; and I would submit that John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” reinforces that position. In my opinion, the phrase “that whoever believes in Him” means that a baptized person must be able to profess belief in Christ as a pre-requisite.

    If possible, an even stronger evidence is given in Acts 8:36-38, the story of the Ethiopian eunuch I mentioned in the post. The Ethiopian asks if there is any reason he should not be baptized, and Philip responds. The full exchange appears below. It is interesting to note that Acts 8:37 is omitted from the NIV and several others texts, so as to avoid the kind of controversy that we are discussing here.

    Acts 8:36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch *said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”

    Acts 8:37 [1And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”]

    Acts 8:38 And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.

    I hope that this adequately responds to your questions at the end of your comment, Petrus. And that perhaps we can agree to disagree. But please understand that it is not my desire to enter into these deeper discussions on a regular basis, as I believe that they are not in keeping with the intent of the blog posts and the mission of TBTB.

    In Christ,
    Scott

  • LDC-

    Thanks for your eloquent interpretation on my position. I could not have said it better myself; and am honored that my prayer for this site is being realized by you, and so many others.

    Grace and Peace,
    Scott

 
 
 
 

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