Saturday, September 6, 2008

Why Aren't You Dedicating Your Son?

The following is an excerpt from a letter I recently wrote to a family member regarding our decision not to have a "dedication" ceremony for our newborn son, Amos.

Traditionally, my family - as well as your side of the family - has dedicated their children to the Lord when they are born, and while I do believe that dedicating one's children to God and promising to raise them up in His ways is a good thing - in principle, anyway - I do not believe it is Biblical. Our son is not circumcised, and part of the reason we have chosen not to circumcise him is because God has given us as His people a covenant symbol in place of circumcision. He desires for his people to have hearts which are circumcised, but he has given us baptism as the new sign of the covenant. In the same way that the Old covenant was symbolized by circumcision, the new covenant is symbolized by baptism. Because we believe this, we believe that our son is a part of the Christian covenant community, and should be baptized to symbolize his inclusion in it. This does not mean that he is automatically saved, of course (none of us believes that baptism saves anyone), but it does mean that he is set apart from the rest of the world with the benefits of being included as a part of the Church until the day when he can either have his baptism confirmed or decide to turn away from the covenant symbol he was given. What this means is that we probably see baptism as two different things: whereas most of our family sees baptism as an outward sign that we have decided to follow Jesus, we see baptism as being an outward sign of the covenant of God. Because this covenant applies to us, as believers, as well as to our children, Arryn and I baptize our children for very much the same reason that the Israelites circumcised their children.

If a first century Jew had been following Jesus' teachings and then decided to become a Christian, they would have found it strange to exclude their children from the New Covenant, considering that they used to be included under the Old Covenant as part of the "church." Rather, let me suggest, that the idea of baptizing rather than dedicating one's children arose - in part - from the early church's belief that conversion to Christianity does not simply affect someone who is the head of the family alone, but that it affects the entire family - from the parents to the children.

This is certainly more than you asked for, but it basically summarizes our beliefs as far as dedicating our children, rather than baptizing them. If anything, we would very much like to have Amos baptized, but in the meantime we have decided together that the salvation of our children is the highest priority for us to pursue. In this way, we have already dedicated Genesis and Amos to the Lord.

Here is a serious question for everyone: I am a paedobaptist attending a reformed baptist church. Should we pursue a baptism through some other church, or simply give in and dedicate since that is our church's way?


  1. Adam,

    This is a tough issue. And I by no means have the final answer on this point. I am open to hear a view that is not what I am about to say.

    However, I am leaning to the side that says you do neither. I would not have the dedicate since this goes against yours (and the biblical) view, however, I would not ask a Baptist to baptize my infant. So, I would do neither. What are your thoughts on the issue after some time to think more about it?

  2. A few more thoughts (since you asked):

    Baptists are so adamant that our practices in the church must be explicitly taught/commanded in Scripture. They especially apply this standard to the issue or paedo-baptism. However, we never have an explicit command to ceremoniously dedicate our children, either! I believe this is a pretty blatant double standard.

    The truth is, in my heart of hearts, I believe that the reason churches dedicate their children is because they deep down know that they must do something to show that their children do belong to the Christian community. Ultimately, infant baptism is true, and undeniable, even by its detractors who still include their children in covenental benefits without practicing baptism. This is painting with a broad brush, no doubt, since there are surely some Baptist churches which probably don't have infant baptism or baby dedication.

  3. Yeah, that's a pretty broad brush.

    I'm currently just wading into the waters of covenant theology, so I was wondering if you might be able to answer a couple questions for me:

    1) Why do you believe baptism is the New Covenant equivalent of circumcision?

    2) What was the purpose of circumcision in the Old Covenant? To me it seems that it was done in large part because the promise was to Abraham's seed, thus it was a sign of who Abraham's seed was, in part assuring it would be clear that Christ descended from Abraham when He came, thus fulfilling the promise.

  4. Adam,

    You said,

    "Here is a serious question for everyone: I am a paedobaptist attending a reformed baptist church. Should we pursue a baptism through some other church, or simply give in and dedicate since that is our church's way?"

    I am wondering where you got the idea that infant dedication is your church's way. Coram Deo Fellowship has yet to officate an infant dedication even though five precious souls have been born into the fellowship since it was established. I don't believe this was out of negligence, but it was intentional because the Scripture does not command it. I do hope and believe that the parents of these newborns have dedicated them to the Lord within each family as you described in your post. We need to talk more of this off line. May God alone be glorified as we wrestle with these tough and important issues.
    God bless you and yours.

  5. It was clearly wrong for me to assume that because our church is not paedobaptist that it believes in doing dedication ceremonies. My whole experience has always been that either one or the other is practiced. Again, it's nice to know that our church doesn't practice the double standard I referred to in my comments. And I'm sure we'll talk more about it tomorrow morning.


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