Baptism and Dedication

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greenbaggins

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One thing about baptism that really struck me when I was in seminary is its similarity to baby dedications that Baptists do. Contrary to much rhetoric from the paedo side, Baptists really do believe in bringing up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. I think that baby dedications prove that. I think that Baptists who dedicate their children actually have a deep-seated need to say something about the status of their children. They KNOW that their children are different from the world's children, and that they are different from pagans. Therefore, Baptists who dedicate their children may actually be much closer to paedo-baptism than they might think. Here are some parallels: both baptism and dedication acknowledge that God is a God to us and to our children; both baptism and dedication say that we want to include our children, not exclude them; both baptism and dedication involve the church in witnessing certain vows that the parents take; and both baptism and dedication give the children to the Lord.

The difference is that I don't believe there is any biblical warrant for infant dedication. The passage usually cited is when people bring their children to Jesus and He blesses them. But that was people bringing their children to Christ, not the church. It is not called a dedication there either, and there is no indication that this was supposed to be a regular principle of the church. It seems to be a one time occurrence. On the other hand, there seem to me to be indications that baptism replaces circumcision as the sign of inclusion in the people of God. The continuity of the Abrahamic covenant with the New Covenant (a la Galatians 3) also seems to point in the direction of baptizing infants. And there are other arguments as well. The strongest one is definitely that of covenantal continuity in the administration of the covenant. What is the status of children? Are they in or out? If they are in, then why not give them the sign of being in?
 

KMK

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Here are some parallels: both baptism and dedication acknowledge that God is a God to us and to our children; both baptism and dedication say that we want to include our children, not exclude them; both baptism and dedication involve the church in witnessing certain vows that the parents take; and both baptism and dedication give the children to the Lord.

I agree with Rev Keister about baby dedications.

But, just some observations... (we are in the Baptism Forum, right?)

Rev Keister makes these points about what baptism is a sign of:

1) "God is a God to us (meaning 'parents', right?) and our children..."

2) "We (meaning 'parents', right?) want to include our children..."

3) "Witnessing certain vows that the 'parents' take..."

4) "Both baptism and dedication give the children to the Lord." (Who is doing the giving? The parents, right?)

If this is what paedos believe baptism is, then how could it, in any way, be considered a sign to the child? It seems like a sign to the parents for promises God has made to them about their children, and of the parent's desire to include their children, and of the vows the parent makes, and of the parent giving the child to the Lord.
 

CovenantalBaptist

Puritan Board Freshman
I agree with Ken.

While it is hard to generalize, I would say that most 1689 confessional Reformed Baptists do not do baby dedications - I have yet to meet one that does (doesn't mean that some don't still do it, of course) and I grew up in a Reformed Baptist church. In my opinion it's just a dry (paedo)baptism much along the lines of what Pastor Keister wrote.

The ARBCA publications committee has published a number of pamphlets/papers through Reformed Baptist Publications one of which is an excellent piece by Richard Barcellos (an associate professor at MCTS with Sam Waldron) entitled "Baby Dedications: Ancient and Modern - Are they Biblical?" His conclusion - no, they are not biblical.

Also, since one of Fred Malone's* critiques of Paedobaptism in his book is that the act of infant baptism is a violation of the RPW, a baby dedication would, I believe, be equally viewed as a violation in most 1689 confesisonal RB churches.

On a practical level: as for my children, I am required by Scripture to bring them up in the knowledge and fear of the Lord and so I catechize my children (children's Baptist catechism right now with my 2 year old), teach them to pray (not being thankful to God is a sin), memorize Scripture, I do family worship with them and encourage them to look to Jesus for their salvation and use every opportunity (Deut. 6:4 ff) to instill a fear of God. This is not practically any different from my Presbyterian classmates that I had at seminary except I don't encourage them to claim the promises of the covenant, as, I believe that the New Covenant is a regenerate membership (although while we are on earth there is still a visible/invisible distinction as we are only able to admit "professors" into membership and that involves fallible human judgment).

* former PCA pastor now ARBCA pastor and author of "The Baptism of Disciples Alone"
 
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