Based on a reader’s question, I wanted to explain why we choose to dedicate our babies rather than baptize them.  It is far too detailed of an answer to post in a comment, and because it is a question I have heard previously, I thought it made more sense to post in my blog.  Because this is a highly debated topic, let me preface by saying that neither infant baptism NOR infant dedication is mentioned in the Bible.  So, while neither ceremony is wrong to perform, we must also understand that neither action will get our children into heaven.  Only Christ can save us and our children.

John 3:16 specifically states “For God sent His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.”  The only way to get to heaven is to believe in God’s son, Jesus Christ.  We must accept the fact Jesus willingly became human and came to earth with the sole mission to die for us.  He took the sins of each of us upon His shoulders by shedding His blood through the most horrific death imaginable–Roman torture and crucifixion on a cross.  He died, sacrificing Himself, for us.  But it didn’t end there.  Christ then rose from the dead 3 days later.  Because of that sacrifice, that gift, each of us now has the opportunity to spend eternity in heaven.  However, we must believe.  Heaven is not just guaranteed to everyone, rather, each person must decide for him- or herself whether they want to accept that gift and believe that it happened.  Scripture spells it out many times….repent and believe.  Scripture emphasizes that there is no shoe-in; there is no gray area.  We are created in God’s own image, as people with free wills to make our own choices.  Therefore each person must individually choose whether we want to accept what Christ did for us, believe that he died for each of us, repent of our sins, believe that he died but then arose, and believe that Christ returned to heaven, where he now reigns for all eternity. Acts 4:12 states, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” 

So where does baptism fit in?  Throughout scripture, baptism was used as a symbol for repentance and belief (Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:4).  In Acts 2:38, Peter specifically states, “Repent and be baptized…” which confirms that baptism is an outward sign of the inward repentance you have made and belief in Christ that you have chosen.  Acts 8:31-39 tells of the time when Philip, a minister, encountered a man, a eunuch, on the road.  The eunuch was sitting in his chariot reading a passage of scripture, but he did not understand what he was reading.  Philip sat with him, explained the passage, and told him the good news of Jesus.  The eunuch believed and then asked to be baptized.  Philip baptized him, and then the Lord took Philip away, but the eunuch “went away rejoicing” in his new found faith.  Furthermore, throughout Paul’s ministry, we can read of people who simply “believed” with no mention as to their baptism.  In other passages, we read about large groups of “believers” being baptized.  So, while baptism in itself does not save us, it is the outward symbol that shows we have repented, believed, and accepted salvation through Christ Jesus.  If you are saved, you will spend eternity with Christ in heaven, regardless of whether you are baptized.  However, baptism is the public profession of faith, and an opportunity to become unified with the body of Christ–other believers.

So, why do we feel the need to perform ceremonies for our children?  If you read the Bible or study history, you will see that from the beginning of the foundation of the church, churches and religions have formed sets of rules.  These rules are usually based on Scripture, but we must remember that earthly rules are not Scripture in themselves.  Rather, they must always be weighed against Scripture to determine their truth and necessity.  New Testament Jews had thousands upon thousands of rules.  Christ often condemned them, in fact, for putting their rules before doing good to others (Matthew 12:12, for example).  Jews have thousands of laws pertaining to every aspect of their lives, while Muslims have rules and laws that followers are encouraged to abide by to earn heaven.  Though these laws differ between religions, they have the same purpose.  Catholics have the sacraments which are typically required to be followed in order to be a true Catholic.  LDS and Jehovah’s Witness perform certain rituals and place great value on church rules that dictate how they should lead their lives.  Even different denominations such as Baptist, Lutheran, Episcopalian, Church of Christ, etc.  have rules and beliefs that differ from church to church. Rules in themselves are not bad, as they help give us boundaries and guidelines to follow.  This, in turn, can help hold us accountable.  The rules and rituals only become bad when they either contradict scripture or when more importance is placed on following rules then on following Scripture and believing in Christ.  So, in essence, we perform certain rituals and ceremonies because of traditions within our church.  Some traditions are very Scriptural, while others are not. 

Is infant baptism Biblical?  Throughout our discussions with believers in infant baptism (including a Lutheran minister), as well as our research into the Scriptures this belief was founded on, we came to one conclusion.  Like infant dedications, there is not one single Biblical reference to “infant baptism.”  There are many references to baptizing your family and/or children, however, it is imperitive that these passages be read in context with other scripture.  Some churches do have a tendency to find a particular verse or passage of scripture, then use it as the foundation of an entire belief.  It must be evaluated with other scripture and kept in context.  Scripture will NEVER contradict itself.   So, if we are commanded to repent, believe, and then be baptized, then it would only make sense that a young child or infant is incapable of such a task, as they are incapable of the first 2 steps of repentance and belief.  If we believe John 14:6, which says “Jesus answered, I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me,” yet we then believe that baptizing our children will save them, then our beliefs our contradictory to each other.  So, while the ritual of infant baptism in itself is not wrong or sinful, if we do it for the wrong reasons, then it could be.  In fact, a good example is the fact that S was baptized as an infant, yet he will be quick to tell you how he came to a saving knowledge of Christ many years later.  As a result of his new-found understanding of scripture, he chose to participate in “believer’s baptism” (also known in the Scripture as “baptism of repentance”) through our church.  He has no memory or sentimentality to the first baptism, but places a lot of meaning on the second.  Based on our beliefs in the scripture though, S and I decided that infant baptism would essentially do nothing more than get our babies’ heads wet.  It had no personal meaning to us otherwise, so we felt it would not be right for us to participate in this tradition. 

Likewise, there is nothing in the Bible that discusses infant dedications.  This ritual is just that…a ritual.  It has become a tradition in many churches.  As I described in my “Baby Dedication” post,  it is simply an opportunity for us as parents to take the opportunity to thank God for blessing us with the gift of our baby.  Secondly, we symbolically offer our child up before God as we promise to do our best to love and raise this child in a Christian home.  Thirdly, it is an opportunity for us to come together as a family with the pastor and the church members and ask them to come together in unity to help us as parents, by being mentors, supporters, and accountability partners, as needed.  Because S and I consider ourselves very blessed to have been rewarded with our children, truly believe children are a gift from God, and believe we should always thank God for our blessings, this tradition means a great deal to us.  We tend to be quite sentimental about the meaning behind it, and feel it is part of our responsibility as a parent to thank God for each baby, as well as ask Him to guide us in raising them according to His will.  I almost feel like God has blessed me with this child, and I am essentially presenting this child back to God with the heart of “This child is Yours.  We can do nothing without Christ, and certainly nothing as great a responsibility as raising a God-fearing, Christ-following child, so we come, seeking Your direction and intercession.”  So, although the Bible does not command us to do so, we chose to participate in this little ceremony because of the meaning it had for us. 

If you are in a position where you are trying to decided what to do, or whether to do anything in regards to your baby or young child, no one can determine this answer but you.  You need to start in prayer.  Ask God for His guidance and direction.  Ask Him to open your heart to what the Scriptures instruct you to do.  Then read the scriptures.  Look specifically for passages relating to your dilemma.  Compare them with other scriptures, and pray that God show the context in which they are intended.  Do not be led by peer pressure or other readings, as, no matter how theological, these are personal opinions.  If you do seek advice, pray about it, and weigh it very carefully against scripture.  In fact, don’t hesitate to ask those offering counsel to show you the scripture that supports their advice.  God will never lead you astray, if you genuinely and prayerfully seek his guidance.