Baby Dedications vs. Infant Baptisms?
I am so pleased to find this site as I am a former Casas member. We are in another state now, and attend a PCA Presbyterian church (reformed). My trouble with Presbyterians is they practice what I call a “wet dedication.” Baptize infants by sprinkling as a symbol of the parents’ promise to raise the child in a Godly home. I never heard of the early reasons for baptizing infants with sprinkling. My kids are dunked, as have been I, I won’t budge on this one! Thanks for your insight.
“Wet Dedication” does sound a little strange. The practice probably has its roots in the Roman Catholic practice of baptizing infants in order to wash away original sin. From my perspective there are several misconceptions concerning this practice. First, the blood of Jesus washes away sin and not water on a baby’s head. Second, the New Testament order is faith in Christ followed by baptism-not baptism followed by a later commitment to Jesus Christ. Finally, faith in Christ is a personal-life-time decision which babies are incapable of making.
Baptism by immersion pictures four things: (1) our personal commitment to Christ; (2) the death, burial and resurrection of Christ; (3) the washing away of sin; (4) and, our lives crucified with Christ, and buried in baptism so that we rise to live the resurrected life of Christ. Infant baptism fails to achieve any of the four pictures.
I am a dedicated fan of mom and dad arranging for a dedication service before God and family. The purpose of the service is not only to dedicate the child to Christ, but for mom and dad to dedicate themselves to raising their child with Christians morals, values and commitment to Christ.
Many denominations and religions have what we might call “baby dedications”. You will recall that Jesus experienced his own baby dedication in the Temple when He was eight days old. Both Jesus and his parents were blessed by Simeon:
On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise him, he was named Jesus, … Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord. … Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon. … Simeon took him in his arms … Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him (Luke 2:21-40).
Hannah is another mom who arranged a baby dedication for her son. She was the mother of the Prophet Samuel, a great man of God. When Samuel was about three-years old, mom dedicated him to the Lord’s service: “Hannah said to her husband, ‘After the boy is weaned, I will take him and present him before the LORD, and he will live there always'” (1 Samuel 1:22).
Using Jesus and Samuel as models, I am much in favor of a dedication services when the children are young. In an attempt to put all things in perspective, I am more thrilled about the parent’s dedicatory intentions than I am with what the ceremony may or may not look like.
As far as I know nothing exists in Presbyterian theology that equates “wet dedication” to infant baptism where water is poured on an infant as a procedure to wash away sin.
Therefore, you might consider budging a bit. If the practice in your church is simply a time of parental dedication, then, I would say, “Don’t make an issue of it. Enjoy your church and the ministries there.” Finding a church home is a difficult endeavor. Finding a church where you agree with everything is impossible. All other things being equal, I would not let this one issue cause you to begin another search.
I hope this helps. You might read my recent Ask Roger answer entitled “What about baptism: sprinkling or immersion?” on PreachItTeachIt.