I’m not a Baptist but I am baptistic. There is no biblical support for the practice of infant baptism, no example of an infant being baptized, no necessary inference that leads to infant baptism, and church history does not support the Reformed argument for infant baptism. So when the accusation that I might implicitly be fudging on infant baptism by performing an infant dedication seemed to land too close to home, I stepped back.
“Baby dedications? Really? Why not just throw some water on the baby and call it a baptism? After all, Jesus said, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.’ You baptists are so inconsistent.”
I have to admit, these arguments, properly fleshed out, had me very skeptical of doing baby dedications for a long while. What got to me was the assumption that infant dedications in the Bible were support for infant baptism. Since I rejected infant baptism, it seemed that I would have to reject infant dedications.
But it is very easy to be for or against something in theory based on the arguments of those who are for or against it, but when you have to face it in real life it causes you to think much more clearly about it. That’s what’s happened to me on this issue. I’ll be doing a dedication on Sunday and that helped clarify this for me.
I finally saw that the problem with the argument Reformed infant baptizers lob against infant dedication lies is in the fact that there are infant dedications in the Bible and they are not equated with baptisms. Ever. Samuel was dedicated to the Lord by Hannah in 1 Samuel 1:21-2:11 but there is no connection to baptism anywhere. Isaiah was called from his mother’s womb in Isaiah 49:1-6 and God did the same thing with Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1:5. The fact that Isaiah and Jeremiah entered their prophetic offices means that they had been dedicated to this role from birth. In Luke 1 John the Baptist is dedicated to his role as the forerunner of Christ from his inception. His parents complied with the angel’s instructions and set him aside from his birth. Baptism only enters his picture when John starts his ministry, not in his dedication to that role at his birth.
We could also speak of Moses and others but what we’re seeing in this biblical picture of infants is not baptism but dedication. There is no command to dedicate children to the Lord but it doesn’t hurt to do it and there are hints that children of covenant members (i.e. believers) are blessed and holy. Consider Matthew 18:1-4, 10-18 and 1 Corinthians 7:14. An infant dedication isn’t a form of dry baptism, it is simply recognizing what the Bible says about our children and honoring it in an official ceremony.