MY FIRST GRANDCHILD is on the church calendar. He’s going to get baptized this month.
He won’t be quite seven months old when the water splashes on his head—and when we all hope he doesn’t show the congregation how to hit the high notes.
He might not be able to break glass, but he can scare a 70-pound Labrador Retriever into running for the backyard, out the doggie hole in the patio door.
His mom and I had a short discussion about whether to have my grandson dedicated or baptized.
We had our kids dedicated, mainly because that was the practice in the church we attended. And it made sense to let the kids decide for themselves, later, if they wanted to become Christians and get baptized.
But the church we attend now prefers to baptize.
My daughter and I talked about what the difference is between infant baptism and dedication.
I’m fairly simple about things. So I told her the difference is water.
My theology prof would roll over in his grave if he were still there and had the capacity to roll.
He was a big advocate for infant baptism. Theologians are in the business of studying details of faith that often escape the rest of us. They see big headlines in what we read as footnotes.
Baptism is a church ritual, called a sacrament. It’s a physical expression of something invisible. In this case, it’s an expression of God’s gracious welcome into his spiritual kingdom.
Scholars call the sacrament of baptism a:
- visible sign of an inward grace
- sign and a seal of saving grace
But try to picture either one of those in your head.
Pastors often call baptism a:
- symbol that God has washed away a person’s sins
- sign that the person is now a member of the Christian community
But does that really apply to a goo-goo baby whose worst sin is a blown up diaper and whose idea of joining anything is to latch onto Momma?
When we dedicate something to God, we’re giving it to him. We’re saying it belongs to him.
People dedicate churches, houses, and kids—among other things important to them.
When we dedicate a house, we might be saying we want what goes on in there to please God…for the most part, anyhow. There will be those occasional episodes that will end up in someone’s journal.
When we dedicate a child to God, we’re making a commitment about how we’re going to raise that child.
We won’t teach our kid how to bully on the playground, dump trash in someone’s front yard, or cheat old folks out of their pension. Other people will teach them that in spite of us.
We’ll do the best we can to encourage our kid to become a Jesus-like person: someone gentle, kind, and loving.
Whether it’s baptism or dedication, I think that for practical purposes we’re saying pretty much the same thing.
When my daughter and her husband stand in front of the congregation and have their son baptized, I don’t know what they’ll be thinking.
I’ll probably be videotaping. I’m famous in the family for that.
But once I press the “record” button, I’ll be quietly praying some version of:
“This boy is yours, God. You gave him that smile. You gave him that Scream of the Banshee, too. Like his mom, he’s the best of you and the best of me. You and I both know it. Take care of him. When I get to watch him from time to time, help me be a grandfather fit for the job of looking after your little boy. So here he is, Lord. When he needs you, be there for him. I’m counting on you. I know you love him at least as much as I do. It’s hard to imagine that you love him more.”
Whether it’s baptism or dedication, we’re putting the ball and the baby in God’s Court.
I’ll try to remember that next time I see my grandson dribble.
I know. I know.
It’s just too hard to resist.
I’m like that with peanut butter cookies, too.
What do you think about it?
I’m curious about those of you who have either had your baby baptized or dedicated in church.
What did you think you were doing?
Really. What did you feel you were doing in those moments?
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Yes, give your little ones the sign of the Covenant and may God Bless your Family and Children!
From the “New City Catechism” — I love these teaching videos to share!
NCC Q43: What are the sacraments or ordinances?
NCC Q44: What is baptism?
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks Wayne. Good to hear from the scholar-at-heart.
I did a dedication and was always told we get baptized when we get older. My daughter is 10 and asks if she can get baptized. I looked at the dedication exactly how you described it. I once heard, children aren’t yours – they come through you, not for you. So, with dedication, it’s like I’m giving you back what’s yours, I think. Great article, as always
Stephen M. Miller
I had my children dedicated…in my mind, it’s simply giving the child back to God in front of witnesses and putting my trust in the Lord to guide his/her life. Down the road they each decided to dedicate their lives to God and were baptized (full immersion). As babies, they could not make the choice to give their lives to Him yet, but as parents, I believe we need to dedicate our children back to God…because they are His, not ours. Whether it’s called dedication or baptism, it’s all the same, unless the belief is that that child is saved through it without confession and forgiveness of sins….that is something we all must do on our own, between us and God, otherwise that narrow gate would be quite wide, don’t you think?
Stephen M. Miller
Thanks Debbie. Fine points.
Because of my husband’s background we had our babies baptised (although the first one was dedicated & then when the second came they were both baptised). I was raised in a church that believed in baby dedication, but would allow baby baptism. I am hoping that they will all have adult baptism at some point. Good article Steve!
Stephen M. Miller
Hey, thanks Debbie. Peace to you.