Of the few people I follow on Twitter, British evangelical writer, Andrew Wilson, is right there at the top. He has the mind of a scholar and the heart of a pastor, young enough to be conversant about postmodernity, and yet wise enough to challenge me to be more humble before Scripture. In his latest blog post at Think, Wilson challenges me to consider if baby dedications, as practiced in many interdenominational churches today, are really Biblical. His answer: They are not, but services of thanksgiving and prayers for newborns are still good ideas.
I worship in a community of faith where such baby dedications are practiced. Who is not moved when the pastor prays over a miniature human in their arms?
But it really is rather odd, if you think about it.
Consider this: Until the last thirty or forty years or so, baby dedications were rarely, if ever, practiced in any evangelical church. Why has such a novelty, with the slimmest of Biblical backing, taken off in interdenominational churches today? What Wilson does not dive into that much is summarized by his Tweet from a few months ago, “baby dedications are perhaps the most obvious symbol of credobaptist cultic deprivation.”
What I think Andrew Wilson means by that is this: Modern evangelical churches are drawn to baby dedications because they serve as a compromise solution to the long-standing baptism debate: infant baptism (paedobaptism) vs. believer’s baptism (credobaptism). With baby dedication, it is not to be confused with baptism, while it still symbolizes the notion of bringing a child into the community, passing on the faith to the next generation (or so we hope). So, while baby dedication steps around the controversy (which is understandable), it nevertheless fails to engage the Christian to fully think through how the covenants of God work within Scripture, and how baptism is related (I stand guilty myself). So, we get a workable solution that makes peace between the differing viewpoints, but at the expense of shallowing the theological depth of our Biblical thinking in our churches.
As a first step, it might be better to rename “baby dedications” as “parent dedications” instead, as these events are more about the parents dedicating themselves to present the Gospel to their children, along with the help of the surrounding church community, and about praying to God that He would touch the hearts of those children, over the coming years, with His Word of Truth and Life. Any thoughts?
April 27th, 2016 at 5:59 pm
Hi. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I love to be challenged as you do. What I do as a pastor is to present the new born to the congregation and thank God for the new addition to the family. I pray for him and his family as well. I never saw this practice as an alternative to infant baptism but as a continuation of what we find in Luke, with the exception of the Old Testament law requirements.
April 28th, 2016 at 9:16 am
Ruben, thank you for your comment on Veracity.
I think what Andrew Wilson is getting at, and it makes sense to me, is that once we take the “Old Testament law requirements” out of the mix, it really is no longer a “dedication,” so perhaps we should stop calling it as such. Because of its loose association with what we find in Luke, baby “dedication” sounds biblical enough, but the theology behind it is actually weak, which can confuse people.
In my circles, I think the reason why we do dedications is to satisfy the desire of paedobaptists to “do something” to celebrate the birth of a child, without offending the sensibilities of the credobaptists.
April 28th, 2016 at 10:30 pm
I agree with that. That’s why I use the term “presentation” instead.
September 3rd, 2016 at 2:48 pm
I read with great interest and think that in our Pentecostal circles it has nothing to do with Old Testament or a substitute for infant baptism, to us it is simply the desire of the young parents to stand with there Brothers and Sisters and make a commitment before the body of believers to raise this child in the knowledge and admonition of the Lord and to ask the Elders of the church and the congregation to pray with them as they take this vow before God, there is no saving grace in this simple loving prayer