ANY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BABY DEDICATION
AND BABY BAPTISM BY PRESBYTERIANS?
Baptist parents are in the practice of bringing their
infants before the church and being assisted by the Pastor in a ceremoney of
"dedicating" them to the Lord, and pledging that as parents they will
raise the infant up in the way that he should go, and do what they can to lead
the child to Christ for salvation.
Pedobaptist parents such as
Presbyterians are in the practice of bringing their infants before the church
for baptism and they make a similar committal to raise the child according to
godliness. The Presbyterians believe this is incumbent of parents to have
their children baptized as a matter of "obedience" to Christ (Larger
Although Baptists do not baptize babies, this is
actually the least of the differences between these two practices. The
most serious difference lies is the area of what the Pedobaptists' claim as
being the significance of baby baptism.
While the Presbyterians
do not say that baptism within itself regenerates the baby, nevertheless
they maintain that it may be assumed that the infant is regenerated until
proven otherwise. Therefore, they administer their version of baptism as a
"sign and seal" of regeneration, as if there has been, is, or will be
an actual regeneration of the baby before the child has reached the age of
According to the Presbyterian Princeton theologians,
such as Charles and A. A. Hodge and W. G. T. Shedd, it may be assumed
that the infants born of a believing parent are regenerated in infancy,
either before, at, or soon after baptism is administered as the sign and
seal of regeneration which is ostensibly "promised" in the supposed "covenant"
God has with believing parents.
Shedd says, "It [baptism] does not
confer the Holy Spirit as a regenerating Spirit, but is the authentic token that
the Holy Spirit has been, or will be conferred; that regeneration
has been, or will be effected" (Vol. 2, page 574).
baptism of the infant of a believer supposes the actual or prospective
operation of the regenerating Spirit, in order to the efficacy of the rite.
Infant baptism does not confer the regenerating Spirit, but is a sign that he
either has been, or will be conferred, in accordance with the
promise in the covenant of grace. The actual conferring of the Holy Spirit may
be prior to baptism, or in the act itself, or subsequent to
it. Hence baptism is the sign and seal of regeneration, either in the
past, in the present, or in the future. The Westminster
Confession (XXXVIII.vi.) teaches that 'the efficacy of baptism is not tied to
that moment of time where it is administered;' in other words, the regenerating
grace of the Spirit, signified and sealed by the rite, may be imparted when
the infant is baptized, or previously, or at a future time" (Vol. 2, page
Shedd: "The infant of the believer receives the Holy
Spirit as a regenerating Spirit, by virtue of the covenant between God and
his people . . . . The infant of the believer, consequently, obtains the
regenerating grace by virtue of his birth and descent from a believer in
covenant with God, and not by virtue of his baptism. God has promised the
blessing of the Holy Spirit to those who are born of his people. The infant of a
believer, by this promise, is born into the church, as the infant of a
citizen is born into the state. . . . They are church members by reason of
their birth from believing parents . . . Baptism is the infallible
sign of regeneration, when the infant dies in infancy. All baptized infants
dying before the age of self-consciousness, are regenerated without exception.
Baptism is the probable sign of regeneration when the infant lives to
years of discretion. . . . So a baptized child, in adult years, may renounce
his baptism and church membership, become an infidel, and join the synagogue
of Satan; but until he does this, he must be regarded as member of the church of
Christ" (Vol. 2, pages 576, 577).
This is also the teaching of Reformed
theologian Louis Berkhof whose Systematic Theology is published by The
Banner of Truth Trust under direction of Iain Murray. Berkhof is very
influential in the dissemination of the teaching of "pre-faith regeneration"
and regeneration without the necessary use of the Word as the Spirit's
instrument in regeneration, contrary to the Puritans as illustrated by Stephen
Charnock, Thomas Watson, John Owen, and others.
Berkhof says, "It
is possible to proceed on the assumption (not the certain knowledge) that the
children offered for baptism are regenerated and are therefore in
possession of the semen fidei (the seed of faith); and to hold that God through
baptism in some mystical way, which we do not understand, strengthens
this seed of faith in the child" (Systematic Theology, pages, 641,
According to Berkhof, infant baptism "assures the recipients that
they are the appointed heirs of the promised blessings . . . [that] they
are appointed heirs and will receive the heritage, unless they show
themselves unworthy of it and refuse it . . . the promised good is
conditional" (Systematic Theology, page 641).
alleges that "regeneration is a creative, a hyper-physical operation of
the Holy Spirit . . . .The new life is often implanted in the hearts of children
long before they are able to hear the call of the gospel . . . they
receive the seed of regeneration long before they come to years of
discretion, and therefore long before the effectual calling penetrates to their
consciousness" (page 472).
While the Pedobaptist Presbyterians do
not dogmatically allege that all infants who are baptized are for
certain regenerated in infancy, they do allege that this is "probable," and
is to be assumed unless and until the baptized infant comes of years and
renounces the faith.
To a Baptist, this simply means that infant baptism
is not really the "sign and seal" of anything more than what is
associated with infant dedication, which is the pledge that the parents
will raise the child in a godly home and do what is necessary to lead the child
to become a Christian. At best, infant baptism signfies no more than a similar
"hope-so" matter -- the Pedobaptist parents hope that the infant will eventually
demonstrate he is a Christian, but there is really no certainty about it.
Infant baptism merely signifies a "conditional" affair.
Baptists, we can have the same expectations as the Pedobaptists, but without all
the legerdemain about the Abrahamic "covenant" and what is supposedly
"promised," and the alleged "mystical operation" presumed to be the
"regeneration" of a child before the age of discretion. -- Bob L. Ross
granted to copy and use this article.
By request, names are
added to my Email List, or removed
Publishers of C. H. Spurgeon's
Sermons & Other Works
Send your snail-mail address for a printed Price
Pilgrim Publications, Box 66, Pasadena, TX 77501
477-4261. Fax: (713) 477-7561