Sent: Thursday, August 04, 2005 1:28 PM
Subject: BABY DEDICATION vs BABY BAPTISM [08/04--2002]

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 Catechism, #166).

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 discretion.

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).

"The 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 ( 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 575).

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, 642).

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).

Berkhof 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.

So, as 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

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