do you do child dedication services?

I don’t.

I am wondering about the rationale for these types of services, however. I wonder if my readers may have thoughts to contribute on the subject.

I realize that such services are a bit of a staple in evangelical/fundamental church circles. There are several reasons why I am against them.

  • They seem to me to be a holdover from the infant baptism error of church tradition.
  • They seem to be entered into as a matter of superstition, especially among unchurched adherents or sporadic attenders of a church.
  • They do nothing for the infant.
  • The Bible nowhere gives any precedent or command for such services.

One of my former pastors seemed to sense the problems with a ‘child-dedication’ service, so would do a ‘parent dedication’ service. I suppose there is nothing wrong with this, if the parents are really dedicating themselves… but I am not sure what the show in front of the church has to do with a private commitment to our holy God. And again, many of those who seek this kind of service are doing it to satisfy some superstitious sense of obligation to God, but are really undedicated to living the Christ life on a daily basis. They are using the service as kind of a ‘good luck charm’ to compensate for their lack of personal dedication and discipleship. They reduce God to a tribal deity.

Yes, I understand there are sincere and devoted Christians who ask for these services as well. Why? Probably out of ‘tradition’. The fact is the presence or absence of such a dedication service will make no difference in the spiritual life of the child.

So… just wondering what others think. (And hoping to get our minds of the latest internet hysteria!)

don_sig2

Comments

  1. Brian Ernsberger says:

    Well, Don, I have done one dedication, not for the baby but for the parents. Indeed, we can’t exactly “do” anything for the child, but we can focus the parents on their responsibility to bring up that child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. My emphasis was to use it as a brief teaching time for the parents in particular and for our church in general concerning our responsibilities as parents and fellow believers to our next generation and to one another.
    I would agree that some may do it out of a sense of “tradition” and the other things you have mentioned, that is where it is helpful to talk to the parents privately before hand and discuss the whole thing (which is what I did). This again provides an opportunity to teach/edify our people.
    One might argue from Luke 2:22, 23 (with reference to Exodus) concerning presenting children,not in an effort to bring us back under the Law but as an example of God’s estimation of the importance for us to recognize that children are truly a gift from God and they belong to Him ultimately.
    Well, just some random thoughts that came to mind as I read this article.

  2. Re: “They do nothing for the infant”

    In defense of: They do something for the parent

  3. Jonathan Hunt says:

    I can see the point of those paedobaptists who accuse us of doing ‘dry baptisms’ when we do dedications. I am of two minds on the subject – I would certainly prefer to do some form of thanksgiving service if pressed.

    • Thanks to all for comments. I should mention that those who have asked me to do this have had weak/questionable/no Christian testimony. I think especially for folks like this, we have a case of superstitious ritualism. Even so, I won’t do it for anyone.

      Anyone else?

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  4. Keith says:

    Good for you Don. I think that you are being a consistent non-paedobaptiser here.

    Keith

  5. Don, I also agree. I wonder, though, what kind of push back you get from people if you don’t do them. Do people tend to understand when you give them your reasons or do they get pretty offended?

    • Well, I have lost some of them and kept some of them. Generally, those who are trying to walk with the Lord accept my thinking, and those who are not, don’t.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  6. David Barnhart says:

    I don’t know if this is similar to what you are trying to say, but knowing myself and how I would react with a pastor with your beliefs on this issue, I believe it would be possible to accept your judgment as the pastor in authority (without offense), but also without accepting your thinking on the topic.

    • Oh, yes, that’s right! I don’t insist that anyone believe exactly what I believe on this point… hardly a fundamental!

      Thanks Dave.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  7. Brian Ernsberger says:

    Good thoughts by all. Don, would agree with you when confronted with the request by people you have described as the ones who requested it. That is not the case in the one I speak of.

  8. Dr. R. V. Clearwaters used to do them as an alternative to pedobaptism in Lutheran/Catholic Minnesota.

    When I pastored I did them for parents on request. We always made it clear that the parents were dedicating themselves to raise the children for God’s glory, and they were acknowledging in the tradition of Hannah and Psalm 127 that the children were gifts from the Lord.

    Just something for the rationale of doing them. We had a service when each of our three were born.

    • Hi Dr. M!

      I think that is your first ever comment here!

      Well, I understand the rationale. I know I am an anomaly here. One always wonders when you are the only guy holding a position… How can the entire world be so wrong!

      It isn’t that big an issue, but we have someone who is talking to my wife (or my wife heard about them talking to someone else about it)… needless to say, this is not a case of a dedicated disciple, and I am afraid it is more out of tradition and superstition that the request is being made. So I thought I’d throw my anomalous position out there and let the internet dogs worry it to death!

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jeremiah 33.3

      • Hmm… maybe I should rephrase my last comment! I don’t mean to imply anything negative about any who have added their thoughts to this thread. I am listening to this audio version of Pilgrim’s Progress this week, my mind is full of Bunyanesque phraseology.

        Maranatha!
        Don Johnson
        Jeremiah 33.3

        P.S. The narrator for this version is a woman named Nadia May. I have listened to a number of audiobooks narrated by her. She is superb!

  9. Don,
    At our church, I have implemented a Family Dedication Sunday–annually. It is designed with the idea that believing parents will participate. In the service, we call the parents to raise their children in the light of the Gospel. If there are children who can understand, we call them to obey the Gospel. If there are children there from whom we have heard a profession of faith in Christ, we call them to obey their Lord Jesus Christ. For all children, whatever their spiritual condition we call them to we call them to obey the authorities which God their Creator has established for them. We then call the church to take their part in helping the parents help their children to follow Christ/to follow God. The Gospel is plainly laid out in the service. If there are unbelieving parents there, they hear the Good News, and are warned that their participation in this cannot be viewed in some sacerdotal or superstitious way. If they refuse to hear the Truth and hold to their superstitions or sacerdotal viewpoint, I am unsure what more I can do–we are very clear as to what we are doing. I have this service because I believe it is an acceptable way to help bind our church family together about this whole matter. I also see it as a way to evangelize the lost. A friend of mine says that we don’t design discipleship vehicles for people who will purposely try to misunderstand or twist Scripture –you design it for people who want to follow Christ. For the people who decide to twist the meaning of this particular event (even with my being clear as to its purpose and meaning), I hope to have one-on-one conversations with. Our church finds this to be a hopeful, helpful service.

    • Thanks, Sam, that’s a very interesting approach. (Aside from the Calvinistic bits, heh, heh!!!)

      But, seriously, that is a good alternative. I’ll have to think on that some. Would be better than the Hallmark Holidays (Mother’s Day, Father’s Day)! [See, I have other radical views!]

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

  10. Don,
    Yes I do put quite a bit of effort into it to make sure we are at the business of accomplishing what I can see the Bible says about family and the church. I’m not sure where it lays out something calvinistic, (??).

    Also, without diverting attention from the topic, but in relation to your “hysteria” remark, I actually see this kind of service, and other ways that we teach–including teaching leadership–I see these as part of a whole philosophy of how I am working against many of the IFB norms I came in contact with over the last 21 years. Baptists actually have some history of doing these kind of services–and they weren’t afraid of doing it because it “might look Catholic”–they knew its purpose. I think many other IFB pastors I have met know little of baptist history & heritage and have locked themselves into practices & philosophies of ministry which are new, not old–and act as though they are the guardians of a grand old trust–when it is often new fakery handled with a bully’s ham-handed elegance. This is part of what gets us into situations where leaders are carrying out their leadership positions in unbiblical and even cruel ways, and Scripture is warped to fit their quirks. And people, including children get bulldozed. Our Family Ded. Sunday is meant to help promote a safe, biblical, environment which speaks of accountability and biblical expressions of love, humility and our various God-ordained roles. Frankly, I am hopeful that this keeps us from ever being responsible for anything similar to the sad ways that Christ’s name is being soiled, for the hurt of a young child, for the loss of reputation of church leaders, and the blaspheming of God’s name by the lost.

    This is part of our revolution against what we see as wrong in IFB doctrine, method and mindset–pure and simple.

    • Hi Sam, just tweaking you a bit on the “C” thing… thought I saw hints of it in your comments about “call”.

      Anyway, I don’t want to get too involved in the hysteria thing here. But I will say that diligent godly vigilance of a community of believers with a godly pastor in the lead (not as the head, Christ is the head), is the ideal. We all ought to strive for that, including diligent discipleship and training of lay leadership (I hate the term “lay”) and personal spiritual vigilance is absolutely essential. I appreciate what you are saying here.

      Maranatha!
      Don Johnson
      Jer 33.3

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