...are the ones that make the biggest difference

11.14.2006

Baby dedication?

This last Sunday at church - which is a rather largish Missionary congregation that was planted a few years ago - a number of families participated in "baby dedications". Basically, the moms & dads stood up front cradling their little one while the pastor prayed for them. It didn't last very long. The main gist seemed to be something about us as a church community coming around the families to support them in prayer, in material ways and in setting a good example of the Christian life for their children and that the parents are committing to raise them up as Christians.=. Nothing at all objectionable or unreasonable. My wife prefered the way the congregation of her youth did it - each child was prayed for separately - and felt that it emphasized the community aspects of the dedication much more effectively. Not growing up in a church that practiced baby dedications, I really have no opinion on that. All I do know is that I just plain don't get it.

What is the point, really? Regardless of whether the parents make a public profession of their intent to raise their children in the faith, they are still commanded by God to do so. Its good that they want to make a public declaration of that fact, but it is of no real consequence; the commitment they made when they had the child far exceeds any mere statement to that effect in front of a group of people. And accountability-wise, those parents should still be accountable to the leaders of their congregation and to those godly men & women God has put in their lives to support, guide & correct them in many other areas. On the plus side, they are introduced to and prayed for by the entire congregation, which is certainly a good thing. But even that functions as a kind of pseudo-entrance into church membership. This child, while likely not getting any voting rights in a congregational lead church, is still treated like a member of the community. So its not like the dedication is any way a preparatory step towards the final goal of church membership. The faith of this child is not presumed against in any way; they are treated like members of the church and full followers of Jesus Christ.

Which is probably why it just really seems to me that child dedications are deritualized baptisms. Instead of serving a spiritual purpose, ie, the child being reborn into Christ and thus better armed to live their faith, it serves the psychological needs of the parents. The parents want to do something for their child, they want the child to be part of the church and they want their child to be prepared for the life of faith, but aside from some informal prayers that frankly could be said by anyone, at any time of an individual's life, child dedications don't actually do anything for that child. No spiritual reality changes for that child. They get some prayers, some people who coo at them a bit and that's about it. Like I said, I don't get it.

If anyone has a different perspective, I'd be interested to hear it.

2 comments:

The Scrivener said...

I guess that in addition to satisfying certain needs of the parents such practices might also serve certain needs of the congregation as a whole: to claim the child as a part of the community, to focus community efforts on nurturing the child as the future inheritor of the community, etc.. Though such practices serve to orient the attention of the parents and community toward the child, which may be good, there doesn’t seem to be any objective value in the act for the child who is made the recipient of such attention. It does seem, to me at least, that this is simply a pale shadow of the church’s traditional baptismal practice, which at least concerned itself primarily with taking action for the child’s spiritual health and salvation, rather than merely satisfying psychological needs of the adults present.

Anonymous said...

In our church the entire dedication is actually a prayer to God WITH the church body prayed first by the parent and followed by the pastor. It's not a ritual for "works" and it's not like a baptism at all.
It's 1) Thanking God for this blessing 2) Asking for wisdom & help for parenting and it's done with the aknowledgement of wanting to be accountable in our parenting to the other believers. The congregation is there to pray with us.
Basically, I think you are missing the point about the ability for PRAYER to MOVE Mountains!!! : )

http://www.gotquestions.org/why-pray.html

Of course even if infants are dedicated to the Lord, when they grow up they will still have to make a personal decision to believe in Jesus Christ in order to be saved.