Growing up in America, a natural conclusion of many is that infant baptism must be something God wants us to do as part of being a Christian. So, it's not surprising that one of the common questions on our Welcome Cards is whether infant baptism or dedications are available at Dwell, and if not, why not.
Many of us have questions that arise from our own past experiences and/or from seeing baptism portrayed in our culture through movies or similar venues. Many have had experiences in churches that may lead them to believe certain things about their own or their children's spiritual destination based solely on baptism rites. This can become a confusing area, fraught with emotional consequences.
Before revisiting the Bible's position of whether children should be baptized, we need to see that the Bible stands firmly against any works (such as circumcision or baptism) being added as a necessary condition for forgiveness apart from faith alone to receive Christ:
The Apostle Paul wanted the Jewish Christians of his day to understand that Abraham was saved by his faith alone (Romans 4). Abraham was circumcised years afterwards as a voluntary outward sign of his faith.
In the same way someone could wear a wedding ring but not be married, it's also possible for someone to have been water baptized, but to have never accepted Christ and therefore not be a Christian.
In 1 Peter 3:20-21, we learn that in the same way Noah and others were saved from judgment by being put into the ark, being baptized (which literally means "put into") saves us—not by being put into water but by being put into Christ.
Peter says it's not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
The first Christian, the thief on the cross, was not baptized, but was with Christ in paradise that very day. Like wearing a wedding ring after you are married, baptism is a public proclamation of faith after accepting an eternal relationship with Christ (e.g. Acts 2:41, 6:36-38; Acts 8:12-13; Acts 9:17-18; Acts 10:46-48; Acts 16: 14-15; Acts 16:31-34; Acts 18:8).
So now let's look at the question of child baptism and draw some conclusions. Because baptism itself does not determine anyone's standing before God, being baptized as child doesn't automatically make someone a Christian upon reaching adulthood. We strongly encourage all adults who receive Christ to be baptized, even if they were baptized as infants, so that they can publicly acknowledge their decision and proclaim Christ before others.
The other conclusion is that if a child is not water baptized and dies before reaching adulthood, the child's standing before God is not in jeopardy. In 2 Samuel 12:23, David was able to say with confidence that his week-old infant was safe in the presence of God. Other passages like Matthew 18:3 imply that children who die are all in heaven.
Dwell also does not practice infant dedications. Even though a dedication ceremony is simply a public commitment to raise a child to follow God in Christian community, formalizing such events could just add to the misconceptions and confusion of those in attendance.
It could also lead to an artificial sense of compulsion among the huge numbers of families having children in our fellowship when we don't see any Biblical evidence that dedications were practiced in the New Testament church.
In any case, we pray that this question of infant dedications would not interfere with the overriding unity we should have as Christians on central issues.
For more information about baptisms, see the article by Gary DeLashmutt, one of our founding pastors.