Sprinkling the Baby.

Tomorrow evening, we are baptizing our little boy.  I know infant baptism has been an issue to split entire denominations, and so I thought it appropriate to pause and acknowledge the “why” of our decision to baptize our 9 month-old.

First, a few notes as to what this occasion is not.

  1. It is not a mere religious formality.  In fact, we are not fans of religion.  Let me explain.  Religion is the approach to God that says we need to do certain things to make him happy or to appease him.  Religion says that God sets a standard and that we are constantly doing things to reach that standard.  It’s karma.  Build up enough good stuff to make God happy.  We are not baptizing our child to make God happy.  We don’t go to church to make God happy.  That’s religion, and we (despite our classification with the IRS as members of a religious missionary organization) are not pro-religion.  Additionally, we are not pro-formality.  We aren’t baptizing Little Ben to check off a formality. In fact, if you come to our church, very little is formal.  The pastor doesn’t even tuck in his shirt.
  2. We don’t believe that this baptism saves Little Ben.  He is still saved the “old fashioned way” via the instructions in Romans 10:9-10.  He confesses his need for a savior, and asks Jesus to be that savior, through the power of the regenerating Holy Spirit.

So that’s what the baptism isn’t.  Here’s what it is.  (I should note that this is an “agree to disagree” issue for me, and I understand that for some it is not.  I apologize for not arguing with you about it. There are men and women I greatly respect and look up to like John Piper on the other side of the theological fence from me on this issue.  We agree to disagree.)  We believe that scripture teaches that God works through the unit of families.  When Abraham entered into covenant with God, he and all the males in his family were circumsized.  In many instances, God uses language like “the promise is for you and your children…” to demonstrate that His plan is to work through the family.  We see baptism as the new covenant version of circumcision.  Jesus’ death on the cross took away the need for blood to enter into the covenant.

So tomorrow when little Ben is baptized, what we are doing is acknowledging that he is a sinner in need of God’s grace, and that God has sovereignly placed him in our care to steward and shepherd into a man who one day will enter into God’s family.  The faith on display is not his faith, but ours.

What a beautiful picture of God’s grace: a selfish, self-centered baby is dragged (most likely screaming… the service starts near the fussiest time of the day) into a covenant where his sworn enemy (God) becomes his sacrificial lamb.

Feel free to join us as we celebrate God’s grace tomorrow night.

6 Replies to “Sprinkling the Baby.”

  1. I thought I commented on this originally but I guess not. Basically, this sounds like a “dedication” to me. And I remember thinking the language of infant baptism when I have seen it is more along the lines of commiting to raise the child in light of the Gospel. Recognizing that is (our) role as parents. But I don’t know the significance of sprinkling. What does it mean to yall?

    1. You probably did comment on this the first time around. It was on our Tumblr blog, and the comments didn’t transfer over, because I am not enough of a coder to figure that out.

      I agree that it has much in common with a baby dedication, but the key difference is that we don’t see it as necessary to baptize a new believer who was baptized as an infant. Dedication is a neat sentiment. Baptism is a scriptural means of grace.

      The significance of sprinkling is that God has “poured out” his love on us. Also, Ezekiel 36:25 is often used in support of sprinkling in baptism. Plus, dunking an infant is abuse. So, there’s that.

    2. Additionally, the wikipedia article here (especially the section after the “Theology” heading–and obviously I am Presbyterian) is very helpful. The section where it outlines covenant theology is helpful.

  2. I think I’m basically with Tricia.

    We do this exact same thing with our kids, only at the summit, we call it a “parent commissioning”, because, as you said, it’s about the faith of the parents, not the child.

    As parents, we publicly ask God to be gracious to our children as an overflow of His grace to us, and we commit ourselves, in covenant with our body of believers, that we will raise our children in the Gospel.

    And, of course, we do not sprinkle or dunk them.

    The imagery of baptism seems to indicate a passing from death to life – a willful laying down of one’s life through repentance that enables unity with Christ in His resurrection.

    I just personally don’t see the connection between the two.

    Dedicate that baby to the Lord. And ask God to be merciful to your family. Publicly.

    And promise to raise that child in the Gospel and have a big party to celebrate God’s grace to your family.

    And, one day, when God answers that prayer and grants that child the grace to repent and be saved, have a big party when he’s baptized!

    I can offer my own experience as an example of why this is important to me: I was baptized as an infant into the catholic church. Then, when I was 5 or so, my parents became ‘protestant’ believers, and asked me if I wanted to be baptized at our church. I understood somewhat and didn’t see why not, so I was baptized then.

    But in my early college years, when I began to really take my faith seriously, and began to understand the Gospel better, and began to really dig into the Bible, I felt very conflicted, because I felt like I hadn’t really taken the step of obedience of baptism, since I hadn’t really entered into that picture with my eyes wide open.

    I struggled for almost 10 years with whether or not to be baptized AGAIN with new understanding and appreciation of what it means — I didn’t want to cheapen my parents memories, and I didn’t want to confuse people who already looked up to me as a spiritual leader.

    Finally, just a few months ago, after some good conversations with guys at our church, and after listening to several lectures about the first-century church and what baptism was in their view, I was baptized a third time — this time as a baptist.

    So, in retrospect, I feel good about it all, but I wish I hadn’t been baptized as an infant or as a child so that it would have been a more straightforward step of obedience for me.

    I think this is definitely something that is deeply influenced by each person’s denominational up-bringing and also by which side of the ‘reformed’ fence you land (or sit) on.

    It’s fun to dialog about!

  3. “Baptism is a scriptural means of grace.”

    I can agree to disagree, as long as you’re not implying sacramentalism here.

    1. Certainly not implying sacramentalism. (the belief that outward baptism is what saves the child)

      Just making a distinction between a sacrament and a baby dedication. One is commanded in scripture, and one isn’t. Where we disagree is on the method and precondition for the sacrament, as well as the underlying significance of the sacrament (a continuation of circumcision versus an expression of faith of the one being baptized)

      I’m by no means an expert (had to google “sacramentalism” to make sure I understood it, and I think I do…) I just am very compelled, moved even, by the image of a helpless enemy of God being called, drawn, and saved, apart from any work they’ve done. Even before they are able to work.

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