Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 12, 1958

Foolish Preaching On Infant Dedication

James E. Cooper, Campbellsville, Ky.

In recent articles we have considered some foolish preaching on the subject of infant baptism. Now, we wish to consider "infant dedication." It is sometimes claimed that the only thing in mind at infant baptism is to "dedicate" the child to the Lord. Some compare the practice to that of Hannah dedicating young Samuel to the Lord (1 Sam. 1:1-12). In that passage we find that Hannah was barren, and prayed that she would bear a child. In her prayer she "vowed a vow, and said, 0 Jehovah of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thy handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thy handmaid, but wilt give unto thy handmaid a manchild, then I will give him unto Jehovah all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head."

It is wonderful for a woman to pray for the blessings of God and ask him to enable her to bring a child into the world and to assist her in bringing him up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. But this passage contains no authority for the practice known as "infant dedication." There is nothing in it similar to the practice of today. In the first place, Hannah was barren, and prayed to God to give her a child. This child she later dedicated to the Lord. Those who practice "infant dedication" do not dedicate just the children that God has given to barren wombs in answer to prayer. In the second place, Hannah promised to bring up her child as a Nazarite. She said that no razor shall touch his head. People who today practice "infant dedication" do not dedicate their children to be Nazarites. In the third place, Hannah turned her child over to the Lord as soon as she had weaned him. She took Samuel to Shiloh and turned him over to Eli, the priest. Hannah and her husband went back home, but Samuel ministered before the Lord. Those who today practice "infant dedication" do not leave their babies with the preacher, but take them back home and keep them. Hence, there is no similarity between the case of Hannah's dedicating young Samuel to the Lord and those who wish to practice "infant dedication."

Again, some people argue that they dedicate their child to the Lord so they can he assured that it will be with Jesus after it dies. It is strange that people who will claim that baptism has nothing to do with salvation will sprinkle water on their babies for this purpose. It suggests that they are not certain whether they believe little babies are born depraved little sinners or whether they are born "in Christ." The practice originated among the Romanists who believed that little babies are born depraved little sinners, and they must he baptized or they cannot enter heaven. They understand what Jesus said in John 2:5. "Verily, Verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." But, because they misunderstand the condition of infants, they taught that infants must be baptized. Now comes a group of people who will repudiate the idea that baptism is essential, and that one must be baptized to enter the kingdom of God. but who "baptize" their babies anyhow, to give themselves the assurance that the little baby will go to heaven if it dies in infancy. In reality, we could say that the practice is to give the parents an untrue assurance of the salvation of their child by virtue of the rite of "infant dedication."

Others will repudiate both inherited depravity, to the extent that they teach that babies dying in infancy will be saved, and will repudiate the Bible doctrine of baptism for the remission of sins, and want to "dedicate" their children anyhow. Do they do it to give themselves the assurance that the little baby will go to heaven if it died in infancy? If so, they doubt that he would be saved without it.

Some say, "We just dedicate our children to commit the parents to rear and educate the children along certain religious lines. We want to obligate ourselves to bring up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord." Friend, don't you know that you had an obligation to properly rear your child when it came into the world? Would it make the obligation any more binding on you to sprinkle water on the baby? The ceremony gets the water on the baby, but we are told that it obligates the parents to rear the child properly. That is not so. What good would it do you to sprinkle water on the baby? Sprinkling water on the baby can no more obligate the parents to bring up the child in the nurture and admonition of the Lord than giving the baby a bath can get the parents clean! Does it cleanse the bodies of the parents to give the baby a bath? Of course not!

The Bible teaches that Christian parents are obligated to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, but it doesn't say one word about "infant dedication." (Cf. Eph. 6:1-4). Those who practice "infant dedication" talk like they think they don't have an obligation to bring their children up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord without the ceremony. You good people ought to ask your preacher if the "dedication" makes your obligation any more binding. Ask him if God expects you to work any harder at the job after the "dedication" ceremony than before it.

Who has the right to tell me to go through with some ceremony to "dedicate" my children to the Lord. The religious world suffers too much already from preachers who assume the authority to tell people what to do. What we need is to go back to the Bible and see what it has to say. Since Christ has all authority (Matt. 28:18), why don't we just go to the Bible and see what he said on this matter? Why don't we just let the Saviour speak? His word is sufficient for anybody who would love him and recognize that he does have all authority in heaven and on earth. What does his word say about the practice of "infant dedication"? Not one word.

The practice is absolutely unscriptural. There is no place in the Bible where Jesus ever commanded it. There is no example where it was ever practiced. It comes from the customs and sentiments of men. It is a part of the doctrine of men, and is no part of the doctrine of Christ. It glorifies human sentiment and pays no respect for the authority of Christ. It creates the false impression that somebody has obeyed the Lord when he has not.

Not only is it unscriptural, it also violates all New Testament teaching by encouraging sectarianism. The institution practicing it "increase more by the touch of a moistened finger than by all the eloquence of their thousands of preachers." With a few drops of water thousands of infants are bound to sectarianism. They are bound to these institutions long before they are old enough to realize what is happening. Thus, by the unscriptural practice of "dedication" preachers and parents in these sectarian churches bring little children under the bondage of sectarianism.

The practice also violates the New Testament teaching with regard to proper subjects of baptism. Jesus commanded the apostles to "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." When babies are "baptized" they have not been taught the gospel, for the simple reason that they cannot understand it. They cannot "believe and be baptized." They cannot repent. Apostolic preaching required faith and repentance before baptism. "Infant dedication" requires neither.

Surely you can see that "infant dedication" is the result of "foolish preaching." It is contrary to the teaching of God's word. One who practices it goes beyond the doctrine of Christ, and hath not God (2 Jno. 9).