So as most of the folks who read this will already know, Paula and I have recently had a daughter. Now for background, we go to a Lutheran church but don't really agree with infant baptism.
The result? Many many conversations and lots of research about baptism! While I think I can understand the viewpoint of baptism as an act of salvation a lot more now, I still can't quite agree with it.
It seems the main point is that baptism saves in the same way that the gospel saves, not in the same way that Jesus saves. What that means is that it is another thing that leads to salvation, it leads to Jesus, but it doesn't actually perform the saving act - that's Jesus' death on the cross, no ifs, buts or maybes about it.
But is baptism a necessary step on this road to salvation? Of course not! Thief on the cross is the most obvious example, but there are more than enough modern accounts of people coming to Jesus without knowing about baptism that the question seems somewhat ludicrous.
So is it helpful on the road to salvation? Now this is where I start diverging from the Lutheran viewpoint. The main points are there are promises made that apply directly to the baptised - Romans 6 and Colossians 2 are examples of this. Now, reading this verses, I doubt very much they can be taken in the context of non-believers - these very verses are in letters written to believers, and the grammar does not really extend to "you" in the general world-wide sense.
I find it fascinating that this viewpoint comes from the denomination that's most renown for its focus on grace. If one subscribes to the view that through the act of baptism, the child is given promises, it makes baptism a "work". Sola gratia be damned, baptise your child so they can get God! It flies in the face of "God, not us". Now, it is generally said that it's God that's at work in the baptism, but waving your hand and saying "Oh, it's God" doesn't make that true. The fact is, for baptism to occur, someone has to sprinkle (or dunk) water on the recipient. And if it's only through that task that God can do his magical baptism work, then "grace alone" is not being adhered to.
So what's my take on this whole baptism stuff? It's very simple. If you come to Christ, and you have not yet been baptised, you need to take a look at your beliefs. It's a very obvious command, and such a simple thing to do that not getting baptised immediately should make you question your devotion to obeying Christ's commands. It's right there in Matt 28, in Mark 16, in John 3, in Acts 2 - in many other places! There are few commands that are so clear for a believer to follow, and so simple to perform, that I sometimes wonder if it's sole purpose is to just be a test of belief.
So, we're not going to be baptising Sophie until she can make that decision for herself. We will certainly dedicate her, teach her and guide her. We will pray for her and not leave her out in a spiritual wasteland (yes, we've had that accusation). And when (if) she comes to faith, she can get baptised, and know she is obedient to the simple command.