What is the difference between a baptism and a christening?

Considered synonymous by some people, baptism and christening are anything but the same, according to the Holy Bible (Matthew 28:19), where christening is never mentioned and baptism is indicated as a requirement for Christian salvation. Christening is considered a religious rite by churches, such as the Catholic, Lutheran and Episcopal, whereas baptism is considered a commitment to God in other Christian churches when someone comes of age to know the difference between right and wrong (sin) and makes the decision to be baptised.


The major differences between baptism and christening stem from the way the ceremonies are conducted. Baptism is generally immersion in water of an adult or older child for remission of sins and an open commitment to Christ. Christening, on the other hand, is a sprinkling of water by the priest, where parents affirm a baby's commitment to Christ as well as a setting forth a "proper" name for the child.


The family is an integral part of a christening, as they are professing a child's faith in God and their renunciation of sin. This is a formal ceremony and is sometimes referred to as a child baptism.


Baptism is a practice followed by Christians through examples set forth in the Bible, as in Matthew 3:16. Its significance is a conscious decision on the part of the participant to dedicate themselves to Christ versus another representative.


Either ceremony is one of commitment; however, christening is seen more as a human tradition than baptism is, since both are Christ centred but only baptism is noted by the Christ of the Bible.


Generally only the Evangelical and Christian churches, such as Pentecostal, Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterian differentiate between baptism and christening. The Catholic, Lutheran and Episcopal consider them one and the same.

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About the Author

Debra Bacon is an award-winning journalist and editor who has managed and assisted with managing several interesting businesses, including The Country Press Group in Malakoff, Texas, which published four newspapers in East Texas. Bacon is a former member of the Texas Press Association and the Texas Community Newspaper Association.