[From ws17/12 p. 18 – February 12-18]
“From infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation.” 2 Timothy 3:15
At least the organization is more upfront with their purpose with this article than with many. It is not primarily to “help your children be wise for salvation“, but rather, as alluded to by the question for paragraphs 1 & 2, to help “children wanting to take the steps of dedication and baptism.” It would be more truthful if they added “because of strong emotional pressure from peers, parents and the Organization”.
This is aside from the issue of whether a formal dedication is required (discussed at length here) since Matthew 28:19b says nothing about vows and dedication but instead speaks only of baptism followed by actions to observe Jesus’ commandments.
We then find another tweak in the NWT which changes the meaning of the verse. Matthew 28:19 should read “make disciples of all the nations“, not “make disciples of people of all the nations”. Why is this subtle change wrong? Because it changes the emphasis with which most witnesses read this scripture. The focus goes on “disciples of people” instead of “disciples of all the nations”. The Greek word here translated “nations” is ‘ethnos’ which means “gentiles, people joined by similar customs and culture.” Children are still learning customs and culture; only adults can be said to be truly joined by similar customs and culture.
Did John the Baptist baptise any children? The baptism of children is not mentioned in Scripture. Only the baptism of adults fits the context. (See Luke 3:21; Matthew 3:13; Mark 1:4-8; John 1:29.)
When did Jesus, the Son of God, get baptised? Not as a child, but as a full-grown man of 30. (Luke 3:23) If baptism is so important at such an early age, then why did Jesus Christ not set the example and get baptized when he was a child? Why did he not encourage the baptism of children?
What is the difference between infant and child baptism? Very little. Both have little to no understanding of the gravity of the step they are taking. An infant is not even aware he is being baptized. He has no say in the matter. Does a child make the decision of his or her own free will? Usually, a strong emotional persuasion is exerted by parents, either wittingly or unwittingly, to motivate the child whose natural, inborn desire is to please his mother and/or father. Most children change their outlook on life drastically during their teen years.
The Insight book makes the following comment on Baptism: “That Christian baptism required an understanding of God’s Word and an intelligent decision to present oneself to do the revealed will of God was evident.” — (it-1 p253 par. 13)
Most countries of the world do not consider a child to be old enough to make important decisions in life until aged 16, 18, or 21, depending on the nature of the decision. Why should becoming a member of a religion with its requirements be any different? We should bear in mind that Jehovah’s Witnesses are not baptising their children in the Christ, but rather, in the Organization. JW Baptism means being willing to conform to all the rules, tenets and policies of the Organization, whether these conform to Scripture or not.[i] Few children will realize what they are getting into. (Indeed, few adults do either.) The same things said about infants in the Insight book article on baptism (it-1 p253 para 18) apply to children and most teenagers. How many under the age of say, 16, understand God’s word (let alone organization policy) enough to make an intelligent decision?
Finally Acts 8:12 clearly states that “they proceeded to get baptized, both men and women.” Note the absence of children.
Paragraph 2 attempts to dismiss any concerns on the part of parents. It does this in part by implying that concerns that the children may later leave ‘the way of truth’ should not stop them getting baptized.
However, a vital issue that is missing is the important point made in John 6:44 “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him; and I will resurrect him in the last day.” And John 6:65 “So he went on to say: “This is why I have said to YOU, No one can come to me unless it is granted him by the Father.” Based on these scriptures, is Jehovah drawing men (adults) or young children? In fact, the Bible indicates that it is the believing adult that sanctifies the children. (1 Cor 7:14)
In paragraph 3, in an attempt to bolster the point being made—i.e. children should get baptized—we read: “though Timothy at that time was likely a teenager”. In court proceedings that would be termed ‘inadmissible evidence’, since it is pure speculation. The scripture quoted (2 Timothy 3:14,15) gives no indication as to (a) the age at which he learnt about the message of Christ and (b) when he became persuaded it was the true course.
It is commendable to help our children to know the holy writings. Tools can be useful in any task, provided they are the right ones and they are accurate. Sadly almost without exception the tools at the disposal of JW parents teach Organisation values as opposed to Bible values and principles. For instance, the Organization teaches that parents should not take a phone call from their disfellowshipped daughter, or that kids should use their pocket money, not for an ice cream, or even to help out a homeless person, but rather to enrich an already rich Organisation.
Children should be taught to imitate Christians like Apollos who used only the Scriptures to spread the good news. (Acts 18:28)
Paragraph 8 contains an interesting comment by Thomas, a father. “Frankly, I would worry if she accepted something without asking questions”. Our father in heaven is surely equally happy if we ask questions. That is how we gain experience and knowledge on which to reason. Children are noted for their questioning: why, what, where, when, etc. In Acts 17:10, 11, Luke was inspired to write that it was noble-minded to be “carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so”.
What a contrast to the Organisation of today, where asking questions about child sexual abuse issues, or how Jehovah communicates with the Governing Body, or what the Scriptural basis is for the overlapping-generations doctrine, is likely to land one in the back room of the Kingdom hall.
A suggestion given in paragraph 9 is “For example, can your children explain from the Bible what happens at death? Does the Bible’s explanation make sense to them?” There is no indication that before baptism, candidates in the first century were required to understand the Bible teaching about death. They were required, however, to understand that they were getting baptised in the name of Jehovah, Jesus and the holy spirit. Does your child understand what that means? For instance, baptism in the name of Jesus means one is granted the authority to become one of God’s children.
“However, to all who did receive him, he gave authority to become God’s children, because they were exercising faith in his name.” (Joh 1:12)
Yet, Jehovah’s Witnesses are all baptised as friends of God. Can your child explain that from Scripture?
“Spiritual maturity is not determined primarily by age but by a person’s healthy fear of Jehovah and readiness to obey his commands.“ (Paragraph 12)
So we ask the question: Why, when it comes to selecting spiritually mature ones to be shepherds, is a brother not judged on his Christian qualities? Instead he is judged on his organizational qualities. Primarily on how many hours he spends going from door to door every month. To that is added regularly attending meetings decreed by a body of men, and complete obedience to instructions from a body of men who, by their own admission, are not inspired (unlike the apostles and prophets of old).
Paragraph 15 mentions that a child should be helped to reason. That, in itself, should disbar the child from getting baptised. See how Google dictionary defines child:
- Young human being below the age of puberty or below the legal age of majority.
- Synonyms: youngster, young one, little one, boy, girl.
- a son or daughter of any age,
- an immature or irresponsible person
If a child is a minor, which is what is meant in paragraph 15, then they are below the age of majority. This is the age the world sets in an attempt to ensure that someone is mature enough to make decisions that have legal implications and potentially serious effects on their life. Should the step of baptism to serve God and Christ, with its life changing and challenging consequences be taken at any younger age than that of the accepted age of majority? There is a strong argument that the bar of being responsible should be even higher for what is surely the most important personal decision in one’s life. Note definition 4: by definition a child is immature and/or irresponsible. How can an irresponsible or immature person reach a mature, responsible decision? Only on becoming an adult, not a 12-year-old such as was held out in a recent monthly broadcast as a fine example to follow. We are not even talking teenagers here, but prepubescent children.
How long before the Organisation starts encouraging infant baptism like some other churches of Christendom do? Could this new drive be a way to bolster dropping growth figures?
Furthermore would it be right and just for Jehovah to hold someone accountable for a promise made before they were legally mature enough to make that decision or promise? Would Jehovah even consider doing that? It is unthinkable.
The ethical thing to do on the part of any parent or elder or governing body member would be to say ‘It’s wonderful that you have expressed interest in getting baptized, but you cannot do so until you are at least 18 years old and legally an adult, and mature enough to make such an important decision for yourself without any advice from us.’
This would avoid the issues raised in paragraph 16 where the child begins to have doubts as he grows older, and now must face the consequences of being cut off from family and friends.
As discussed in last week’s Watchtower article review, Jehovah does not want us to take vows or promises that we may break. Secondly, by taking the baptism vows as they currently stand, the child would be entering a contract with the Watchtower Organization, which if they are a minor, is surely illegal. Anyone encouraging a child to take an illegal action is surely acting in bad faith at the very least.
Finally, consider Paragraph 10 which raises very important questions all of us who are parents need to be able to answer honestly. “Do I talk to my children about why I am convinced of Jehovah’s existence, his love, and the rightness of his ways? Can my children clearly see that I really love Jehovah?’ I can’t expect my children to be persuaded unless I am.” To these questions, we should add, “Can my children clearly see that I really love Jesus?” After all, if we want them to be baptised, not as Jehovists, but as Christians, we should engender in them a love of our Lord, should we not?
[i] For instance, a baptized child may be required to shun a close friend who has disassociated himself from the Organization as some victims of child abuse have done, even though shunning for disassociation is not scriptural.