The Watchtower Society's "New Light" On What Baptism Means

Once upon a time the Watchtower Society recognized that Christians are not dedicated to an organization:

... when we dedicate our lives to Jehovah. We do not dedicate ourselves to a religion, nor to a man, nor to an organization. No, we dedicated ourselves to the Supreme Sovereign of the Universe, our Creator, Jehovah God himself. [Oct. 1, 1966 Watchtower, pp. 603-4]

The Jan. 15, 1970 Watchtower (pp. 37-41) emphasized this by asking, "Which Comes First Your Church or God?" Speaking mainly to Catholics and Protestants it said:

With some, God comes first and their church is merely a means used to worship him. With others, their church has become an end in itself, taking priority over God and his Word, the Bible. Where do you stand? In your own heart and mind, which comes first your church or God?

The article argued that the proper Christian course is to give up on your religion if it doesn't follow the Bible, and it invited dissatisfied people to become Jehovah's Witnesses.

In its usual fashion, the Society does not follow its own advice. Even though it has said that Christians do not dedicate themselves to an organization, it tells Witnesses that salvation does not come apart from the Watchtower organization. For example, the Mar. 1, 1979 Watchtower (p. 18) said:

Devoted Witnesses have kept their faith in Jehovah's organization. They know which one of all organizations on earth the Almighty God has used to give the greatest witness to his name and kingdom in all Christian history... Is there any cause for us to lose faith in Jehovah's visible organization because of mounting difficulties in this world? Those who believe that Jehovah will never desert his faithful witnesses answer, "Absolutely not!" In demonstration of such faith, we will keep on sticking to it and working with it without slacking the hand. Our unwavering faith will be rewarded with victory and the crown of life!

In line with these sentiments, in 1985 the Society changed the baptismal vows such that new Jehovah's Witnesses committed themselves not only to God, but to the Watchtower Society. This is evident from the baptismal vows published over the years. The baptismal questions from the Aug. 1, 1966 Watchtower (p. 465) were:

(1) Have you recognized yourself before Jehovah God as a sinner who needs salvation, and have you acknowledged to him that this salvation proceeds from him, the Father, through his Son Jesus Christ?

(2) On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for salvation, have you dedicated yourself unreservedly to God to do his will henceforth as he reveals it to you through Jesus Christ and through the Bible under the enlightening power of the holy spirit?

The May 15, 1970 (p. 309) and May 1, 1973 (p. 280) issues printed slightly revised vows. The newest baptismal questions were set forth in the June 1, 1985 (p. 30) Watchtower:

(1) On the basis of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, have you repented of your sins and dedicated yourself to Jehovah to do his will?

(2) Do you understand that your dedication and baptism identify you as one of Jehovah's Witnesses in association with God's spirit-directed organization?

Note how different the second vow is from the earlier versions. The Society has managed to get newer members to, in effect, join a worldly club from which their membership can be terminated at any time by the Society (disfellowshipping) while at the same time convincing these newcomers that they have only dedicated themselves to their Creator. Can any actions be more devious?

When a person becomes a JW, he or she is not told about the legal ramifications of joining the club. If the person decides to quit and says, "Hey, I dedicated myself to God and not to an organization," the Society may write a letter saying something along these lines:

`From the date of your baptism and your joining the organization of Jehovah's Witnesses, you professed the Christian faith, agreed to adhere to the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses and agreed to submit to the rules and procedures of the ecclesiastical government of Jehovah's Witnesses.'

Note the legalistic phrase "ecclesiastical government." The WT Society never applies this to itself in any literature for public consumption. Instead it uses euphemistic phrases like "theocracy" to lull the sensibilities of the rank and file.

The change in baptismal vows protects the Society from legal challenges but is obviously completely un-Christian. The insidious thing is that, when challenged, the Society uses the legal ploy that it is a voluntary association, like a club, but then claims that a person has repudiated the entire Christian faith if he leaves the club.

Technically, the Society gives a person two choices when leaving the club: disassociation or disfellowshipping. In practice a third choice is to leave the person alone. This is common and occurs when the elders do not feel threatened by the person's leaving, or when the person is able to threaten the elders personally with legal action.

Most longtime Witnesses are surprised to learn about the changes in the baptismal vows, in particular what these commit a person to and the legal obligations he takes on. Again we find dishonesty suffused through the Watchtower organization like water in a melon.

--contributed


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