“Young Ones—How Can You Prepare for Baptism?” Watchtower Study for May 15, 2016
At first it appears they are toning down the rush to get baptized at least a little bit. It is still being held aloft as, “…the greatest privilege any human could have” in the very first paragraph – but that is tempered with a kind of warning language such as, “…only when you are qualified to make that decision” and, “…only when … you understand the meaning of dedication.” Parents are even painted here as cautioning the young person that they should wait, that they are not ready yet to get baptized.
Still though, by the end of the second paragraph we are right back on track with the usual propaganda of Watchtower. Having already declared it the greatest privilege, they end paragraph two reassuring young people that they can get baptized. They set this objective in their minds as their life’s greatest achievement. Young ones now wonder how they can accomplish it, perhaps even asking themselves, “How can I, as a young person, do this great thing and make all of my friends and family proud of me?” After all, this is what a young person seeks to do whether it’s excelling in sports, getting good grades or whatever it may be – children seek to make their parents, friends and peers proud of them.
However, we see that a very different, very odd normality is being set for these children. It’s not going to college, getting an education, succeeding in life, starting a family – no, the greatest achievement they can reach is getting baptized as a Jehovah’s Witness. All else is out of focus – this is the greatest thing you can do. If you’re a young Jehovah’s Witness, can you think of anything you could do in life that is better than getting baptized? What about saving a life, would that be better? Would being able to provide for your loved ones and family be better? What about being able to take care of your ailing parents when they are older?
Make a list and see how many things you can think of that are demonstrably more beneficial either for yourself, others or both than getting baptized. Try to make it things that give you tangible benefits like making a living (what would you like to do?). Be specific about yourself, your life, and things that you are interested in trying or accomplishing. Then compare this to getting baptized and ask what both will do to enrich your life.
This subheading is ripe some critical thinking. Paragraph three is so amazing, that it needs to be quoted in its entirety.
Think about how you would respond to these questions: Why do I believe that God exists? What convinces me that the Bible is God’s inspired Word? Why do I feel that living by God’s moral standards is better than adopting the lifestyle of the world? Those questions are not designed to create doubts in your mind. Rather, they can help you to follow the apostle Paul’s admonition: “Prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Rom 12:2) But why did Christians in Rome need to prove to themselves something that they had already accepted?
Please beware of red flags like these when you read Watchtower articles, such as anytime they say why they do or do not do something or say something. These questions they want you to ask yourself are absolutely designed to create doubts in your mind and it is obvious from the wording of the third question. Notice how it contrasts “God’s moral standards” with “the lifestyle of the world.” This is a loaded question, the “world” is now to be seen as not living up to God’s standard and if you aren’t a Witness what are you? You’re part of the “world.” So they are trying to get you to doubt that being in the “world” is good.
Nevertheless, please focus on the first question they want you to ask yourself. Why do you believe that God exists? Now, it is not the goal of this website to turn people into agnostics or atheists – but this is a question you should absolutely ask yourself. Do you find that the reason you believe God exists is only because you were taught that he does? If so, who taught you? How did they show that God exists, did they only use the bible? Are you only able to use the bible to prove to yourself that God exists? Are you only able to look at nature and claim God made it, without any other backing other than a scripture in Romans and what sounds logical to you? Do you truly know anything about evolution? Did you know that evolution does not teach that God doesn’t exist? What real evidence do you have to base your belief in God’s existence on?
We are now introduced to Timothy, and a role model is provided. Watchtower cites 2 Timothy 3:14, 15. Let’s examine how the Revised New Word Translation renders this verse.
You, however, continue in the things that you learned and were persuaded to believe, knowing from whom you learned them and that from infancy you have known the holy writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
Watchtower elaborates just after the citation, saying,
According to one reference work, the original-language word for “persuaded” has the sense “to be convinced and certain of the truth of something.” Timothy had made the truth his own. He accepted it, not because his mother and grandmother told him to do so, but because he had reasoned on it for himself and had been persuaded.
Here we see another red flag that you should watch for in consideration of Watchtower articles. Notice how they say, “According to one reference work…”? What reference work? Do they ever cite it? No. So how do you know that this is true? The way you can know is by doing your own research when they make claims.
This claim is partially true, and partially an outright lie. The word translated by Watchtower in verse 14 as “persuaded” is indeed rendered as “convinced of” in other versions of the bible (i.e., NIV). That much of their claim is true, however what about the part where they claim that it is not because of his mother and grandmother?
The greek word here translated is “epistōthēs,” it’s origin is “pistoó” which is index number 4104 in Strong’s Concordance (a reference work also used by Watchtower). How does Strong’s define this word?
pistoó: to make trustworthy, hence to establish
Original Word: πιστόω
Part of Speech: Verb
Phonetic Spelling: (pis-to’-o)
Short Definition: I convince, give assurance to
Definition: I convince, establish, give assurance to; pass: I am assured of.
Source: Strong’s Concordance
What, or perhaps who, do you think made the things Timothy believed trustworthy? Who established them? Who assured him that it was true? The true meaning of this word is that you were assured of something by someone else, it is not that you were assured of it on your own. Please scroll back up and read again verse 14. As you can see, with just a little bit of research, we have shown that the verse is stating that Timothy came to be assured of the things he believed from someone else (most likely his mother and grandmother) since his infancy. Indeed, it is actually the very opposite of what Watchtower is trying to tell you.
This entire heading is about your conviction that what you believe is true. The final paragraph of the heading sums the point up nicely.
By strengthening your convictions, you take an important step toward baptism. One teenage sister said: “Before I decided to get baptized, I studied the Bible and saw that this is the true religion. And each day that I live, that conviction gets stronger.”
Strengthening your convictions is certainly a very good goal. A person should be a strong and stable individual, able to stand by what they believe is right. But we’ve just seen how Watchtower is trying to mislead you about the verse in Timothy, what else have they been mistaken about, purposely or otherwise? Remember the one red flag mentioned earlier, making a reference without citing it? We haven’t even made it a few paragraphs and here they are doing it again. What teenage sister said this? Plenty of other quotes here have names.
Consider this too, what if you were born in the Middle East? Would you be a Jehovah’s Witness or do you think it more likely you’d have been born a Hindu, Muslim or maybe Jewish? What would be your convictions then? Would you believe that the Koran is the inspired word of God? Or the Torah? Would you believe in Allah, Vishnu, or HaShem? Would you be just as assured of the truth of what you believe, and who would be assuring you?
The Bible says: “Faith by itself, without works, is dead.” (Jas. 2:17) If you have strong conviction, it is reasonable to expect that you will show it by your actions. What kind of actions? The Bible speaks of “holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion.” —Read 2 Peter 3:11.
The first sentence says so much. “Faith by itself, without works, is dead.” As a young person, especially if you were raised as a Witness but also even if you’ve spent a short time raised among them, you know what they teach you will happen to those who aren’t Jehovah’s Witnesses – they will die. Rarely do they state this word for word, it’s usually left to be concluded by you (without much mental strain), but they absolutely have said it (see article about how watchtower has insulted the LGBT Community, and the link below).
They set baptism up as being of the utmost importance, as something that literally means your life, so that it will drown out everything else. You can not take school seriously and survive, not go to college and survive, never get married and survive, never have kids and survive but not get baptized? You’ll die. It creates a very skewed version of reality, and all the things that should be at the top of your list as a coming of age adult are drowned by it.
This entire heading is telling you, as a young person, what you should be doing and that you should be doing it because you love Jehovah and want to get baptized. Look at what they are doing. Your life is not about you at all, instead it is being made about the Watchtower Oganization and the God Jehovah. Is it really loving to say that if you don’t do something which is asked of you, you will be killed? Is that love? Is it love to say, “your entire life should be about me?” That is exactly the message Watchtower preaches. Get baptized, do all you can in service to Jehovah (and therefore Watchtower) – or die. How is this loving?
Paragraph sixteen opens with reference made to Matthew 22:35-37, where Jesus is recorded as having been asked which is the greatest commandment. He responds, “You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.” This love is stated as what is the motive for christian works and for baptism. Does this mean that if you don’t get baptised you don’t love God? Don’t worry, they are going to help you love God.
One of the best ways that you can grow in your love for Jehovah is to meditate on the greatest gift Jehovah has provided—the ransom sacrifice of his Son. (Read 2 Corinthians 5:14, 15; 1 John 4:9, 19.) Thinking about the ransom and what it means for you will motivate you to respond appreciatively.
You can probably guess where this is going. Since Jesus voluntarily did something for you, you are now in debt to him and his father. Let’s examine the logic of this argument.
First, and most confusing, how precisely does a person’s voluntary act put you in debt to their parent? Let’s say a neighbor helps you with something, maybe you dropped a bag of groceries on the way in your home and they helped you pick it all up. Would you, at any point, think to yourself, “Man, I really owe that persons dad a huge thank you”?
Second, and more to the point, why are you in debt to a person for something they did of their own accord? Jesus wasn’t asked to do this, nobody forced him. The bible even says that he did it freely on his own (Philippians 2:6-8). What sort of person would do something (without being asked) to benefit you and then hold it over your head for the rest of your life? Would you do this to someone? Surely not! And what does it say that you would never do this, but God and his Son – two beings that are supposed to be perfect in love – would? The morality presented in this heading is very lacking, if only it wasn’t going to get worse.
Do you appreciate what Jehovah has done for you? Then it would be fitting to dedicate your life to Jehovah and get baptized.
Gone is the cautionary tone of the first paragraph. No longer should you only get baptised if you are ready, now if you don’t get baptised then you don’t appreciate what God has done for you. Is it loving to try to guilt people in this fashion? No, it absolutely isn’t and it’s repulsive that such emotional manipulation is at work in this article. If you have to be motivated by guilt to do something, then it is not genuine and the person resorting to this tactic is definitely not loving.
Clearly, dedicating your life to Jehovah is the right thing to do. Are you ready to take that step? If so, do not hold back.
Again, what a drastic change in tone! Clearly getting baptised is the right thing to do? Please, do not rush into this decision. Honestly consider the points of this blog, ask yourself what you want out of your life. Watchtower wants your life to be about them, but I hope that your life will be about you.
Going forward, whatever decisions you make, make them informed decisions. Check up on Watchtowers claims, everything from quotes to citations and claims about what hebrew words mean. Do not let them tell you what anything means, you can find answers that are verifiable, and often do not agree with what they tell you. If you do this, and you find they are wrong, do you really want to get baptized into an organization that is either gravely misinformed or purposely lies? Can such an organization really be God’s chosen people?