In theology, blasphemy may refer to the crime of “assuming to oneself the rights or qualities of God.” (From dictionary.com) While I personally don’t claim to being a Christian, consider the “rights” that most would naturally assign to god and to god alone. This would no doubt include the right to decide who gets a reward and who gets a punishment after they die, the right to decide if a person is properly repentant of their sins, the right to accept someone into a personal relationship with him, and the right to decide what is and what is not acceptable to him. Please don’t make me look up scriptures to prove those points; I’m going to be very presumptuous and assume we can all agree on these.
This makes it a very serious matter when someone says that congregants should agree with their opinion when it comes to any of these things, and especially if their opinion doesn’t agree with bible teaching. This is not just presumptuous and arrogant; when talking about religion, it borders on blasphemy. Yet, this is very close to what a member of the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses did recently at a public discourse in Germany, in coercing parents into ensuring their children are baptized into the religion when they’re as young as nine years old.
The Problem With Baptism
First understand why baptism is such a serious issue with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and why it’s different from other religions. Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t baptize their babies as they see baptism as a sign of a personal dedication to god; their book Reasoning From the Scriptures states:
“Christian water baptism is an outward symbol that the one being baptized has made a complete, unreserved, and unconditional dedication through Jesus Christ to do the will of Jehovah God.”
So, no baby baptisms as a baby cannot dedicate himself or herself to god or any religion. However, very young children of Jehovah’s Witnesses are not only baptized into the religion, but JW parents are being counseled more and more to “encourage” their children toward baptism at a young age. How is this a personal dedication to god if you’re only getting baptized to get your parents off your back?
The danger of this step, and this is something that non-JWs must understand, is that if a person is baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and is then later disfellowshipped (excommunicated), they are completely shunned by everyone they know, including family. This can happen even to “young ones,” as was brought out in a public discourse at their 2013 District Conventions.
However, if a person never decides to become one of Jehovah’s Witnesses and get baptized in the first place, their family contact may be somewhat limited as they get older, but they’re not outright shunned. Therein lies the danger for children who are coerced or otherwise pressured into getting baptized when they’re too young to make this decision on their own; they are now held to that decision as an adult, and may be punished for changing their minds by losing their entire family.
The other problem with baptizing children this young is that there is no scriptural precedent for this, but there is scriptural precedent for having them wait until they really are adults. Jesus himself was 30 when he got baptized, and while religions may debate the reasons for this, note what Jehovah’s Witnesses say about it in the book Insight on the Scriptures, Volume 2:
“At the age of 30, the age at which David became king, Jesus would no longer be subject to human parents.”
In other words, Jesus waited until he was an adult and fully responsible for himself before he decided, all on his own, to get baptized. So, according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus waited to become an adult and fully independent of his parents at age 30 to get baptized, but also according to Jehovah’s Witnesses, children today should be getting baptized when they’re 9 years old and because their parents want them to do it.
You Want to Agree With Our Opinion, Don’t You?
During a public discourse in Germany in May of 2015, governing body member Mark Sanderson talked about children as young as 9 getting baptized, and brought out how the governing body had previously and publicly commended parents whose “quite young” children were getting baptized. He then asked the audience directly, “Do you share that viewpoint of the governing body?”
The governing body. Not god, not the bible. The governing body. Their viewpoint. You know, the one that completely contradicts what the bible and therefore, supposedly their god, says about baptism. That viewpoint?
This is where the blasphemy comes into play. By offering a viewpoint that is different than the god they worship, and then asking congregants if they agree with that personal viewpoint, they are assuming the rights of god himself. Supposedly god has the right to say what makes a person acceptable to him and god has the right to set out requirements for that person, but the governing body inserts themselves into that equation. They offer a different viewpoint and then ask if followers of their religion agree with them, rather than bringing out what the bible says and asking if they agree with the bible’s teaching or with what god says.
Don’t get me wrong; if one of Jehovah’s Witnesses wants to study the bible with their child and take them out preaching and to the Kingdom Hall and teach them the doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses, that’s one thing. We’re not talking about teaching children certain doctrines, however. We’re talking about a viewpoint when it comes to your personal relationship with god that is not only not supported in the bible, but which completely contradicts even their own interpretation of the bible, and then asking followers if they agree with the viewpoint of men, not if they agree with what the scriptures say. By saying to their congregants, “This is what we teach, we have decided what is the standard for when a person should be baptized,” and then pressuring them to agree with what they teach even though it contradicts what their god teaches, they are elevating themselves above god himself. Blasphemy.
Of course I could be wrong on this; as I said, I don’t personally adhere to Christianity or any religion in particular, and it would be inappropriate for me to say that someone shouldn’t presume to speak for god and then do the same myself. However, if this teaching of “our opinion is the standard, even when it isn’t in line with the bible” isn’t blasphemy, then at best it’s an outright contradiction of their own words about the point of baptism in the first place. Either way, I don’t think a nine-year-old child should be making any decision if the consequences of that decision are beyond their comprehension, and I don’t think I’m wrong about that.
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