Did You Know? (Baptism Questions #2)

…JW baptism questions changed many times since Pastor Russell’s time?

One reader of our earlier “Did You Know?” article on changing baptism questions asked:

“Hello. What were the questions before 1973 then? The title alludes to the questions changing twice; so there have been three sets of questions in the history of Jehovah’s Witnesses? Thanks in advance.” – Gareth

Thank you, Gareth, for your excellent question. That article only focused on major changes during the current generation of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The facts are clear – baptismal questions have had a long history of changes since Brother Russell’s time.

When looking at this subject closely, it seems the holy spirit often sends conflicting messages when delivering “new light” to members of the Governing Body. Why have there been so many confusing and frequent changes? After all, the subject of baptism is basic to Christian doctrine. That fact alone should generate serious questions about the quality of the inspiration and doctrinal “new light” that the Watchtower’s Governing Body has been receiving from holy spirit.

A More Extensive History of Baptismal Qualifying Questions

Under Charles Taze Russell baptism candidates were simply asked if they had “consecrated themselves to the Lord?”

“What are the questions usually put [asked] by Brother Russell when receiving candidates for water immersion?

ANSWER: You will notice that they are on broad lines – questions which any Christian, whatever his confession, should be able to answer in the affirmative without hesitation if he is suitable to be acknowledged as a member of the Church of Christ:

(1) Have you repented of sin with such restitution as you are able, and are you trusting in the merit of Christ’s sacrifice for the forgiveness of your sins and the basis of your justification?

(2) Have you made a full consecration of yourself with all the powers that you possess–talent, money, time, influence–all to the Lord, to be used faithfully in His service, even unto death?

(3) On the basis of these confessions, we acknowledge you as a member of the Household of Faith, and give to you as such the right hand of fellowship, not in the name of any sect or party or creed, but in the name of the Redeemer, our glorified Lord, and His faithful followers.”1

In the modern era (after the deaths of Russell and his successor, Joseph Rutherford) two questions developed containing reference to the Father, Son and holy spirit, as shown in this scan from the Watchtower, February 1, 1944, p. 44:

baptism-1944

Those baptismal questions seem clear and concise while covering all the major issues facing dedicated Christians. However, that was just the beginning of baptismal “fine tuning.”

Mass baptism in 1946 at Lake Erie, USA (very typical for that era)…

Twelve years later, these are the questions that would be asked as described in the July 1, 1956 Watchtower, page 407:

Therefore now with your mouth make a public declaration of your faith by answering these two questions that I shall ask you, and let your answers be hearable, that all those about you may be witnesses to the declaration that you solemnly make:

(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 enlightenment of the holy spirit?

Very young girl baptized in 1946 at Lake Erie

Very young girl being baptized in Lake Erie

Go forward another ten years. These are the baptismal questions from the August 1, 1966 Watchtower, p. 465:

(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?

Less than four years later the baptismal questions changed again as described in the May 15, 1970 Watchtower, p. 309:

(1) Have you recognized yourself as a sinner and needing salvation from Jehovah God? And have you acknowledged that this salvation proceeds from him and through his ransomer, Christ Jesus?

(2) On the basis of this faith in God and in his provision for redemption have you dedicated yourself unreservedly to Jehovah God, to do his will henceforth as that will is revealed to you through Christ Jesus and through God’s Word as his holy spirit makes it plain?

Jump ahead another three years and again the baptismal questions saw major modification as shown in the May 1, 1973 Watchtower, p. 280:

(1) Have you repented of your sins and turned around, recognizing yourself before Jehovah God as a condemned 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?

Current Baptism Procedures, Policy, and Questions

The newest baptismal questions, from the June 1, 1985 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?


A pre-baptism meeting at a Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall…


Visit JWFacts.com for more extensive and additional reference material on this subject: http://www.jwfacts.com/watchtower/baptism.php

Notes:
1. What Pastor Russell Said, pp. 35, 36

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