Examining Freeminds’ Discover the Legacy

Posted on March 18, 2012. Filed under: His Teachings, Is it true what they say? | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |


This is a response to many statements being made concerning Charles Taze Russell on the Freeminds.org site, under the title: “Rubenstein, Disney, Russell and Rutherford: LEGACY EXAMINED”, by Terry Walstrom. We do not attack Mister Walstrom personally; we believe, however, that he is in error on many things reported in the article. We are only replying to the statements concerning Russell. Much of the language of the article seems to be designed to charge the emotions of the reader to accept what is being said to be fact, so that the reader will not think to read what Russell actually did teach and believe.

Rank Amateur

Russell is described as a “rank amateur” in comparison with whoever is not named as being “intellectually honest professionals”.  Anyone who is genuinely familiar with Russell’s works, however, would state otherwise.

The Faithful and Wise Servant

It is claimed that Russell “accepted without protest that he was viewed by his followers as the very fulfillment of Matthew 24:45, the ‘faithful and wise servant’ appointed over the household of true believers at the end of the age.” This is partially true, as Russell allowed all to draw their own conclusions. He presented his view that the “faithful and wise servant” was the all who were associated with the Watch Tower and its work, but he also presented the view of those who applied it to himself personally. He admitted that he sought to avoid discussion of the matter; we believe if he had taken the time to examine the scriptures without the influence of others, he would have been able to see that Jesus was simply using the servants to illustrate various individuals amongst his followers, his servants. However, for several years before his death, he was suffering from multiple illnesses, and with much else with which he had to attend to, the matter of the “faithful and wise servant” probably was considered a matter of little interest to him at that time. Russell did, however, did, in 1910, make a statement against seeing Brother Russell in the Bible.
See our studies:

The Faithful and Wise Servant and Other Servants
Parable of the Four Servants

Ruler of All the Lord’s Goods

It is claimed that Russell’s own Watch Tower describes Russell as the “Ruler of all the Lord’s goods.”  An electronic search of the Bible Students Library DVD reveals that Russell never used this expression at all.  We do find such a claim being made for Russell in Rutherford’s Watch Tower in 1923. Russell’s Watch Tower, of course, ceased to exist when Russell died.

Russell Lost His Faith Altogether?

It is claimed that by age 16, “Russell lost his faith altogether.” No, it would not be correct to say that Russell “lost his faith altogether.” Russell did question what he had learned from the self-appointed “orthodoxy” of his time. Russell was right in questioning his faith in the teachings of man, especially those teachings that would depict the Creator as a fiendish demon as in such doctrines as the supposed indescribable eternal sufferings of billions of men, women, children, infants, etc., who died without believing in Jesus.

Of course, as he pointed out, he thought that these teachings were actually a part of the Bible, and thus, believing this, his faith concerning the Bible also came into doubt. Once he learned that the Bible did not teach such blasphemous doctrines such as the eternal indescribable suffering of most of mankind, as well as the trinitarian dogma, and that it did teach that Christ died for all, he was right in taking up the Biblical stand for the truth concerning these matters.
See:
Russell Questioned His Faith
Life Now and Hereafter
Jesus and His God

Russell Heard a Lecture About the End Times?

It is being claimed that Russell heard a lecture about the End Times and the Second Coming of Jesus “to punish the non-believers and the reward the faithful.” This is a reference to Russell’s hearing a lecture by Jonas Wendell in 1870. The implication appears to be that Russell accepted Wendell’s teaching regarding the unbelievers being destroyed at Christ’s return, and as a result, “his keen self-interest was kindled.” The way this is presented is highly misleading, to say the least. Russell never stated what Wendell spoke on that night; we do not know if Wendell spoke on ‘time of the end’, Christ’s Return and/or something else. If Wendell had spoken about “Christ’s return to punish non-believers, it would seem that this message would have not have given Russell any reason to turn again to the Bible, not unless Russell  became interested in order to rebuke Wendell’s error. Russell rejected Wendell’s view concerning the return of Christ, and Wendell’s view that Christ’s return would destroy all unbelievers, and that only a faithful few would be left. Indeed, as he stated later, “I have been a Bible student since I first had my attention called to the second coming of our Lord, by Jonas Wendel, a Second Advent Preacher, about 1869, who was then preaching the burning of the world as being due in 1873. But though he first awakened my interest on the subject, I was not a convert, either to the time he suggested nor to the events he predicted.” Indeed, all through the rest of his life until he died, Russell preached against the kind of “events” that Wendell preached were to happen at Christ’s return. Russell stated:

We reasoned that, if Christ’s coming were to end probation, and bring irrevocable ruin upon ninety-nine in a hundred of mankind; then it could scarcely be considered desirable, neither could we pray with proper spirit, “Come, Lord Jesus, Come quickly!” We had rather request–much as we should “love his appearing”–that he remain away and our sufferings and trials continue so that “if by any means we might save some.” Not only so, but great masses of scripture referring to the Millennial glory and teaching that “All nations which thou hast made shall come and worship before thee,” &c., &c., would be left unfulfilled if at His coming there should be a wreck of matter and a crush of world.
Supplement to the First Issue of the Watch Tower

No, Russell did not believe in Wendell’s teaching that Christ’s return was to eternally destroy all unbelievers. Thus, the statement that Russell’s “keen self-interest was kindled” leads one to false conclusions.

See:
Jonas Wendell’s 1870 Presentation
The JW Organization, Armageddon, 1914, and Russell
Armageddon and the Day of Judgment

Did Russell By-Pass the Legitimate Foundation of the Christian Religion?

It is being claimed that since Russell did not apply for a diligent study of theology at Harvard or Yale, etc., that Russell by-passed the legitimate foundation of the Christian religion in order to study with Adventists. Actually, Russell by-passed all of man’s theology to study the true foundation of the Christian religion, that is, that which is revealed in the Bible itself. And what do we read therein? “No man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11) The Bible is not what is “marginal belief“; the true “maginal beliefs” are those beliefs that have to imagined, assumed, added to, and read into the Bible, such as the dogma of inherent human immortality of the soul, eternal conscious suffering, trinity, etc. Russell recognized at an early age that man’s theology was no longer Christ-centered, but rather was centered on man’s own philosophies, doctrines and practices, held to by tradition.
Russell Quotes Concerning the Bible

Russell wrote:

The Lord gave us many helps in the study of His word, among whom stood prominently, our dearly beloved and aged brother, George Storrs, who, both by word and pen, gave us much assistance; but we ever sought not to be followers of men, however good or wise, but “Followers of God, as dear children.” Thus growing in grace and knowledge for seven years, the year 1876 found us.
Supplement to the First Issue of the Watch Tower

If one reads what Russell stated, one should note that up until 1876, Russell was not interested in the “dates” of any of the Adventists. For seven years he had studied the Bible itself without any such interest; it was in these seven years that Russell had come to a basic understanding of the basis of Christ’s ransom sacrifice, that Christ was not to return in the flesh, and of the blessings of all the families of earth after Christ’s return. It was not until around 1876 (about two years after 1874), that Russell adopted Barbour’s views concerning any of the dates. At that time, he came to accept that Christ had already returned in 1874. Russell never claimed that the chronology and conclusions regarding time prophecy that he presented was infallible; indeed, he stated just the opposite. Nevertheless, if the dates are correct, and we believe they are, then they are not “wrong dates”. It is stated that “Adventist amateurs” had set and abandoned “wrong dates” again and again. Nothing is given to verify this statement, so we have nothing for which to respond.  We can only ask, who are these “Adventists”, and what dates, specifically, are being referred to?

We should note, however, that the Adventist movement started within the denominational churches.  What is often called the Millerite movement was actually within the protestant churches, especially within the Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist and Campbellite churches. The movement was not separate from the denominational, trinitarian, protestant churches, as many often try to depict, but was within those churches.  Thus, it would seem that many of those whom Mr. Walstrom evidently thinks to be “genuine intellectually honest professionals” of these churches were involved in the Millerite movement. Mr. Walstrom, however, states, evidently using irony: “How wrong the legitimate established church was in refusing to listen to their theories!!” He does not explain what he believes “the legitimate established church” to be, so we cannot draw any definite conclusions from this statement. From his later statement, we assume that he believes what he calls “protestantism” to be “the legitimate established church”. At any rate, if he believes that the Baptist churches, the Presbyterian churches, etc., are part of the “legitimate established church”, then he is in error in saying that they refused to listen to “their theories”, since Miller’s teachings spread within many of the “Protestant” churches of his day, in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia.

What did Russell believe to be the true church? Many Jehovah’s Witnesses might fully surprised to find out. Click here to find out what Russell actually believed to be the true church.

Was Russell as Second Adventist?

Every true Christian should believe in the “second advent” of Christ. In this sense, Russell was certainly a believer that Christ was to return and bless all the families of the earth. Did Russell consider himself to be of the “Second Adventist” movment? No, he never accepted, nor believed in, the teachings usually associated with the Second Adventists, especially their view that the Second Advent was to end probation — that is, that the Second Advent would mean the eternal destruction of all the unbelievers.

The article states things out of historical context to reach wrong conclusions. It is stated that Russell “abandoned an established church for a freewheeling one to then become a non-believer who was now a Second Advent enthusiast.” Russell did indeed become a “second advent” enthusiast because he learned what the scriptures actually state about Christ’s return, that the return of Christ was bring in the “times of restitution”, the blessing of all the families of the earth. The way the statement is presented, however, makes it appear that Russell was now preaching the message that those usually called “Second Adventists” preached, whereas, the reality is that Russell was preaching a message that was almost the opposite of what was generally preached by the “Second Adventists”.  Indeed, the seven years of Russell’s study before 1876 is totally ignored.

It is claimed that Russell cobbled together any and every crackpot idea that appealed to him, etc. It is apparent that Mr. Walstrom is not very familiar with what Russell actually did teach, and thus, as far as this goes, we believe Mr. Walstrom is drawing upon his own imagination as to what he “thinks” Russell taught. It is claimed that Russell created a publishing corporation because he wanted to create fame as a world renowned pastor and teacher. Again, this ignores a lot of historical facts. If Barbour had not began to teach erroneous doctrines and refused to allow Russell’s articles to be printed, Russell may not have ever started the Watch Tower magazine. Russell started the Watch Tower, however, to counter the prevalent teachings amongst the Adventists, that is, that Christ’s return was end probation for millions of the unsaved. Again, if one is truly familiar with Russell’s writings, one would know that that Mr. Walstrom is in error in the motives that he gives to Russell.
See Russell’s works online at:
Most Holy Faith

Mr. Walstom claims that Russell had no ministerial training; this is not true, for as we have seen, by 1876, he already had seven years of training. Of course, Mr. Walstrom is not speaking of Biblical ministerial training, but extra-Biblical training by men in man’s traditions.
See:
Ross’ Alleged Facts About Russell

Again, Mr. Walstrom ignores all the studying that Russell had done, and falsely leaves the impression of Russell as though he had no learning of the Bible, of the original languages of the Bible, or church history.  The claim is made that rather than study such matters, Russell “was TEACHING as though he KNEW already what others had to labor intensively to discover!!” No mention is made of the intense training and study that Russell had as a lad, nor of his later training that he had in the “seven years” we mentioned earlier.  Russell did not reach his conclusions without a long period of intensive labor to discover what the Bible actually states. Russell is derided because he chose not to be trained in the schools that indoctrinate with the false doctrines of men.

It is claimed that Russell believed that he was being used by God as above all others. Russell did indeed believe that God had used him in a special way; he was nor arrogant, however, in this, although some, by quoting him out of context, have made him appear to have been arrogant. Nor did Russell claim that Christians had to believe him or else they were not Christian.
See:
Did Russell Give Out That He Himself Was Some Great One?

When Russell wrote his will, he endeavored to keep the Watch Tower Society from becoming what it did become. Rutherford ignored Russell’s will, created new by-laws and proceeded to create an organization which Russell preached against, and then Rutherford introduced an Armageddon doctrine similar to that of the Adventists, which doctrine Russell also preached against.

It is made to appear that Russell had predicted Christ’s return several times (although this is not directly stated), and that after several “wrong date predictions”, Russell came up with the “invisible Jesus” idea. Actually, Russell had already come to realize that Jesus was to return as a spirit being before he had any interest at all in time prophecies. It was not until 1876, two years after 1874, that Russell accepted that Christ had already returned in 1874. He held to that belief until he died in 1916. He did not, therefore, present any “wrong date predictions” at all about Christ was to return. He was not, as many have falsely stated, expecting Christ to return in 1878, 1881, 1914, 1915, etc. It is true that some of what he was expecting for these dates did not happen, but this does not mean that the dates are wrong. Russell, however, was never a member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses organization, and did not offer his expectations as being an “authority” in such an organization; he freely admitted that he could be wrong in his expectations.
See:
JW Claims and Russell’s Expectations Regarding 1914
CTR’s Expectations Concerning 1914

End of the World in 1914?

The JW Organization, Armageddon, 1914, and Russell

Beginning of the Time of Trouble

While Russell probably would never claim to have been the founder of the Bible Students movement, he certainly was very influential in the founding of the many locals schools of Bible classes throughout many countries. It is not unfamiliar to Bible Students to refer to their local churches as “classes”, thus upon meeting a Bible Student, one may ask, “What class are you associated with?”

The statement is made that Russell did not believe that there was any afterward, and that he, along with Rutherford, believed “only the certainty of Armageddon obliteration!”  And it is stated concerning both Russell and Rutherford, “Those who read their writings lived a life of constant fear of destruction, shunning, condemnation and toil because no assurance of salvation…” This would seem to retrospectively attribute Rutherford’s dogma concerning Armageddon to Russell, which, in reality, Russell taught almost the opposite of what Rutherford taught regarding Armageddon.

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3 Responses to “Examining Freeminds’ Discover the Legacy”

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I appreciate the respectful tone of your animadversions. As I read your apologia I am aware that you speak from your own acceptance of Russell’s theology. All well and good.
Once a person is convinced in their heart that a thing is true it is most difficult to read criticism of it without making an eager defense.
I seek to clarify my intentions in the article above quoted.
We all live on the same planet and share in the same social structures and abide by the same laws of the land until it comes to the rather subjective nature of our brain map of “what is really so.”
I wish to speak of the “legitimate” education of professional people from the practical standpoint of what ordinary citizens find normal and acceptable.
A physician who learns on his own and hangs out a shingle to treat diseases and perform operations cannot complain when authorities shut him down and arrest him that “I’ve spent 7 years reading all the best medical treatises from 2000 years ago” as a sane defense. Right?
And yet, this is really the sort of comic book argument I am reading from you about Russell’s legitimacy as a theologian.
Do-it-yourself-auto didactic “learning” won’t fly in the real world.
It is illegitimate to assert into being one’s own proficiency!
And yes–there is a real world.
Unfortunately, when it comes to religion, the bible and professions of “Truth” there is no “there” there by which to measure accuracy.
But, in the “real world” there is.
Claims made ABOUT the real world have to match reality.
IF Russell were merely “channeling” what Jehovah or Jesus were transmitting to him there would be no errors needing correction later, would there? Why would the Living God transmit garbled nonsense?
And yet, in the real world, Russell had to amend, adjust, rectify and otherwise spackle over the cracks in his teachings. Can anybody deny this is so? Well, I suppose you can try and explain away anything if you set your mind to it.
If Jesus is going to return and nothing happens, is it really sanity to assert that something DID because it was….ahem….:”invisible”?
If Armageddon and the destruction of false religion and the rapture of the saints is going to occur in 1914 and it doesn’t hapen, is it anything other than C.Y.A. to “spiritualize” it later and postpone the tangible events?
Just because a man is pleasant, kind, loves God and writes well doesn’t prevent him from finding “god’s dates–not ours” on a piece of burnt toast or the Great Pyramid of Giza!
The Studies in the Scriptures were advertised on a level equal to or greater than that of holy scripture. Hubris or genius?
You see what I am saying? Criticism of Russell’s legacy is mandatory in the practical world where real things actually happen. Russell’s world is a world where invisible things are purported to happen.
The distance between 1879 and 2012 has given us all the evidence we need to be reasonable and clear-headed about the “any minute now” nature of End Times that Russell promoted zealously.
It reeks of flop sweat.
Believe what you will. Assert what you want. Sift the spectral shadows for clues til the cows come home–but, don’t expect others to reach the same conclusions as though they are facts!
If it weren’t for William Miller there would probably not be a C.T.Russell and were it not for Russell there would be no Judge Rutherford or Nathan Knorr or the demented ramblings of Fred Franz. Not organizationally, at least.
Were it not for the bootstrap “genius” of that crew a great many millions of people might have lived a more productive and thoughtful life in a real world.
I wish you well, my friend. I bear no animus.

Terry Walstrom

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[…] See also: Did Russell Change the End of the Gentile Times to 1915? Russell’s Organization? JW Claims and Russell’s Expectations Regarding 1914 Examining Freeminds’ Discover the Legacy […]

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