What About Jehovah’s Witnesses? – A Response
While I am not with the JWs, the following is the response I gave concerning statements made about Charles Taze Russell.
I am including more links here than in my response on that blog:
The Jehovah’s Witnesses and its present “Jehovah’s visible organization” and “Armageddon” dogma was actually started by Joseph Rutherford. Charles Taze Russell did not believe in such an organization, nor did he believe in the Armageddon message that is preached by the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Russell believed that Armageddon was to abe a period of time in which the people of the nations would be chastised in preparation for their coming blessing; he did not believe that Armageddon was to bring eternal destruction upon them.
Russell was the main founder of the legal entity, The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, but that entity in his day served more as a facilitator. Russell refused to allow it to dictate to the congregations, even to those congregations that had elected him as their Pastor. Russell did not attempt establish any new religion, believing that the true religion was Christianity as it had been established by Jesus and the apostles.
In 1915, he published (in the Bible Students Monthly) his sermon on St. Peter’s Keys in which denounced sectarianism, and the idea that any “outward organization” is the true church, claiming that the true church consisted of saints, irrespective of denomational barriers. The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, of which Russell was the main founder, was virtually destroyed after Russell died and replaced with a “new organization”, thereby laying the foundation for Rutherford to create his “Jehovah’s visible organization” dogma. By 1928, the vast majority of the Bible Students movement had rejected Rutherford’s “Jehovah’s visible organization” dogma.
Getting back to Russell’s earlier years, after having a short period of doubts about the Bible, around 1870 Russell came into contact with some of the Second Adventists, his faith in the Bible, and Biblical Christianity, was restored. He did not, however, at that time, accept any of the “date setting” that many of the Second Adventists were advocating, and he rejected their teaching of the end of the world. Sometime before 1874, Russell came to the conclusion, however, that since Jesus sacrificed his flesh for our sins, that Jesus would not return in the flesh, but in the spirit.
Around 1876, Russell was attracted to the studies of Nelson Barbour when he found that Barbour had reached a similar conclusion. Thus, in 1876, Russell accepted Barbour’s conclusion that Christ had returned in 1874. Since Russell did not accept any date for Christ’s return until 1876 (about two years after 1874), Russell did not have anything to say before 1874 about Christ’s returning in 1874. As far as Russell is concerned, there was no “that did not happen”, nor did Russell ever predict that Christ was to return on any other dates. Russell died in 1916, still holding to the belief that Christ had returned in 1874. Many Bible Students, myself included, also believe that Christ did return in 1874.
Russell taught that no one should be his followers, but that saints should be followers of Christ.
As to whether there was any considerable number of his associates who lost respect for Russell at the close of his life, this appears to be pure conjecture. Indeed, at the close of his life, reports of attendance at the meetings showed large increases, not a decrease.
Russell lost two cases which have been given a lot of notorious publicity, not pertaining to slander, but which Russell filed for libel. Due to the distortion of facts as presented by J. J. Ross and The Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and the wide-spread distribution of those distortions, most of the public know very little about the actual facts.
I could not find any record, however, of any considerable number of the Bible Students having lost respect for Russell over those court losses. I could find where some withdrew association from Russell over many other matters, such as teaching on the new covenant, universalism, etc.
Nevertheless, as I stated, the vast majority of the Bible Students rejected Rutherford’s “Jehovah’s visible organization” dogma, and the Bible Students movement continues to exist today. They did not become “Jehovah’s Witnesses” and do not teach the dogma of join us or be eternally destroyed in Armageddon that Rutherford taught.