Monday, December 20, 2010

Russell Was Never the President of the Jehovah's Witnesses

Stephen E. Jones presented some erroneous statements concerning Russell to which I responded; he then presented even more errors in statements to which I tried to respond, but since my responses were not allowed, I have decided to respond to them here. I believe that Jones, whether he allows my responses or not, if he is really interested in the truth of the matter, he should at least correct the errors he has presented.  Whether he allowed my responses to appear or not is irrelevant; the fact that he has not made any changes in his misrepresentations of Russell is what concerns me.

He stated concerning Russell:

While JWs no longer have one absolute "earthly leader" in the sense of one dominant individual, as it did have in the reigns of its first three Presidents, Charles Taze Russell (1852-1916); Joseph Franklin Rutherford (1869-1942) and Nathan Homer Knorr (1905-1977)
Is this true? No, since there was no "Jehovah's Witnesses" organization in the days of Russell, and Russell certainly did not have  "reign" over anyone.

Indeed, Charles Taze Russell was never the president of the Jehovah's Witnesses. The JWs' organization did not exist in the days of Russell. Russell was a non-sectarian who preached against such authoritarianism as is found in the JW organization. Furthermore, Russell disowned being any "ruler" of the church (which he stated many times existed amongst all the denominations of Christianity).

See Russell and Sectarianism

Nor did Russell use fear of the "second death" as a whip to bring anyone into subjection (as does the JW leadership). The gospel - the good news of great joy which is to be to all the people - preached by Russell was almost the opposite message of that preached by Jehovah's Witnesses. After Russell died, Rutherford immediately had the by-laws of the Watch Tower Society changed, and went about creating a new organization, which the bulk of the Bible Students movement rejected.

See:
Founder of the JWS

Russell was indeed the main founder of the legal entity The Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society. However, that entity was not originally created so as to support or control an organization such the "Jehovah's Witnesses." Russell, being a non-sectarian, did not believe any such kind organization (and actively preached against such until he died), nor did he or the Bible Students believe in the message that is preached by that organization. Even though some of the Bible Students sought to make Russell some kind of ruler, Russell followed the example of Jesus and refused such. (John 6:15)

See Russell and Sectarianism

Furthermore, Russell actively preached against similar kinds of alleged "good news" (as preached by the JWs) until he died. Russell never preached a gospel that Christians had to come to him, or to the Bible Students movement, for salvation, as do the JWs regarding their organization. He taught salvation only through Christ, irrespective of any human sect, organization, or denomination. No, the JWs did not retain what Russell taught in this regard, but claimed that for one to have salvation, one has to come to what they call "Jehovah's organization," meaning that which is headed by their leadership in Brooklyn.

Yes, in 1931 Rutherford named his new organization "Jehovah's Witnesses." He did this because the Bible Students (as a whole, represented by the majority) had rejected this new organization, as well as his new gospel of woeful bad tidings of eternal destruction for most of the people. As a whole the Bible Students movement carried on its affairs without giving approval to Rutherford's new organization, or his new gospel, and are still doing so to this day. Therefore, as a whole, the original Bible Students movement did not take the name Jehovah's Witnesses.

It is true that Rutherford developed his new organization "out of" the Bible Students movement, but the Bible Students movement as a whole (represented by the majority) rejected that new organization. It is not just a matter of semantics; it is a matter of actually examining the facts.
See:
The Founder of Jehovah's Witnesses

There was no "central authority" in the days of Russell; the only "authority" -- if one can call it that -- that Russell maintained was that of "pastor" towards those congregations that had elected him as such. Russell did not seek to take control of the affairs of local congregations. All congregations were free to either elect him as pastor or not, or to reject him as pastor at any time. All congregations were free to make their own appointments of elders and deacons for whatever needs they might have. Such coercive methods of Rutherford and the JWs were not approved by Russell, and I am sure that he would not approve of the JW organization today because they do employ those methods, and especially since they have denied the ransom for all, the main doctrine that Russell started publishing the Watch Tower to defend.

Russell, however, allowed others to disagree with his conclusions; he often printed differing views in the pages of the Watch Tower, and even learned from those who disagreed with him. He did not go around -- or have any representatives going around --  disfellowshiping people because they disagreed with him, as did Rutherford.

Yes, one of the very first acts that Rutherford did was to deceive the voters into passing new by-laws for the Watch Tower (without permitting the voters to read the new by-laws) which new by-laws did indeed, in effect, create a "new organization," the very thing Russell had sought to keep from happening, both by the original by-laws as well as by his last will and testament, which Rutherford ignored. Trusting Rutherford, the voters passed the by-laws without having read them. It was only later that many of them began to realize they had been deceived, and even later that the majority of the Bible Students began to realize what had happened.

The word "organization" rarely appeared in the Watch Tower publications in days of Russell as related to the legal entity, and never in the sense that Rutherford began to use that term after Russell died. The December issues of 1916 slowly began to subtly introduce the concept of "organization" in a new way.

At first, back in 1917, only a few of the Bible Students understood what was happening; however, by 1930, the majority of the Bible Students movement had indeed rejected Rutherford's new organization, and his new gospel of eternal destruction for most of the world in Armageddon without their receiving any benefit from the ransom for all.
See:
Russell on church organization

Steven E. Jones claims:

Most of Russell's core doctrines: denial of the Trinity, denial of conscious existence after death, apostasy of Christianity in the second century, Jesus' invisible return, destruction of this present world at Armageddon, salvation only through the Society, etc, were retained by Rutherford and by the Watchtower Society down to this day.
Denial of Trinity

Of course, Russell denied what is not the in the Bible. He did not find any trinity concept in the Bible, and he did find that the trinity is contradiction to the redemption that is in Christ, actually replacing what the Bible presents about the ransom for all.

Denial of the Conscious Existence After Death

Russell actually denied that the dead are conscious while dead, he did not deny any conscious existence after death, since he believed the dead, both the just and unjust, are to raised in the resurrection of the last day.

Russell, however, showed how such doctrines as the trinity and the alleged inherent immortality of the human soul/spirit are not in the Bible, have to be added to the Bible, and how they have replaced and/or are in contradiction to the glorification of God and the central doctrine of the Bible pertaining to God's redemption out of sin and death in Adam, that is, the atonement (which is to the glorification of God).

Apostasy of Christianity in the Second Century

Russell taught the apostasy had already begun in the first century, just as it states in the Bible. However, if Steven E. Jones does not believe there has ever been any apostasy, then why is he not a member of the Roman Catholic Church and in obedience to the pope in Rome? Indeed, most, if not all, of the earlier protestant reformers did believe that there had been an apostasy, and that the Roman Catholic Church was a result of that apostasy. This was indeed at the very basis of the protestant reformation.

Jesus' Invisible Return

Do the Jehovah's Witnesses preach Christ's invisible return the same as Russell? No; they do believe Christ returned invisibly in 1914; Russell, however, never believed that. Russell taught that Christ had returned in 1874, and was indeed present on the earth, since that date. The JW leadership has, however, rejected the chronology that Russell presented. Rutherford wanted to find some way to apply prophecies to his new organization in order to promote his claim that his new organization is "God's visible organization on earth", and thus rejected what Russell had presented on major applications of time prophecy so as to force those time prophecies into his alleged history of the alleged "God's visible organization on earth". Russell, however, did not believe in this doctrine of Rutherford's "God's visible organization on earth," nor in the chrononlogy and applications of time prophecies as presented by Rutherford, and which are basically still held by the JW leadership to this day. Thus, while the JWs did retain the date 1914, what that date means to them, and what it meant to Russell, are totally different. Thus, the JW leadership did not retain what Russell taught about the year 1914.
See:
Russell's Expectations Concerning 1914


Destruction of This Present World at Armageddon; Salvation Only Through the Society


The JWs did not at all retain what Russell taught about the passing away of the present heavens and earth, nor of what he taught concerning "Armageddon." Russell did not believe in the JW-type Armageddon at all. Some of the Second Adventists as well as the 7th Day Adventists taught a doctrine similar to what the JWs preach, and Russell thoroughly countered those teachings, and open opposed them. I am sure that he would also do the same concerning Rutherford's new doctrine of an Armageddon that would eternally destroy millions, billions, of men, women and children without their ever having any benefit from the ransom for all.

Rutherford introduce a doctrine that is almost the opposite of that Russell taught, thus it is certainly misleading to say that the JWs have retained what Russell taught about the "destruction of this world" or about "Armageddon." They indeed teach almost the opposite of what Russell taught. The core doctrine of Russell was the Biblical doctrine of the "ransom for all." Russell never believed in the JW-type of Armageddon, nor did he believe in end of the world in the same manner that the JWs teach. The JWs did not retain what he taught on these topics. Russell never taught anything like the idea that all who disagreed with his teaching would be eternally destroyed without receiving benefit from the ransom. No, the JWs did not retain the doctrine of Armageddon from Russell, but Rutherford created a totally new doctrine of Armageddon. Russell most definitely never taught any doctrine of "salvation only through the Society." The JWs did not retain what Russell taught about salvation, but rejected what he taught and replaced it with a new gospel of salvation through their organization.

I assume that Steven E. Jones actually believes that Russell taught "salvation only through the Society", as he has not changed his statement on this, although it is totally false. Russell never taught such a thing! There are many others, however, who are also so ignorant of what Russell taught that have attributed many of the teachings of Rutherford and the later JW leadership to Russell.

See:
Russell on Salvation and Atonement
Russell and Armageddon
End of the Word in 1914?
JW Claims and Russell's Expectations Regarding 1914

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