Monday, June 23, 2008

Did Russell Start a New Religion?

One of the accusations often made against Russell is that he created a new religion, since, according to some websites, he was dissatisfied with Christianity, or he was dissatisfied with "the church," etc.

Actually, Russell was one the greatest defenders of the Christian faith and Biblical faith in history. While many apologists defended man's traditions as Christian faith, Charles Taze Russell went to the Bible itself, and he showed from the scriptures the truth concerning the human soul, the Bible hell, the trinity and many other doctrines that have to be added to the scriptures by human dogma.

Charles Taze Russell never claimed to have found a new religion, or a new church. His endeavor was to restore the teachings of Christ and the apostles, the "faith once delivered to the saints." (Jude 1:3) He believed in the one true church, of which Jesus is the foundation. The Bible Students movement was never intended to be a sectarian new religion or denomination.
(Articles mostly written by Russell that contain the phrase "true church.")

Wasn't Russell the founder of a new religion called "Jehovah's Witnesses?" No, Russell did found such an organization, nor did he believe in such an organization. The "Jehovah's Witnesses" leadership have rejected the very core doctrine of the scriptures concerning the "ransom for all," replacing it with a doctrine of a "ransom for some," and also a doctrine of eternal destruction for billions of unenlightened unbelievers, as well as their children, in Armageddon's battle. Russell never taught such a doctrine, which doctrine goes contrary to the basic philosophy of the atonement as revealed in the Bible.
The Ransom For All

Unlike the JWs who profess their organization to be the only true religion, Brother Russell, who did not regard the Bible Students to be a religion, never spoke of the Bible Students as being "the true religion." He did speak of "the true church," which he described as follows:
(1913) The one true Church, dear friends, is the church of the Bible. There never has been but that one true Church. All others are false, and if I built up another church I would be building up another false one. That is not our proposition at all. The I.B.S.A. holds out the proposition which the Bible stands for, namely, that all people who are trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, and consecrated to follow in his steps, are of the church of the living God whose names are written in heaven. The I.B.S.A. recognizes no other church. It does not say that only those in the I.B.S.A. constitute the church. It recognizes that all true Christians in the various churches should be awake, and we are trying to awaken them to the truth. The I.B.S.A. recognizes that these true Christian people are in danger of falling into infidelity, unless they get the true light of God's Word, and so is trying to bring all Christian people to study the Bible, and thus into complete union as the church of Christ. -- What Pastor Russell Said, page 348.
Russell also stated:
    No earthly organization can grant a passport to heavenly glory. The most bigoted sectarian (aside from the Romanist) will not claim, even, that membership in his sect will secure heavenly glory. All are forced to admit that the true Church is the one whose record is kept in heaven, and not on earth. They deceive the people by claiming that it is needful to come to Christ through them – needful to become members of some sectarian body in order to become members of "the body of Christ," the true Church. On the contrary, the Lord, while he has not refused any who came to him through sectarianism, and has turned no true seeker away empty, tells us that we need no such hindrances, but could much better have come to him direct. He cries, "Come unto me"; "take my yoke upon you, and learn of me"; "my yoke is easy and my burden is light, and ye shall find rest to your souls." Would that we had given heed to his voice sooner. We would have avoided many of the heavy burdens of sectism, many of its bogs of despair, many of its doubting castles, its vanity fairs, its lions of worldly-mindedness, etc.
    Surely all know that whenever they join any of these human organizations, accepting its Confession of Faith as theirs, they bind themselves to believe neither more nor less than that creed expresses on the subject. If, in spite of the bondage thus voluntarily yielded to, they should think for themselves, and receive light from other sources, in advance of the light enjoyed by the sect they have joined, they must either prove untrue to the sect and to their covenant with it, to believe nothing contrary to its Confession, or else they must honestly cast aside and repudiate the Confession which they have outgrown, and come out of such a sect. To do this requires grace and costs some effort, disrupting, as it often does, pleasant associations, and exposing the honest truth-seeker to the silly charges of being a "traitor" to his sect, a "turncoat," one "not established," etc. When one joins a sect, his mind is supposed to be given up entirely to that sect, and henceforth not his own. The sect undertakes to decide for him what is truth and what is error; and he, to be a true, staunch, faithful member, must accept the decisions of his sect, future as well as past, on all religious matters, ignoring his own individual thought, and avoiding personal investigation, lest he grow in knowledge, and be lost as a member of such sect. This slavery of conscience to a sect and creed is often stated in so many words, when such a one declares that he "belongs" to such a sect.
    These shackles of sectarianism, so far from being rightly esteemed as shackles and bonds, are esteemed and worn as ornaments, as badges of respect and marks of character. So far has the delusion gone, that many of God's children would be ashamed to be known to be without some such chains – light or heavy in weight, long or short in the personal liberty granted. They are ashamed to say that they are not in bondage to any sect or creed, but "belong" to Christ only. -- Thy Kingdom Come, pages 185-187.
Concerning the Watch Tower Society of his day, Russell stated:
“Let it be borne in mind that the Society exercises no authority, makes no criticism, but merely gives advice; and that in the interest of the Lord’s Cause and the Lord’s people.” -- Watch Tower, August 1916, page 248
The "Jehovah's Witnesses" organization/religion did not exist in Brother Russell's day. That organization came into existence later. After Russell died, Joseph Rutherford, through deceit and legal trickery, gained control of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, and used that legal entity as a means of establishing his new religion which he later called "Jehovah's Witnesses."

Russell did not claim any special revelation from God, other than the revelation already provided by the Bible. He did believe that God's spirit was allowing him to see things in the Bible that traditionalists could not see, since their eyes were being blinded by the tint of their own traditions and sectarianism.