Thursday, November 10, 2016

Who Did Russell Actually Believe to Be the "Only Authority" in the Church?

The assertion is often made that Russell claimed to be the "only authority" to interpret the Bible, often relating the present-day claims of the Jehovah's Witnesses "central authority" and "Jehovah's organization" teachings back to Russell. 
We present some selected quotes from Russell related to this:
The Apostle distinctly points out that a servant is not a ruler, that a servant has no authority. Indeed, so far as the true Church is concerned, the only authority in it is the Lord, the Head of the Church, and his Word, and the words of those whom he specially chose to be his mouth-pieces, the apostles. -- Watch Tower, July 1, 1900, page 195.
Nothing must be allowed to separate between us and the inspired Word if we would walk in the Light. Whatever "helps" really point us to the Bible as the only authority, and assist us in rightly dividing it, are profitable to us as servants and guides: but that which attempts to be to us instead of God's Word is a dangerous foe. Watch Tower, August 15, 1897, page 240..
The Lord himself is the only rightful Head of the Church, and consequently the only authority in it. A recognition of his headship or supreme authority in the Church, and of his Word alone as its doctrinal standard, with faith in him as the Redeemer and in the power of his truth to sanctify, together with a recognition of the individual liberty of consecrated believers, to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth, is the only proper attitude of the Church. -- Watch Tower, March 1, 1892, page 67
We recognize the Bible as a divine revelation, the only standard of truth, and endeavor to keep close to its letter and spirit. But "we" will neither bind others to "our" convictions nor permit any to bind "us" to theirs. The only fixed creed we recognize is the simple and fundamental one -- that God sent his Son, who died for our sins; and that through faith in this, and obedience to him, to the extent of our ability, we shall be saved. All who so confess are "Christians" and are to be treated as "brethren." They should be assisted to grow in knowledge and grace, but should be accorded fullest liberty, -- "The liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free." Neither directly nor indirectly has anyone a right to make a creed for them nor to otherwise speak for them and then imply their "disloyalty" and "heresy" if they attempt to resent misrepresentations. -- The Watch Tower, June 1, 1900, page 175.
Concerning his Studies in the Scriptures, Russell wrote in 1910 (Watch Tower, September 15, 1910, page 298:
We should say, “I will not take it because these studies say so; I wish to see what the Bible says.” And so we would study the Scriptures in the light of these SCRIPTURE STUDIES; we would prove every point, or disprove it, as the case might be. We would be satisfied with nothing less than a thorough investigation of the Bible from this standpoint....
If, at the same time, in any future reading, we should come to a place where something did not seem clear to us and we thought of some Scripture which seemed not as harmonious with it as we had previously thought, we would think it our duty to refer at once to the Scriptures, because the Scriptures are the standard, and in that reference to the Scripture it would be with a view to discerning whether or not we had been mistaken in our previous examinations.
Just before Russell died, Russell had the following printed in The Watch Tower, August 15, 1916, page 248:
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.
The above was originally posted on November 6, 2009; Updates made May 5, 2014; August, 2014.
Related Links
On "St. Peter's Keys"
By his statements in this sermon (1915) Russell shows that he was a non-sectarian who did not believe in an authoritarian organization such as the Jehovah's Witnesses.

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