Thursday, January 5, 2017

Did Russell Claim Direct Revelation From God?

The assertion has appeared in several forums that Charles Taze Russell claimed direct revelation from God. However, did Russell ever make such a claim? Did Russell claim to be a prophet?
Charles Taze Russell never claimed any direct revelation from God. His opponents, as well as some others, have made this claim for him, but he denied such from the very beginning and continued in such denial until the day he died. He certainly never claimed to be a prophet, as did Joseph Smith.
Charles Taze Russell (although he stated his views firmly as his beliefs) was never dogmatic about his beliefs on chronology and time prophecy, nor did he demand of the Bible Students associated with him or anyone else accept his beliefs. His statements were:
"Our own views are not prophecy, but interpretations of the holy prophets of old." (Watch Tower, October 1890, page 8)
"Neither must you lean upon the DAWN and the TOWER as infallible teachers. If it was proper for the early Christians to prove what they received from the apostles, who were and who claimed to be inspired, how much more important it is that you fully satisfy yourself that these teachings keep closely within their outline instructions and those of our Lord; -- since their author claims no inspiration, but merely the guidance of the Lord, as one used of him in feeding his flock." (Watch Tower, June, 1893)
"We are not prophesying; we are merely giving our surmises, the Scriptural basis for which is already in the hands of our readers in the six volumes of SCRIPTURE STUDIES." (Watch Tower, January 1, 1908, page 5).
"I am not a prophet." (What Pastor Russell Said, Q272:1, 1910)
"Some people try to make out that I claim I am infallible, and know everything. You are all witnesses that that is not true." (What Pastor Russell Said, Q14:1, 1911)
"We try to be careful about every word that goes into the Watch Tower, but we do not claim to be infallible; we are doing the best we can." (What Pastor Russell Said, Q56:1, 1910)
"We have never set forth anything to indicate that our view in the matter was infallible. I do not know positively that the times of the Gentiles will end in October, 1914, or at any other particular time. We think there is strong reason for believing that the Gentile Times will end in October, 1914. We give it as our opinion, and set before you the Scriptural reason. Some may believe and some not. This is our thought and if it is correct, about that time, or shortly thereafter, a great time of trouble will come upon the world." (What Pastor Russell Said, Q313:2, 1914)
Note that Russell says IF his thought is correct.
Many more quotes could be provided.
What one will not find anywhere in Russell's writings is that he claimed that his writings were a direct revelation from God, or that his expectations were directly from God. He was simply presenting his conclusions from his study of the scriptures.
We will say that, after Russell died, that Rutherford made all kinds of claims for Russell that Russell himself never claimed, including the claim that Russell was a prophet. As far as we can determine by doing a electronic search through Russell's writings, Russell never used the term "Jehovah's organization." A few times Russell did refer to the church and the local ecclesia under Christ as "the Lord's organization", but he never used such an expression in the same manner or with the same meaning that Rutherford referred to his organization as "Jehovah's visible organization."
Russell's Conference With the Lord
Some are asserting that Russell did claim direct revelation from God because in his sermon, The Temple of God, Russell stated: "I said that I had been in conference with the Great Master Workman, the Lord himself, and I have secret information through the Holy Spirit and guidance in respect to what the Bible says, and that contains all the truth, I believe, on every subject." Actually, however, only the part where Russell said "in conference with the .. Lord himself" is usually quoted and the context is usually disregarded. From this it is asserted that Russell stated that he received his information as a direct revelation from Jesus.
Russell, in the context, showed his source as being the Bible, when he stated: "in respect to what the Bible says, and that contains all the truth, I believe, on every subject." In other words, Russell was saying that he went into conference with the Lord surely through prayer, requesting God's spirit to help understand what has been revealed in the Bible. Russell presented elsewhere how the message of the Bible is kept secret from the world, and thus to appreciably understand anything revealed in the Bible would mean that one has secret information that the world does not have. See Russell's sermon, Who May Know God's Secrets? Thus, those acquainted with Russell's works would know what Russell meant by his statement. It is only by taking that statement out of context of Russell's teachings that one would think that Russell was speaking of receiving special or inspired revelation from God.
Those who are familiar with Russell's works would know immediately that Russell was not claiming that he received his information directly from Jesus in the sense, for instance, that Jesus gave a revelation to John. (Revelation 1:1-5) It could be claimed that any understanding of the Bible is direct revelation from God in the sense to a child of God who is guided by the Holy Spirit through the words of the Bible itself. Any Christian can be in conference with God through Jesus when he prays; likewise, to the extent that a Christian submits to what has been revealed in the Bible, that Christian is guided by God's Holy Spirit. In whatever sense one may claim that the Bible itself is a direct revelation from God, then one can claim direct revelation from God as it is found in the Bible. Nevertheless, the understanding of the Bible comes as result of one's having God's spirit to the extent that one submits to what God's spirit has revealed in the Bible. This principle applies to any and every child of God.
Rather than isolate a phrase taken out of context from one sermon of Russell, and distort that phrase to make it appear that Russell was claiming something that he never intended, one should see how what he stated fits in with his works as a whole.

Amelio Hinojos

The book, "Do You Believe? an interview with a Jehovah's Witness", by Amelio Hinojos, pages 25,26,l points to the article that appeared in the The Watch Tower, September 15, 1910, beginning on page 297 (Reprints 4686), and The Finished Mystery, Studies in the Scriptures, Vol. VII, 1918, pg. 387, as well as some other later writings of JW authors, as allegedly proving that Russell claimed to receive direct revelation from God  Hinojos, in effect, asserts that Russell claim that his "Scripture Studies are superior to the Bible." That, of course, was definitely not Russell was claiming, and what Russell actually stated has be removed from its context and then one has to distort what was said in order make such a claim. We have discussed the article, "Is the Reading of 'Scripture Studies' Bible Study?" in "Did Russell Claim His Writings to be Superior to the Bible?",

Hinojos leaves the impression that Russell claimed tha
t he "received exclusive direct revelation from the very mouth of God.." and, that Russell claimed that he "was God's spokesman on the earth and his writings are divinely inspired." In fact, Russell made no such claim at all. Indeed, he denied that his writings were "divinely inspired" many times. In effect, te did this even in the 1910 article quoted by Hinojos, although Hinojos did not include that in his quote. Evidently, the alleged direct proof of this assertion, however, is not from Russell, but rather by combining several statements said by the JW leadership regarding "prophet", and from the Finished Mystery statement, which is quoted as saying, "He listened to the word of God direct from the mouth of God spoken by holy men of old as moved by the Holy Spirit...." First, the book, The Finished Mystery, was not written by Russell, and Russell had no control over what was said about him after his death. Russell was never a membe of the JW organization that was created after his death, and the authors in that association often misrepresent Russell. Secondly, while the wording is awkward, all the quote given says is that the prophets of old received direct revelation from God and that Russell listened to the direct revelation given to the prophets. We should all be doing this. Russell himself disclaimed being a "prophet" many times, and thus all of his conclusions and expectations, although related to Bible prophecies, were not "prophecies."

Based on his distortions of what Russell said and later quotes from authors after Russell had died, Hinojos concludes:
Therefore, the teachings, claims, and prophecies of Charles Taze Russell must of necessity be *infallible*, without contradictions, or inaccuacies. For they came directly from God.
This is almost the very opposite of what Russell himself claimed. Russell was not a prophet, and therefore there were no "prophecies of Charles Taze Russell." Russell definitely never claimed that his writings "came directly from God." He never claimed authority as a prophet or otherwise so as to demand that one had to agree with his conclusions in order to be saved, be a Christian, or be accepted in the fellowship of Bible Students, etc. Indeed, not all Bible Students agreed with all his prophetic conclusions, and the same is true today among Bible Students. Indeed, one cannot fully agree with all his conclusions, but as far as being a Christian associated with the Bible Students, that does not matter. The later claims of the JW leadership should not be read back and applied to Russell.

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