Saturday, September 4, 2010

Moved from Comment Section on an Earlier Post


I've moved this from the comment section to here.


Anonymous said...


I am a different anonymous than the previous comment, but I agree with it. I am not aware of any time that Russell distinguishes between the Adventist congregation in Pittsburgh/Allegheny with the Bible Class. It would make the research easier if he had done so. He does distinguish between them and Wendell, and Adventists in general, but not the Adventist congregation in Pittsburgh/Allegheny. He does not even mention that there was one.

Also, Russell does NOT identify George Storrs or George Stetson as Adventists or Second Adventists. He does not mention that Stetson was the pastor of the Advent Christian Church in Pittsburgh. He does associate Wendell and Barbour with Adventism.

The name Russell, either/or J L Russell, or J L Russell and Son, or C. T. Russell appears regularly and frequently in the WC and ACT in the years 1870-1873, and we know of a specific request of C. T. Russell for literature.

Russell appears to downplay any connection with Adventism. His statement that he did not learn a single truth from Adventism, but yet unlearned errors, appears self-contradictory, and difficult to reconcile with his likely Adventist associations of some kind. Without questioning his integrity or honesty, we might consider Russell to be representative of various factions WITHIN the Advent Christian church at that time, and that their boundaries were fluid, there was tolerance of opinion, and there was a discomfort with the label "Adventist".

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B. W. Schulz said...


Simply wanting the study group to be identical with the Adventist congregation doesn't make it so.

In "To the Readers of the Herald of the Morning," Russell mentions the Adventist meetings. Afterwards he says that he and some friends started a study group. Probably his friends included some from the Adventist body. But many of his early friends were not Adventists. None of the directors of the Society once incorporated were previously Adventist, but they were Russell's business and social associates. That Russell describes the Adventist meeting as he
does, and then says that he and friends started a study group is a clear distinction between the two.

We admit that there was overlap. There must have been. But there is no evidence that the study group and Adventist congregation were identical. Of his earliest associates McMillan was Presbyterian; the Smiths were Methodist Episcopal, Blunden seems to have been Presbyterian, W. I Mann was never an Adventist but was Anglican in heritage.

There is no doubt that Russell was influenced by Adventists. More, all of his beliefs were held by some Adventist body or other. Most of them were also held by other protestant bodies.

In "Truth is Stranger than Fiction," Zion's Watch Tower, July 15, 1906, page 213, Russell says he was active in more than one body. "Bible Classes," he calls them. This would cover both entities.

What you want is for Russell to be plainly identified as an Adventist. I think our chapter does that as far as it can be done. He, like Storrs, rejected the name Adventist both on principle and because Adventists were held in disrepute.

This does not mean that the Bible Class was the Adventist congregation. The congregation met every other Sunday. The Bible class met every Sunday. If it was structurally different; if the Study Group included more than Adventists; if Russell attended more than one type of meeting, then they are not the same body. In the 1890 Harvest Siftings article Russell repeats what he said, though in slightly different words, in the 1879 supplement. He mentions the Adventists meeting in the "dusty dingy hall." Then he says that he and a few friends formed a Bible Class.

An informal Bible Class composed of friends, some of whom were not Adventists at all cannot be the same as the Adventist congregation. Did the Russells attend Adventist meetings? Yes. But, there are only two verifiable occasions when they did so. It makes sense that they attended regularly. Was the Bible Class the same as the congregation. No. He distinguishes between them as I've just pointed out. He says he attended more than one meeting or "class." There was more than one body. The Adventist congregation was composed of Adventists. The Bible Class started with his immediate friends, few of whom would have been Adventists. With the exception of Keith, those in his "inner circle" after Paton left were never Adventists.

Now, let me turn this around. You prove they were the same body. Give me documented proof, not mere speculation, that they were identical.

Now to some specifics:

Also, Russell does NOT identify George Storrs or George Stetson as Adventists or Second Adventists.

Why would he? In 1890 when he wrote of his association with them, everyone who would have read the article would have known Storrs and Stetson as Adventists.

He does not mention that Stetson was the pastor of the Advent Christian Church in Pittsburgh. He does associate Wendell and Barbour with Adventism. The name Russell, either/or J L Russell, or J L Russell and Son, or C. T. Russell appears regularly and frequently in the WC and ACT in the years 1870-1873, and we know of a specific request of C. T. Russell for literature.

How would that prove that the Bible Class and the Adventist congregation were the identical? In the same period he read Henry Dunn, and Dunn was not an Adventist. He read J. A. Seiss, who was Lutheran. Merely ordering literature does not make him an Adventist. Actually, the issue isn't the Adventist nature of his belief; it is the identity of the Bible Class.

Russell appears to downplay any connection with Adventism. His statement that he did not learn a single truth from Adventism, but yet unlearned errors, appears self-contradictory, and difficult to reconcile with his likely Adventist associations of some kind.

We don't think so. We address it this way:

Their sense of profound awe and of being "led" into the truth by God's holy spirit explains Russell's conflicting comments in his biographical article. What he heard from Adventists sent him to his "Bible to study with more zeal and care than ever before, and I shall ever thank the Lord for that leading," he wrote, "for though Adventism helped me to no single truth, it did help me greatly in the unlearning of errors, and thus prepared me for the truth." The only way to understand this comment is in the light of his sense of being led by God. God leads one into truth. If it is not God's leading, then one is not in the light of truth. The repeated use of the phrase "we were led" and "I was led" by Russell and others in the movement verifies this.

Russell did not totally ignore Paul's advice to Timothy to recall the persons from whom he learned his beliefs. (2 Timothy 3:14-15) He mentioned both Storrs and Stetson by name, saying that "the study of the Word of God with these dear brethren led, step by step, into greener pastures and brighter hopes for the world."

While they felt God's special leading on their group, it is mere mythology to characterize them as independent searchers who worked apart from the opinions
of others. They were independent in that they did not feel bound by anyone's creed, but they were heavily influenced by others. They read the current iterature, digesting it and debating it. Much of that material was "Second Adventist" in nature, though spread across the entire spectrum of Advent belief. Some of it came from non-Adventist millenarians and pre-millennialists such as Shimeall and Seiss. They did not live in the vacuum some modern researchers suggest.

Without questioning his integrity or honesty, we might consider Russell to be representative of various factions WITHIN the Advent Christian church at that time, and that their boundaries were fluid, there was tolerance of opinion, and there was a discomfort with the label "Adventist".

The term Second Adventist did not refer exclusively to the Advent Christian Association. One contemporary source lists seven bodies under the heading of Second Adventist. Others, also contemporary, add additional groups. I haven't posted the chapter before this one yet, but I can tell you that our research indicates that there were probably three broad groups represented in the one congregation, four if one slices it thinly. There were those who would identify with the Advent Christian Association or the Life and Advent Union. There was at least one individual, a physician, who would more closely identify with Church of the Blessed Hope; there were Restitutionists (Age-to-Come) believers.

You're confusing two issues. One is the question of Russell's Adventist associations. They were real, extended, and influential. The other is the nature of the Bible Class. It was made up of his friends. Some were obviously Second Adventist. However, Conley, who is frequently identified by Witness and anti-Witness researchers as an Adventist, was in fact a millennialist Lutheran. His beliefs made him comfortable attending Second Adventist meetings, but he came into them as a friend and follower of Peters. He attended Peters' Church and was baptized as a Lutheran. He never self-identified as an Adventist, though he was sympathetic.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

It is true that there is no direct evidence that the Adventist church in Pittsburg and Russell's Bible class are identical. There would need to be a direct statement that explains the relationship between the two, which we are unlikely to find.
Yet there is so many links between Russell and Adventism, and the people and events of that Pittsburgh Advent Church, that the question comes what relationship did Russell have with it.
The Adventist papers do not mention both of them.
Russell does not directly use the words "congregation" or "church" in "To the Readers." He uses the phrase "religious services", which could mean church services, but not necesarily so. It could refer to public meetings or evangelistic meetings, or meetings that Wendell sponsored on his own before a church had formed.
However, what ever Russell meant, his account strongly suggest that Russell and his company had a ongoing relationship with Wendell over some period of time, enough time to absorb the complicated time proofs, conditionalism, the inspiration of the Bible, and the burning of the world.
They needed time to study the points that Russell than describes. Although probation is one of them, this was NOT the main issue, but rather the "age-to-come" views as opposed to the burning of the world.
Perhaps this company with Russell met for a while with Wendell and then split off. But this is unlikely if Stetson followed Wendell as pastor. Would this company have refused to hear Stetson preach if he was preaching their views? Clowes followed Stetson as pastor, and we know Clowes and J L Russell and Storrs had association. The succession of pastors - Wendell, Stetson, Clowes- all of whom had links with Russell or his Bible class, strongly suggests this Bible class had an ongoing relationship with the Adventist church in Pittsburg area for several years.

B. W. Schulz said...

Yes, Russell maintained a relationship with Wendell until Wendell's death.

Probation and Age to Come are linked doctrines. We need to clarify that. I'll work on that today. The doctrine of Probation is antagonistic to belief in a restored paradise. For Russell to believe the one, he had to discard the other.

That the two groups were linked does not make them identical. Russell had continuing links with various Restitution bodies, even preaching in their tent meetings. He associated with G M P Meyers long after he scolded Meyers (see his comments on the Millenarian, Meyer's magazine. He read all the little journals, long after he stopped reading World's Crisis.

None of that prove an identity with those groups. We cannot say what we cannot prove. And in an issue this significant, we won't even make a suggestion.

Russell was endlessly inquisitive. We're trying to acquire a letter, or at least evidence of the letter, that we believe Russell wrote to Seiss. That Russell wrote to him, assuming we can prove that, would not mean he was a Lutheran. The danger is in reading more into the evidence than is there.

Hunches, guesses, presumptions are great for leading research, but they make bad history. An example is found in Zygmunt's unpublished thesis. He says, based on pure assumption, that Keith and Paton were Millerites. It seemed reasonable to him. So he wrote that as fact. Keith would was eight years old in 1843 and Paton an infant.

"The Adventist papers do not mention both of them," you write. Negative evidence is not evidence. Why would Adventist papers mention a small, nearly insignificant independent bible study group?

Did Russell have an "on going relationship" with Wendell and other Adventists? Yes, and well into the 1890's. Was the study group an Adventist congregation, either identical to or the same as the Allegheny/Pittsburgh Second Adventist Church. There is no proof for it, and there is evidence against it.

The Second Adventist hold in Pittsburgh was tenuous. In the chapter which precedes "separate identity" we try to show that Adventists of differing affiliation and belief all associated because the total of Adventists there was so small. We're not near ready to post that chapter. Research continues, and though there is a tentative draft, it's not ready for any sort of critique.

What can be established is: 1. Russell was strongly influenced by Adventists and by British and American Millenarians. 2. Many of Russell's early associates had been or were Second Adventists of one sort or another. 3. The most influential Adventist contacts were outside the Advent Christian Church, usually from a Restitutionist body. [Something usually overlooked.] The contacts Russell kept among Adventists after 1878 came from Church of the Blessed Hope, various antecedent groups that make up CoGGC today, and other small remnant Adventist bodies. 4. Russell was as strongly influenced by Non-Adventist Millenarians as he was by Adventists.

B. W. Schulz said...

I should add this: That Russell had many conversations with and developed a close relationship to Wendell is shown by the phrase, "my friend Jonas Wendell."

Anonymous said...

The difficulty is with the word "Adventist". Russell rarely if ever, and probably never, applied it to himself or a group that he was associated with. When Russell does use the word "Adventist", he uses it as a denominational label, or to attach to doctrines he opposes, or to Wendell or Barbour. Yes, he does sometimes speak favorably about the Adventists, but he uses it to describe something that he is not.
When the Watch Tower referred to Restitutionist papers, Russell avoids describing as Adventist, and likely viewed them as "independents", as they would likely describe themselves as well. However, Seventh-Day Adventists and Advent Christian scholars have described them as "age-to-come Adventists", attaching the label Adventist to them. The word "Adventist" in encyclopedias has been applied to the Advent Christian Church, but also to the groups that came out of Miller Movement, such as Church of God Abrahamic Faith. If these groups are Adventist, if Storrs was an Adventist, if Stetson was an Adventist, then would not Russell have been an Adventist as well? Melton classifies the Russell groups as being part of Adventist groups along with the Miller groups.
Perhaps "Adventist" is not that helpful a word.

B. W. Schulz said...

Advent Christians moved to disfellowhip anyone who believed in "age to come" theology. From their perspective the paper Restitution did not represent an Adventist body.

How they are described today matters far less than how they saw each other in the 1870's and 80's.

Anonymous said...

Advent Christians moved to disfellowhip anyone who believed in "age to come" theology. From their perspective the paper Restitution did not represent an Adventist body.

Are you certain on this point? In the Historic Waymarks of the Church of God, published by the Church of God Abrahamic Faith, churches in various states were described. In churches in several of the midwestern and western states, Advent Christians and "age-to-come" believers or what later became Church of God were able to coexist in one congregation until they split at a later time. Stetson was a minister of the Advent Christian Church and yet held age-to-come views. Peyton Bowman was a minister in the Advent Christian Church, yet was involved in organization of the Church of God in Phila. around 1889, and yet circulated the Millennial Dawn, all at around the same time.

B. W. Schulz said...

yes, i'm sure, though i'm not going to look up the file on that right now. the move was unsuccessfull given the nature of many congregations. it centered in New York.

An example of the interchange between age to come believers and Advent Christians can be found in editorial commnets appended to a letter from storrs published in an 1869 issue of World's Crisis.

These are non-issues as far as Russell's history goes. He saw himself as other than an adventist, though influenced by them. He's very clear about who did influence him, though one has to look through scattered issues of the watch tower to find the references.

An example of a usually overlooked comment is that in the April 15, 1899 Watch Tower.

We should take Russell at his word unless there is good reason not to. An Adventist? No. Influenec by them? Yes. Influneced by others too? Yes.

That's what he says, and that's what all evidence suggests.

Anonymous said...

In the book published Church of God General Conference, Historical Waymarks of the Church of God, page 10:
"In several states the Advent Christian Churches and the Churches of God shared a common fellowship", and lists Minnesota, Iowa, Oklahoma, and Kansas.
On page 91, under Minnesota Conference, in the year 1874:
"Advent Christian ministers organizing churches under the Biblical name of the Church of God. For this they were excommunicated from the Advent Christian Conference. This action, however, did not hinder for many years a close fellowship between the two groups."

It might be concluded that either the ministers or believers disregarded the wishes of the conference, and that conference had little power. More from this book could be given to show that Advent Christians and age-to-come believers who later formed the Church of God could coexist in one congregation, even despite excommunication.
This directly bears on Russell's Bible class and the Advent Christian Church in Pittsburgh/Allegheny. There are examples contemporary and even later of Advent Christians and age-to-come believers who fellowship together in one congregation. It is possible that Russell's Bible class was the age-to-come faction WITHIN the Advent Christian Church in Pittsburgh. This could explain the connection and the differences. This would not mean that they were identical.
There is not evidence yet to establish what the relationship was, mainly because Russell does not so.
However, the possibility that were identical should not be ruled prematurely, and Russell's account is ambiguous enough to allow it.
The religious services of Wendell could refer to not church meetings but evangelistic meetings which Wendell did hold. The forming of the Bible class is close in period to the forming of the Advent Christian church. Russell used the term "Bible class" as equivalent to "church" or "ecclesia". That they were identical is not likely, because it does not explain the differences. It is also possible that the Bible class is entirely separate from the Advent Christian Church, and could have been organized by Russell, and met in his home. However, this would not explain as well that the pastors Stetson and Clowes were sympathetic with their views.
That the Bible class was a faction that met within the Advent Christian church best explains the sequence of events with Wendell, Stetson, and Clowes, who all had links to the Bible class, and yet were the pastors of the Advent Christian Church.

B. W. Schulz said...

Russell does not use "bible class" as an equivalent to "church." If you run the phrase in one of the digitalized libraries of older watchtowers you'll see that it's used of an informal group of friends. Occasionally it is used of a Sunday school type arrangement. The Allegheny Watch Tower congregation of the 1880's had a Bible Class session in addition to sermon on Sundays.

You are reluctant to give up the idea that the Bible Class was somehow related to the Advent Christian Church (Association in those days). It was composed of Russell's friends, most of whom were not Adventist. As I pointed out before, they had other religious affiliations. This includes Conley who was at his period a millennialist with Lutheran heritage.

You also persist in identifying the Allegheny Adventists as Advent Christians. There is no basis for this. Simply being mentioned in World's Crisis did not guarantee affiliation.

There was bleed through between Life and Advent Union and AC affiliates. They attended each other's conferences, wrote for each other's papers, and attended what ever congregation was handy. In point of fact there were several parties in Allegheny. It is impossible to characterize them as anything but a "union" congregation.

Can you scan the page you quoted from Historical Waymrks? Send it to me at BWSchulz2 @ yahoo. Com . It’s a useful quote. I'd like to use it and have a scan of the original for your research file.

We are not positive Russell was the organizer. It seems a joint effort. Russell may have quickly come to the fore, but there is no evidence that he suggested the Study Group. It would help if Russell had been more explicit, but he wasn't. We have to work with best evidence. But Russell does distinguish between the study group and the Adventists.

Speculation is not history. What might have been is not evidence. Only what exists in the record is evidence. Unless there is reason to question Russell, we should take him at his word.