Sunday, June 29, 2014

More work in progress

This is very rough draft. Some of it will change dramatically I think. But this is where we are now. Just remember this is very rough draft and work in progress. In the past another quoted from some of our work that was equally rough that we later revised. Our corrected research appears in Separate Identity, Volume 1, their web page is in error because they failed to take seriously a similar notice. 

Herewith (at Mr. Schulz' insistence) is more of current work, even if it isn't nearly finished:


View of Religion 

            A committee report delivered to the thirtieth annual YMCA convention in October 1882 reported Zion’s Watch Tower as “of doubtful character owing to its opposition to church organization.”[1] Russell, and Storrs before him, didn’t oppose organization at the local level, but they opposed denominational organization. They saw it as “Babylon,” the whore of Revelation which they interpreted as nominal Christianity. Russell defined the True Church in the October 1882 Watch Tower.[2] His article, entitled “The Ekklesia,” addressed two issues: Barbour’s claims to divine appointment and the definition of the true church. Many falsely claimed to be the true Church of Christ: 

To-day there are many organizations claiming to be the church, and having various bonds of  union; but we wish to know, upon the authority of God’s Word, what ekklesia, body, or church, Jesus established, and what are its bonds of union; secondly, we wish to show that every Christian should belong to that church; thirdly, the injurious effects of joining the wrong ekklesia or church; and fourthly, having joined the right church, what are the results of losing our membership. 

Russell believed the true church was organized by Jesus. It was “the little company of disciples who had consecrated earthly time, talents and life a sacrifice to God.” They were “members of one society” with “laws and government, and consequently a head or recognized ruling authority.” They were united by “bonds of love and common interest.” Jesus was their head, their captain. They shared “hopes, fears, joys and sorrows, and aims … and thus they had a far more perfect union of heart than could possibly be had from a union on the basis of any man-made creed.” It was an organization “of the Spirit;” their law was love and they were under the “law of the Sprit” as “expressed in the life, actions, and words of their Lord.”

This was an idealized view of First Century Christianity. The unity of belief and sympathy Russell postulated often existed in the breach rather than in reality. He wrote about what should have been, rather than what was. Russell and Watch Tower adherents saw the True Church in contrast to denominational structure. Russell wrote:
 
Thus we see the early church organized, governed, and in perfect unity and harmony under the rulership or headship of Jesus. Contrast this church organization with what now affects to be a continuance of the same – viz.: the various denominational organizations, each of which binds its members to a mental union on the basis of some creed or dogma of its own (many of them anything but lovely) and each having its own laws.

These laws emanate from their heads, or rulers and law-givers; so it is clearly seen that these present day churches, have and recognize as heads, or directing, ruling powers over them, the ancient founders of their various creeds, each contradicting the other, while their clergy, in conferences, councils, synods and presbyteries, variously interpret and enforce the “traditions of the elders” which “make void the Word of God.” These take the place of the true head of the church – Jesus – and the true teacher and guide into all truth, the Holy Spirit. … And the whole nominal system is described in the Revelation as “Babylon” – confusion – Papal mother and Protestant daughters. Will they own this to be so? No, for the lukewarm nominal church of today believes herself to be rich and increased with goods, having need of nothing; not knowing that she is wretched and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked. (Rev. 3:17.) … 

The True church of Christ was composed of those “fully consecrated to the doing of our Father’s will, amenable only to Christ’s will and government, recognizing and obeying none other.” It is the composite of all “saints” from the beginning of “the Gospel Age … to its close.” Jesus is “the head and ruler of the entire living church, and in every assembly where two or three meet in his name he is the head, ruler, and teacher.” Jesus teaches “by using one or more of those present as exercising the qualities of the head, or teacher; by using one or more of those present as His mouthpiece in unfolding truth, strengthening faith, encouraging hope, inspiring zeal, etc.” Russell saw himself and others prominent in the movement in this role; they functioned “just as the head of your body can call upon one member to minister to another.” He cautioned prominent preachers, saying:  

If one becomes as useful an instrument as a right hand, he should take care that he aspire not to become the head. Be not puffed up; pride will paralyze and render useless. “Be not ye called Rabbi (master, teacher) for one is your master (head) even Christ, and all ye are brethren.” And let not the least member despise his office, “for if all were one member, where ere the body?” “Nay, those members of the body which seem to be more feeble are necessary”  “God hath set the members every one of them, in the body as it hath pleased him.” …. 

It is evident that if you have given up all your will, talent, time, etc., you are recognized by Jesus as a follower, and member of the ekklesia, or body of which he is the head. But says one: Must I not join some organization on earth, assent to some creed, and have my name written on earth? No; remember that Jesus is your pattern and teacher, and neither in his words nor acts will you find any authority for binding yourselves with creeds and traditions of the elders, which all tend to make the word of God of none effect, and bring you under a bondage which will hinder your growth in grace and knowledge … . But say some: If it is not proper to unite with any of the present nominal churches, would it not be well to form a visible organization of our own? Yes, this is what we have – an organization modeled after that of the early church. We think we have come back to primitive simplicity. The Lord Jesus alone is our head or lawgiver; the Holy Spirit is our interpreter and guide into truth; our names are all written in heaven; we are bound together by love and common interest. 

Do you inquire--how shall we know one another? We reply, how could we help knowing one another when the Spirit of our Master is made manifest in word and act, and manner and look? Yes, the living faith, the unfeigned love, the long-suffering meekness, the childlike simplicity coupled with the constancy and zeal of maturity, make manifest the sons of God, and we need no earthly record, for the names of all such are written in the Lamb’s book of life. 

            Members of the True Church visit the sick, finance the Lord’s work, are willing to “sacrifice reputation” and suffer “the reproach of the world and a degenerate nominal church.” Russell addressed the issue of the “disorderly” among them. Some sought organization to confront the issue. His reply was: “If we have no organization such as we see about us, how can we free ourselves from such, as the Lord requires us to do? We answer: Do just as Jesus and Paul directed.” There are, he wrote, “various degrees of advancement among the individual members, and Paul says (1 Thes. 5:14,) some are feeble-minded, comfort them; some are weak, support them; but while you should be patient toward all, warn the disorderly (those who are drifting away from the true spirit of Christ). Don’t mistake the disorderly for the weak, and comfort them; nor for the feebleminded, and support them.” He advised applying Jesus’ counsel at Matthew 18:15, 18.

Christ’s church “has its evangelists, pastors and teachers appointed and directed by the Lord.” There was no Apostolic Succession, but they were anointed by Holy Spirit to preach. He restated the General Priesthood of All Believers doctrine, writing that Jesus has “all the members of the body to preach … and it is the duty of every member of the body to exercise his office for the edification of the other members.”

Russell seldom concisely explained doctrines such as this. He believed direct statements tended to close ears. So if one finds this article prolix, it is not surprising. Put bluntly, Russell rejected creedal churches because they were populated by those who proved false to their obligations to God and brethren. The churches were worldly and not spiritual. Their creeds stifled scriptural inquiry, and, though he does not say so in this article, rejected his key doctrines. Most of this article considers mutual obligations. It is commentary on the shift in the post Civil War shift in American religion to secular interests and the adoption of misunderstood Darwinism with its idea of progress rather than the need for divine redemption. Teachers were known by their fruits and by subjection to Christ. Substituting oneself for Christ, as he believed Barbour had done, marked on as outside the fellowship. At the article’s end, he retuned to the contrast he saw between the true and the false church:

How complete is the organization of the church of Christ with its heaven-written, love-bound and Spirit-ruled membership, and how sad the error of mistaking the nominal for the real church! … It would indeed, be a dreadful calamity to lose our membership in the true church or body of Christ. And no member is out of this danger except when keeping a vigilant watch over the old nature, counted dead, lest it come to life again, and assert itself in the form of pride, selfishness, envy, evil-speaking – or what not? But if filled with love (the love that prompts to sacrifice) and clothed with humility, and under cover of the redeeming blood, we are safe in the church (body), having the assurance that it is our “Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.” … 

We may have our names cast out as evil by those of the nominal church, and yet “rejoice and be exceeding glad because our names are written in heaven.” They may frown upon you and despitefully use you and say all manner of evil against you falsely, or they may seek to win you back by flattery, saying they cannot afford to lose your influence—you could do so much good by remaining among them. Oh, how necessary in this “evil day” is the faith-- That bears unmoved the world’s dread frown, Nor heeds its flattering smile; That seas of trouble cannot drown, Nor Satan’s arts beguile.”  

            Belief in the guidance by Holy Spirit is New Testament doctrine, and it was characteristic of Christian sects, especially the socially conservative, in this era. It remains so among Christians who truly believe. For instance, The Christian Workers Magazine, published by Moody Bible Institute, issued a call for world-wide prayer signed by prominent clergy, among them James Gray, Robert Russell, A. T. Robertson and R. A. Torrey.  The believed, said their joint letter, that they “were led by the Spirit of God to make this recommendation.”[3]

Early in 1883 someone asked Russell: “Would not an earnest, aggressive organization (or sect), built upon scriptural lines, be the best means of spreading and publishing the real Good Tidings? We must have fellowship and sympathy. Union is strength. It is not the skirmishers that win the battle, but the disciplined and solid battalions.” Russell suggested otherwise: 

We believe that a visible organization, and the adopting of some particular name, would tend to increase our numbers and make us appear more respectable in the estimation of the world. The natural man can see that a visibly organized body, with a definite purpose, is a thing of more or less power; therefore, they esteem the various organizations, from which we have come out, in obedience to the Master’s call. But the natural man cannot understand how a company of people, with no organization which they can see, is ever going to accomplish anything. As they look upon us, they regard us simply as a few scattered skirmishers – a “peculiar people” – with very peculiar ideas and hopes, but not worthy of special notice. 

But, though it is impossible for the natural man to see our organization … we trust that you can see that the true Church is most effectually organized, and in the best possible working order …. The Apostle Paul urges all to unity of faith and purpose (Phil. 3:15, 16 – Diaglott.) All led by the same Spirit may and do come to a knowledge of the same truth. Under our Captain, all the truly sanctified, however few or far separated in person, are closely united by the Spirit of Christ, in faith, hope and love; and, in following the Master’s command, are moving in solid battalions for the accomplishment of his purposes. … 

Recognizing this organization, which is of the Spirit, and desiring no assimilation whatever with the worldly, who cannot see or understand it, we are quite willing to bear the reproach of a peculiar people. We always refuse to be called by any other name than that of our Head – Christians – continually claiming that their can be no division among those continually led by his Spirit and example as made known through his Word. 

We disown none of our Lord’s dear children. The weakest child of the household of faith (in Christ, our Redeemer) we gladly recognize as our brother. Some, in ignorance of their privilege of the communion of saints, are mixed with the various worldly organizations, to their great detriment. Though we cannot follow them there, we gladly welcome them when they come among us. …[4] 

            Much as Campbellites had before them, Watch Tower adherents saw themselves as restored to New Testament doctrine and practice. This gave them a distinct identity. Russell addressed this in October 1883..

 



[1]               Associated as Christians: Buffalo, New York, Evening News, October 11, 1882.
[2]               C. T. Russell: The Ekklesia, Zion’s Watch Tower¸ October 1882, page 5.
[3              A Call for World-Wide Prayer, The Christian Workers Magazine¸ March 1917, page 529.
[4]               C. T. Russell: Questions and Answers, Zion’s Watch Tower, March 1883, page 6.

4 comments:

jerome said...

As R will know, I am currently virtually "off the scene" so unable to give the material the attention it needs for a few weeks. However, what might help is if you could provide a rough outline of the early chapters for volume 2, so that these various snippets of chapters could be inserted in context. Or even all the chunks produced in one long post in chronological order on blog 2. Just a thought.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

I am not posting these by choice. This is raw, unfinished work. Eventually it will be the last chapter of volume 2.

In my estimation, much of this will change, be arranged, or deleted. Certainly it will be rewritten.

When it nears completion one of us will post it entire on the private blog. Bruce's goal here is to get some reaction to selected bits of a work in progress, not to present finished work.

This work is, in its current state, rather pitiful. It will get better.

Anonymous said...

Keep up the good work!

Andrew said...

I am thoroughly enjoying the drafts. Particularly interesting to me is how Russell's view of an organization would be almost completely opposite of the current view the Watchtower propounds. I think he would be horrified, for example, if he saw an Elder's Handbook with its hundreds of rules. I think he would also be critical of the current Watchtower justice system, with its secrecy and enforced shunning.

Your draft motivated me to reread the original articles in their entirety. Thank you for all of your hard work !

Andrew