Monday, September 15, 2014

To answer some questons

As you will have noticed, I've been away for a while. I'm on the sickish side, but I wrote this in answer to a series of questions. I'm posting it here for any additional, relevant coments that add to the discussion.

Herewith my email:

I think what is below will answer most if not all the questions you asked. I'm sorry it took me so long to reply. I'm ill and not able to do much. But here are my answers keyed by number to your questions.
1. A Key element of Barbourite and Watch Tower theology is the concept of Spirit Bodies. While the exact nature of a spirit body is unknowable to those in the flesh, some of its abilities and nature are revealed in Scripture. You will find a good discussion of Spirit Body doctrine in Barbour’s Three Worlds. It’s available online.
A spirit body’s natural state is invisible to humans. Spirits are in Biblical terms “flames of fire” and dwell in God’s presence where they see him as he is. So Christ as a “life giving spirit” is exactly as God is, his very image and likeness. (Heb. Chap. 1) He is glorified to God’s right hand to dwell there forever.
Did Russell believe (after 1881) that Jesus was on earth but invisible? The Watch Tower speaks with a conflicted voice. He seems to have believed that Christ would rule from Jerusalem but he also seems to allow that his rule from there would be through earthly representatives and his presence there would be represented through some symbolic means akin to the light above the Ark of the Covenant.
2. Russell dated the parousia to 1874. He believed that Christ assumed Kingly rule in 1878. He believed the heavenly call ended in 1881 with the start of the heavenly resurrection. These ideas were based on time parallels with ancient events. The time parallel arguments were accepted based on confirmation bias rather than scriptural precedent. There was no other proof.
3. You will find Russell’s explanation in Food for Thinking Christians. Full text is online. Also some brief ZWT articles such as one entitled Optomi (Greek verb for “to see” in the August 1881 WT. (All early issues are online.)
4. Prior to 1879 Russell believed as did Barbour. Later he published without comment an article by L. A. Allen that suggests a totally invisible presence. That article started a behind-the-scenes discussion that culminated with a doctrinal revision in Food for Thinking Christians.
5. He gave up believing that Christ was present. He continued to believe in a future two-stage, partly-invisible presence. Barbour, Russell and Witnesses would see applying the word “rapture” to this event as a misuse of the word. Rapture implies a visionary experience. Translation and resurrection are “real” rather than visionary events.
6. Yes, by the end of 1882 he gave up that view.
7. Barbour did not introduce Russell to the idea of a two-stage, partially invisible presence. He tells us that it was his prior belief and that he met the idea in Seiss’ Last Times and other places. Barbour convinced Russell that it had occurred in 1874.
Russell was distressed by Barbour’s deflection and deeply troubled by it. But he did not doubt the truth of their shared doctrines. Russell’s belief was that a once revealed truth remained truth despite others’ doubts.


Harry H said...

Welcome back.

roberto said...

Hi Rachael, I am happy to read you again.

Semer said...

Point 6: what view are you talking about, the one mentioned at point 5?

J. Phillip Arnold, Ph.D. said...

Semer asked about the question 5.

Here are my original 7 questions to which Rachael insightfully replied:

1. Thus, when you say below that “Christ….would remain such and as such would continue invisible. His parousia was an unseen heavenly event” do you mean the position of ZWT was that Christ would continue invisibly ON EARTH, and that His parousia was a heavenly event present ON EARTH (but not visible)? Or, do you mean that Christ was invisible IN HEAVEN, and His parousia was an unseen activity that impacted the earth while in heaven unseen to people on earth? See the difference?

2. If the latter, from Russell’s point of view, then what exactly occurred IN HEAVEN in 73/74/78 or 81 that was significant enough to fulfill the events of the NT parousia? Something “heavenly” must have been inaugurated to justify calling it the parousia; but what would be the effects on the earth (in Russell’s way of thinking biblically, of course.)?

3. I am curious what factors led Russell, et. al, to give up on their former understanding that the second phase of the “coming” of Christ would NOT be VISIBLE? They were well aware of passages like I and II Thes and I Cor. 15 that were understood by them at one time as referring to very visible events; so in general what did they do to explain them in view of their new understanding?

4. Am I to understand that Russell never did agree with Barbour that Christ was “walking” on the earth invisibly? If so, earlier to 81 Russell must have believed that Christ came invisibly to the earth and went right back to heaven? Leaving the righteous dead still dead and the righteous saints still “untranslated”?

5. So, did Barbour give up even the idea of a “rapture” (two stage coming) to come in the future? Or do you mean that he gave up believing that invisible presence had already occurred?

6. Did Barbour give up on the core idea that the year 1874 or thereabouts was a definite fulfillment of prophecy as he had proclaimed all over the place?

7. I see your point about Wendell being the original source for Russell to lock on to 1873/4, but it was Barbour who amazed Russell by “revealing” that Christ had come that year invisibly. Therefore, when and if Barbour rejected that very crucial and unique and startling claim, he must have had reasons for it that the one he taught it to, Russell, had to deal with. And it must have been a challenge. One could say that Russell “stuck” to the truth as it had been revealed to him by God’s use of Barbour, but the actual situation of having the person from whom you learned a life changing “truth” utterly reject it later, gives even the truest of believers pause.

So, I guess I am puzzled at how Russell could remain unmoved over Barbour’s rejection of what was a very outlandish claim in the first place (that the date suggested by Wendell was later found to be the very date that Jesus Christ presented). To have the one person who put both of those together (Barbour) for you and with whom you had traveled and preached and rejoiced, for that very person to amass reasonable arguments against it and to implore you to stop and reconsider, and yet you (Russell) barrels ahead with that finely tuned doctrine more and more, stronger and stronger, with time brooking no change of opinion, is simply spellbinding in its pathos. But, that is my subjective feeling from entering into their stories through your work.