Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Okay ... so

Jerome, whom I tend to listen to even when I don't want to, says I was too hasty in removing an earlier post. So here it is again with some minor edits. It is here for comments. Comments make this blog worthwhile. Without them it serves no useful purpose.

B's intro essay in partial rough draft



            Criticisms have been few. Some continue to believe that Russell was a Mason, part of a conspiracy seeking world domination. If he was, he was very ineffective. Though this conspiracy theory is dying a slow death on Internet boards, we readdress this in appendix one. Despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary, some continue to assert that Russell was an Adventist. We think the evidence presented in volume one is plain. Those who reject it should do so on the basis of some evidence other than speculation about what ‘might have been.’
            Zoe Knox wrote a largely positive review but added this suggestion: “Schulz and de Vienne make little attempt to connect their work meaningfully to research on nineteenth-century American religious history, which they might have done by, for example, considering what was unique about the emergence of the Bible Students as compared with other ‘American originals.’”[1] We think we made the most significant connections in volume one, but her comment has led us to reflect on the current approach to American religious history particularly by British writers. Frankly, we thought the elements of American religious history so obvious – so widely know – that we did not need to address them. We were wrong.
            For the last three quarters of a century the approach to so-called American Originals has been based on a flawed often superficial understanding of America’s religious journey.[2] Cultic growth is seen as a phenomenon primarily of the last half of the 19th Century. Christian Science, Watch Tower faith and Latter-day Saints, grew in this period. The growth of fringe sects continued into the early 20th Century giving us Pentecostalism. In the minds of sociologists and some historians, they developed out of similar causes. Sociologists especially feel it is obligatory to make a cursory comparison between “Russellism” and other “new religions.” Some give us a ‘compare and contrast’ essay similar to that I might assign to middle school children.
            Andrew Holden believed that Christian Science and the Watch Tower movement arose from like causes, and he believed that Watch Tower movement was connected to other 19th Century religious movements: “The Witnesses were founded at a time marked not only by great social unrest but also by the birth of a number of other world-renouncing movements.”[3] Without clearly adopting any of the current interpretations of millenarianism, he uncritically adopted a generalized social-crisis view.[4] This omits key elements in the development of Watch Tower and similar theologies.  

The remainder of this post has been deleted.


Semer said...

I still haven't had the time to read all of it, but on the second paragraph there's a typo. "...so widely know" should be "so widely known".
Also, the article states that Russell didn't believe in the Trinity but was not an Arian. I think most people believe denying the Trinity is the same as being an Arian. Perhaps a brief explanation could be useful.

jerome said...

Here's a previous comment, now in proper place. I said that if the post had remained for longer there would have been more comments. PLEASE PROVE ME RIGHT AND MAKE THE OWNERS OF THIS BLOG HAPPY!

I enjoyed this introduction, and the background to what we might call Watchtower belief with its well-researched historical basis, and the emphasis on “optimism” rather than “pessimism.”
It is probably off the point, but I have always felt that ideas that flourished through history in small pockets of society suddenly took off globally in the 19th century because of the dramatic increase in communications. This would include Watchtower belief. Certainly in Britain, the huge increase in literacy (fuelled by Acts of Parliament) meant that huge swathes of people could now for the first time read for themselves and come to conclusions themselves. Not necessarily wise conclusions, but they did have the opportunity. And the telegraph, and the railway and the steamship suddenly made the world into what today we might call the “global village.” Ideas expressed in one small section of the world could now travel very quickly. And yes, some would see that very fact a fulfilment of Bible prophesy.
The existing literature on the Bible Student movement singled out a few culprits, Gruss, Martin, Conkin, Zydek, etc.
I feel a little sad about Zydek. You write that your criticism of his work made some readers unhappy. I corresponded with Fred Zydek many, many years ago, and since my very first article on this blog was a point by point criticism of his work I have an interest here. Zydek is entertaining reading. He is very sympathetic to CTR and his work. Had it been presented as a novel based on CTR’s life it might have been fine. And it could have been so different had the author had his work proof read by the right people. Perhaps it is good to note that we are being made to wait for the second instalment of Separate Identity – to make sure that things can be really checked to the fullest extent possible.
I don’t feel sad that the authors have Gruss in their sights. Ex-JW Gruss has produced a body of work that clearly identifies his agenda; in fact the title of the work cited, “Apostles of Denial,” nails his colors to the wall. Like everybody else he can believe what he likes, but if facts can be established they should be shared fairly. Gruss’s coverage of the Ross libel trial repeats the material and slant of Walter Martin. (Incidentally, and again off the point, the Mormons did a 320 page hatchet-job on Martin in “They Lie in Wait to Deceive” – which is a most entertaining read.)
On the actual King v. J J Ross hearing, it is probably significant that none of the newspapers covering the hearing picked up on anything to do with CTR’s knowledge (or lack of it) of Biblical languages. It wasn’t an issue in the reporters’ minds who were there at the time. I would however, just suggest one possible correction. You write “Cole quoted from the King v. J J Ross transcript to refute Ross’ booklet. Instead of contacting either I Cole or the Watchtower Society for access to the transcript, Gruss dismissed it all.” I spent a lot of time in the 1980s trying to track down this transcript, and have a copy of a letter Cole wrote to a fellow researcher dated 2/15/89. Cole wrote:
“I’m sorry, due to moving and mail delays I am just now receiving yours. But more disappointing, I do not have these records. A long time ago I did see a record of this hearing, circulated by some one critical, but I never had the material myself. I hope you find it somewhere.”
So Cole states that he never personally saw the transcript. Which raises questions in my mind about Walter Martin’s claims to have been shown it. Whether this answers any questions or opens more, I leave it to you to decide. As noted in your introduction, CTR didn’t have a hope of winning this case legally, since Watchtower adherents were unlikely to riot in the streets as a result of Ross’s booklet. In retrospect, once Ross was not frightened off, it probably wasn’t the best of legal advice.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

It appears to us [Bruce and myself] that what Cole saw was an extract of the transcript prepared by the Watchtower society rather than the transcript itself.

An inventory of historical documents found in the Watch Tower Society treasurer's office dated June 1991 includes the Ross transcript, which according to a letter from them to B has gone missing again.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

On your advice I added this footnote: "Arius taught that Jesus as a created being could not fully know the Father. Russell taught that Jesus fully knows the Father. Arius taught that the Holy Spirit was a person, created and with a beginning. Russell taught that Holy Spirit is God’s force at work, hence uncreated and not a person."

Andrew Martin said...

EXCELLENT added footnote! It gives just the sort of succinct explanation of the difference between WT belief and Arian belief that is needed! As obscure as the point may seem, it does come up occasionally in the house-to-house ministry, especially when one encounters someone who has attended one of the local "Bible colleges". For some reason these folks think that by throwing out catch-phrases such as "Arian heresy", they can dismiss any scriptural discussion.

Here's the most valuable point that can be used as a potential reply: "Arius taught that the Holy Spirit was a person, created and with a beginning. Russell taught that Holy Spirit is God’s force at work, hence uncreated and not a person."

Thanks, Semer, for the suggestion, and thanks to the authors for the added footnote!

Also thanks to Jerome for suggesting another chance for those of us who are slow to reply.

Gary said...

Well done to Jerome for talking, Rachael for listening and Bruce for his work. Will read and hope to comment when I have digested this article.


Gary said...

I promised to comment on Bruce's fine article, though it is difficult to do so when, unlike Bruce and Rachael, one has such a limited understanding of the subject. However, here goes:

Concerning Zoe Knox you mention "but her comment has led us to reflect on the current approach to American religious history particularly by British writers." As I understand it, Knox is Australian and studied there and in the US prior to moving to the UK. Of course, it may be that you had in mind other writers when you made this comment, but you may want to check it out.

The subject of your article is most appropriate since 2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. A number of books on the subject have been published by British writers including one by Alec Ryrie entitled 'Protestants - The Radicals that made the Modern World', which contains 5 pages on JWs and its "family resemblance" to other Protestants. A useful source worthy of Bruce and Rachael's comment.

I was pleased to see that Bruce distinguishes Separatists from Puritans. Often these are merged in writings, but - as I understand it - Puritans attempted to reform the Church of England from within, whereas Separatists distanced themselves since they considered it had willingly retained too many aspects of Babylon the Great. A similar approach to Witnesses today.

You mention that some Anglican's showed interest in end time prophecies. It would be interesting to elaborate on this subject a little, perhaps as a footnote so as not to detract from the direction of the article itself. (Perhaps this is something just of interest to me). I would be keen to know why the Church of England turned aside from this most obvious Bible teaching. Was it just to distance themselves from their 'sectarian' neighbours?

I'll give some consideration to the end of Bruce's article and may be able to comment on this also in due course. I'm certainly with the authors of this blog in agreeing that the Witness/Adventism link has been much overplayed in religious circles and needs reassessing.

All good wishes,

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Gary, RE: Anglicans and prophecy. Way to complex for an overview like this or a short footnote. However,if you have access to Froom's Prophetic Faith, you can follow some of that trail there.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Gary, B added this footnote earlier today. You may find it interesting:

An interesting example is the case of Bartholonew Legatt and Edward Wightman, both burned at the stake in 1611 for heresy. Legatt rejected the Trinity as false doctrine. He was condemned for that and for other unspecified heresy. He was “said to have been well versed in the Scriptures, and a man of unblameable conversation.” [Joseph Priestly: A General History of the Christian Church.] Wightman was condemned on sixteen counts including asserting that baptism was for believers only, claiming the Trinity was false and saying he was obligated to expose errors. Nowhere is his millenarian belief explicitly condemned but that he held them is implied in the charges. Wightman was accused of furthering the heresy of Cerinthus who taught a restored paradise earth full of pleasure. Watch Tower adherents in the Russell era would have found many points of agreement with Legatt and Wightman. For particulars see: A Collection of Scarce and Valuable Tracts, London, volume 2, 1809, page 400ff.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

Bruce's reference to Zoe and then to British writers is not meant as a criticism of Dr. Knox. It's a generalized comment.

Gary said...

Thanks for these comments Rachael, which are much valued.

Chris G. said...

Why some do not possibly comment?

Gary's thoughts above touch on this somewhat when he states,
"I promised to comment on Bruce's fine article, though it is difficult to do so when, unlike Bruce and Rachael, one has such a limited understanding of the subject. However, here goes:"
Yes, many of us likely have the "limited understanding" not only of the subject, but are likely woefully limited in writing skills also (very likely obvious at this point, my apologies). I believe they're many who are just readers of this site simply due to it's most interesting topics discussed with such eloquence and beauty. I simply read with awe! Could I possibly add to the subject matter at any point? Perhaps, but I truly feel like the 6 year old student questioning his teachers expressions on the chalk board. Why interrupt the class and ask if the teacher is likely going to give the answer in a moment. So, I patiently listen, process and enjoy the meals you prepare from time to time.

Rachel is a very detailed and talented researcher and writer. A joy to give attention to on a regular basis. I would say the same about Bruce and other fluent researchers who regularly post. I'm one of the 6 year olds who benefit from the discussion immensely. However, my ability to contribute is in serious question. So, please forgive many of us, if we simply read and digest. We mean no harm, we just have a love of this history. Please tolerate our inability to add anything meaningful. Please continue to post and add to the blog as I believe I'm speaking for many of us who visit but remain, for the most part, respectfully silent.

C. Gross

Andrew said...

In the sentence that begins "Some maintain Clark’s definitions without critical thought. His defintions are clever and seem right" the second occurrence of the word definitions is incorrectly spelled.