Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Temporary Post

As usual, do not expect this post to remain up more than two or three days. You may copy it for your own use. Do not share it off the blog. I am posting this for comments. We post material from volume 2 as rough drafts. Do not rely on anything. The final version may change. Without comments, posts like this one have no rational for existence. We read your comments, and though we may not  reply we do note them. And sometimes they change our approach.

Evangelical Voice

            Russell era evangelism is the foundation upon which the descendant religions – Jehovah’s Witnesses and Bible Student congregations – are built. Yet, its origins are left unexplored. Watchtower writers focus on a few key events: An article in the April 1881 Watch Tower, Rutherford’s Advertise the Kingdom speech; the circulation of Food for Thinking Christians. These events are related with minimal or no connection to their context. Secular and opposition writers do no better, drawing almost everything they say from Watchtower Society commentary. The exception, though a regrettable one, is found in A. T. Rogerson’s D.Phil. thesis. He discusses Russell era evangelism with the same carelessness that he demonstrated in his previously published book:

From Zion’s Watch Tower alone there is no evidence that the Bible students participated in evangelisation regularly or in an organised way prior to 1881. The emphasis in the magazine articles was firmly on the doctrinal and devotional aspect of Bible student life. It appears that Paton and Jones and other contributors to Zion’s Watch Tower preferred this emphasis, and their articles showed more of an inward-looking concern with the group itself. Paton’s book was designed for an Adventist audience and there is little indication of a strong desire on his part (or on Babour’s before him) to propagate their message, or evangelise for converts – the initiative for their preaching tours appears to have come from Russell. This ‘inactivity’ was consistent with their deterministic world-view and their elitist conception of the ‘little flock’. Russell did tentatively suggest that his readers might distribute tracts, but it was only in 1881 that Russell’s emphasis on selling came to the fore. [His British spelling and punctuation retained, as is his grammar fault.][1]

            As is most of what Rogerson wrote either in his book or his D.Phil thesis, this is tainted with misstatements, wrong conclusions and simple error. He suggests here that neither Barbour nor Paton were evangelizers. He based this on what he did not find in Zion’s Watch Tower. We can, to a small degree, excuse him for missing key statements in ZWT because he was dependent on the 1920 reprints which omit many of the earliest readers’ letters, but any excuse for his ignorance is moderated by clear statements of evangelical intent found in the reprinted volumes.[2] Some of this we previously described.
            Paton evangelized near his Michigan home, preaching in nearby churches to whoever would have him. He never gave up his self-identity as a clergyman, collecting fees for his ministry. This limited his ministry to congregations willing to host him and pay for the privilege, but he did evangelize. Day Dawn is an edited collection of his sermons. That this is so demonstrates a regular, evangelical ministry. We should observe too – as we did in the Introductory Essay – that Rogerson misidentifies Adventism. We doubt that Rogerson read Day Dawn; if he did he was totally unaware of American Literalism and how it differed from Millerite Adventism. Paton’s book addressed some Adventist issues, but in a critical way. The book’s content is Literalist. [Readers may want to refresh their memories by reviewing appropriate sections of volume one.] It is noteworthy that Paton’s magazine and theology are discussed in the Age-to-Come/Literalist paper The Restitution but not, as far as we could discover, in the Adventist press.[3]
            We addressed Barbour, Russell and Paton’s evangelism in volume one and in chapter two of this volume. There is no need to revisit that, except to say Rogerson got it wrong. But he also tells us that: “It appears that Paton and Jones and other contributors to Zion’s Watch Tower ... more of an inward-looking concern with the group itself.” This ignores half the evidence found in The Watch Tower. Until his defection, Jones regularly evangelized. He was part of a group of speakers willing to respond to requests for preaching, and he arranged his own venues as well. [See chapter 2, this volume.] Enough of this can be found in The Watch Tower reprints that Rogerson’s folly is inexcusable. Before we pass on to what stimulated evangelism among Watch Tower adherent groups, we should note that Rogerson’s claim that, “it was only in 1881 that Russell’s emphasis on selling came to the fore.” is wrong, which at this point should surprise no-one. None of the Bible Students Tracts and certainly not the two small books Tabernacle Teachings and Food for Thinking Christians were sold to anyone. They were freely given, Russell bearing the expense. Only over a decade later was Tabernacle Teachings retitled as Tabernacle Shadows sold at a nominal price.
            Also, we reject Rogerson’s description of Watch Tower theology as deterministic. Determinism suggests that events unfold beyond human control. Watch Tower belief was that each was responsible for the decisions they made. Russell and his associates rejected Presbyterian fatalism. Rogerson’s description of Watch Tower belief as elitist is meant to be inflammatory. Watch Tower belief was that God would ultimately save and bring to heavenly or earthly paradise nearly every human who ever lived. To us, this is not elitism.

Watch Tower Evangelism

            The Barbourite movement was narrowly focused, drawing almost entirely from non-Seventh-day Adventists, Age-to-Come believers and other Millenarians. Barbour saw those without millennialist belief as worldly and lost. He saw himself as God’s appointed voice for the Last Days. Paton believed he was divinely chosen, and he saw “advances” in spiritual insight as God’s special revelation to him. Both published tracts, Paton many more than Barbour who relied on the Herald of the Morning to further his ideology. Their focus was narrow.          
            Russell’s view was more expansive. He believed God’s people were scattered in all of Christendom, and some were as yet unfound in non-Christian religions. Connecting good-hearted Christians with ‘truth’ was urgent because they were in the time of final judgment, the harvest time of Jesus’ parables. To explain Zion’s Watch Tower’s mission, he quoted from the Millerite hymn Alarm:

"We are living, we are dwelling
In a grand and awful time;
In an age on ages telling
To be living is sublime."

The rest of this post has been deleted.


jerome said...

I will not be able to have a closer read until this weekend, but on a very quick scan it reads well and is thoroughly enjoyable.

I did note that the paragraph in the previous draft attacking Rogerson's grammar and comprehension problems has now gone. While I enjoyed the swipe (in the same way that I always enjoy Clayton J Woodworth in the Golden Age and Consolation magazines) it was a bit of a distraction. There is plenty of measured professional comment in the material (rather than overly personal) to successfully makes your point.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful help to understand the historical background! Interesting, well written, loved to read it, says
German Girl

Andrew said...

I like how letters from readers, and comments from Russell himself, are used to back up your conclusions. It really sometimes can be as simple as reading what was written by Russell and his readers. I think Russell's writing is often underrated, and it is the kind of writing that is difficult to misunderstand.

Your conclusions are logical, straightforward, and tell a story many of us have waited decades to hear. In my own case, having long been intrigued and fascinated by Russell and those who accepted his teachings, it is a dream come true. I cannot thank you enough for lifting the veil on what I assumed was a history that was beyond recovery.

Many years ago every page of the Watchtower from 1879 to 1916, and your work has motivated me to do so again. I am finding that I am enjoying it even more than I did before. And the insights you have provided explaining how Russell came to his conclusions and who and what influenced him, has made reading those old volumes much more meaningful and has helped me to understand Russell and his associates to a greater depth. Your hard work is appreciated, and I stand in awe of the incredibly detailed research you and your team have produced. I wish I could do more than say thank you.

Andrew Grzadzielewski

Gary said...

This is a pleasure to read. Well done Bruce and Rachael.


Anonymous said...

This is just my opinion, but I think your research would be clearer and better received if you just presented your research found through primary documents, instead of presenting arguments against another research from almost 50 years ago. I have never heard of Rogerson and would have never read his obscure thesis, had I not seen reference to it in your first book. Personally, I am more interested in what is gleaned from primary resources than reading about the poor research done by someone so many years ago. With that being said, I do enjoy reading the rest of your article.

B. W. Schulz said...

Rogerson's work is still cited and relied on by writers. It is time to put his faulty research to rest.

B. W. Schulz said...

From Penton [3rd edition]:

“Raised as a Witness and trained as a sociologist, Rogerson has written a useful, if short, book, based largely on original sources. Although it contains statements with which many Jehovah’s Witnesses would take issues, it is quite accurate in its historical overview, and it is one of the best works on the Witnesses in English. Although somewhat dated, it is still and extremely important work”

Penton and others who continue to use and recommend Rogerson without a careful analysis do their readers a disservice. One of our goals is to craft a more accurate narrative. To do so requires that we address what had come before. Some of the most egregiously faulty 'experts' are examined in the preface. I focus on those still cited as somehow authoritative. There is little point to presenting an historically accurate and detailed narrative if we do not also knock the underpinnings away from those who faked their research or simply got it wrong. If we do no in some detail explain why Rogerson and those like him were 'off sides' equally lazy, unscrupulous and inexperienced writers will continue to use the works of these writers because they LIKE what they say, not because their work represents solid research.

Andrew said...

I may be out of line here, and if I am, please let me know, Bruce. I am well aware that you do not anyone to defend your research, and if this post is presumptuous, I apologize in advance. I am not a professional historian.

I have been interested in Watchtower history for many years, and have relied on many historians, including Rogerson, to try to gain more information about Russell and his associates. Thanks to Bruce, Rachael, and may others, I now realize that what I have learned from many of these sources is incorrect and misleading. To point that out is not only important, but also essential if an accurate picture is to be portrayed. I welcome the critical analysis of Rogerson, and the work of others, in an effort to be as transparent and accurate as possible. So to me, this issue is personal.

If the research of Bruce and Rachael and their team was simply a knee-jerk reaction to any criticism of Russell, and an attempt to portray him in the best possible light no matter what the facts, then their criticism of others could be seen as biased. But their work clearly lets the facts determine the conclusions, and they (as far as I am able to tell) are honest in presenting both sides of the story, whether it puts Russell in a good light or not.

I have constantly been frustrated by histories which either paint Russell as a saint or a villain, depending on whether they agree with what Russell taught or not.

The real story is obviously more complicated that that, and it is refreshing to read a work that is intended to bring out the truth, regardless of whether the authors agree with Russell's theology or not.

Thank you, Bruce, and your team, for your hard work. And thanks for not apologizing for calling out others on sloppy research. I am writing a history of my own congregation, and your example has made my project better. I constantly wonder whether or not Bruce and Rachael would call me out on my own research conclusions, and reflecting on that makes me more determined than ever to create a quality product.

Andrew Grzadzielewski

Gary said...

I'm looking forward to reading your comments in the preface regarding 'experts' such as Rogerson and (presumably) Penton. Incidentally, it has been noted that there is a marked difference between Penton's early work (when he was a Witness) and his later work (when he wasn't). There can be no reasonable explanation for the difference, other than that he exaggerated the evidence on one or the other study. Either way, it must call into question the level of his scholarship.

B. W. Schulz said...


I have not included Penton's work in the preface. The first edition of Apocalypse Delayed has 'bad bits.' The third edition, the current one, has cured most of the defects. His other books do not touch on the Russell era.

I selected a few authors I felt were representative of a class of writers. I show that one well-known author who wrote as a sociologist was a Presbyterian clergyman, and that he wrote a polemic instead of a scholarly study. I give some examples of fabricated material. I discuss Clark's Small Sects, Rogerson's book,T. Daniel's thesis which is online,Gruss' Apostles of Denial,William Zellner’s Extraordinary Groups: An Examination of Unconventional Lifestyles, and a few others.

Gary said...


Thank you for these details. I much look forward to reading your new book in due course.

roberto said...

Framing the beginnings of the watchtower movement in the wider context of the historical and social period allows the reader to see the characters and the phenomenon in a more complete, objective and impartial way. It is as if we could see someone's path in a wood, observing the scene from above, rather than only from the bottom. I believe that when the authors reveal the details of the historical story of the main actors, they make us relive those events as if we were part of it, but when Schulz and De Vienne perceive that certain choices and behaviors of the main actors seem incomprehensible or even extravagant for us today, here is that the camera is moved higher. And everything becomes clearer. Here two examples:

Quote 1)
“Understanding why M. D. W. and others found the Watch Tower message to be what the world needed to hear requires a step back into an era that differs from our own. In the late 19th Century, religion provided guidance – sometimes faulty but guidance nevertheless – comfort and intellectual stimulation. It held the first place in life in most of the English speaking world, and in most if not all of Protestant Europe. Even when denominationally dissatisfied or disappointed in clergy, the majority put it in first place. The 1880s found Christianity in flux, changing to fit modernist values, and in larger cities it struggled to survive. Elsewhere in this volume we describe some of that; here we note that religion still filled a vital place in Western life, particularly in the United State and the United Kingdom. Germany was full of vibrant, sometimes silly, religious debate, and in the last half of the 19th Century German scholars produced still-useful commentaries.”

Quote 2)
“Russell’s ‘emulate God’ doctrine derived from the push by social reformers to alter human character so that moral decisions and social skills replaced base and criminal behavior. Popular literature, public schools and churches emphasized the ‘value of moral restraint and self-discipline.”

Another merit of Schulz and De Vienne is the ability to understand the doctrinal thought of the writer of the Watchtower, and then be able to transmit it to the reader with a few understandable words. I still remember when the authors asked us about the meaning of the article "The Straight Gate," by Lizzie A. Allen. I personally exercised in improbable mental and doctrinal acrobatics, falling from the trapezius. The article was not conducive to universalism. Notice how the authors identify the theological thought of Allen, as they explain it in a simple and understandable way, and finally, even in this case, how everything is framed in the historical context:

Quote 3)
"An article by Lizzie [Elizabeth] A. Allen entitled “The Straight Gate,” was published in the June 1880, Watch Tower. Many of her articles are vague, and this one is no less so. Some interpret it as tending toward Universalism. That’s wrong. It reflects their common view that Salvation does not depend on human acceptance but on God’s acts through Christ. It is ‘a wide’ view of salvation, but not Universalism."

Now, count how many words they used

Thanks Bruce,
Thanks Rachael.

roberto said...


Inquadrare gli inizi del movimento Watch Tower nel contesto più ampio di quel periodo storico e sociale consente al lettore di vedere i personaggi e il fenomeno in un modo più completo, obiettivo e imparziale. È come se potessimo vedere il percorso di qualcuno in un bosco, osservando la scena dall'alto, piuttosto che solo dal basso. Credo che quando gli autori rivelano i dettagli storici degli attori principali, ci fanno rivivere quegli eventi come se noi ne facessimo parte, ma quando Schulz e De Vienne percepiscono che certe scelte e comportamenti degli attori principali sembrano incomprensibili o anche stravaganti per noi oggi, ecco che la telecamera viene spostata più in alto. E tutto diventa più chiaro. Ecco due esempi:

Citazione 1:
“Capire perché M. D. W. e altri consideravano il messaggio della Torre di Guardia ciò di cui il mondo aveva bisogno, richiede da parte nostra un passo indietro, in un’era che differisce dalla nostra. Nel tardo diciannovesimo secolo la religione era una guida - qualche volta difettosa, ma una guida comunque – che provvedeva conforto e stimolo intellettuale. Occupava il primo posto nella vita della maggioranza del mondo di lingua inglese, e nella maggioranza se non tutta dell’Europa protestante. Anche quando le chiese organizzate con il loro clero si dimostravano riprovevoli, la maggioranza delle persone metteva la religione al primo posto. Gli anni del decennio 1880-1890 vedono la cristianità fare dei cambiamenti per abbracciare valori moderni, e nelle grandi città lottava per sopravvivere. Altrove in questo volume ne parliamo; qua vogliamo solo portare all’attenzione del lettore che a quel tempo la religione aveva ancora un ruolo vitale nel mondo occidentale, specialmente negli Stati Uniti e nel Regno Unito. La Germania era piena di vibranti, qualche volta stupidi, dibattiti religiosi, e nell’ultima parte del diciannovesimo secolo eruditi e studiosi tedeschi produssero commentari ancora in uso e rilevanti.”

Citazione 2:
“La dottrina di Russell sulla “emulazione di Dio” derivava dall’influenza di riformatori sociali che sostenevano di modificare il carattere umano in modo che decisioni morali e sociali sostituissero bassezze e condotte criminali. Letture popolari, scuole pubbliche e chiese enfatizzavano il “valore del controllo morale e di auto-disciplina.”

Un altro merito di Schulz e De Vienne è la capacità di comprendere il pensiero dottrinale dello scrittore della Watchtower, e poi riuscire a trasmetterlo al lettore con poche e comprensibili parole. Ricordo ancora quando gli autori chiesero a noi frequentatori del blog il significato dell’articolo “The Straight Gate,” di Lizzie A. Allen. Io personalmente mi esercitai in improbabili acrobazie mentali e dottrinali, cadendo dal trapezio. L’articolo non era tendente all’universalismo. Notate come gli autori individuano il pensiero teologico della Allen, come ce lo spiegano in modo semplice e comprensibile, e infine, anche in questo caso, come tutto viene inquadrato nel contesto storico.

Citazione 3
"Un articolo di Lizzie [Elisabeth] A. Allen intitolato: “La porta angusta” fu pubblicato nel numero di giugno 1880 della Torre di Guardia. Molti degli articoli di Allen sono vaghi, e questo non è diverso dagli altri. Alcuni hanno interpretato questo articolo come tendente all’Universalismo. Sbagliato. Riflette piuttosto la veduta comune che la Salvezza non dipende dall’accettazione umana ma dall’azione di Dio attraverso il Cristo. È un’ampia visione della salvezza, ma non è Universalismo."

Grazie Bruce, Grazie Rachael.

jerome said...

Returning to this essay (now I'm on vacation with sufficient time) I noted a glitch that proof reading will deal with. In the section (now deleted) under the subheading COLPORTAGE, the fifth paragraph repeats almost all the wording of the 3rd paragraph, starting "Russell and his associates..."