Friday, June 22, 2018

Temporary Post

Restrain you excitement, I haven't improved much and I'm not back on a regular basis. I'm posting this for Bruce who is traveling and has an iffy wifi connection.

Usual rules. You can make a copy for yourself, but never rely on a temporary post. They change. As you will see if you retained the previous version of this, there are changes already. Do not share it off the blog. There is new matter in this post. It will not stay up for many days. Comment NOW. We post these things for comments, and a mere impression will do. Comments provide guidance. We do not always adopt suggestions, but sometimes we do. So your comments are important.

Bernard, I know I haven't answered your email. It makes me tear up and I don't really know what to say back, but I will answer soon.


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]

The remainder of this temporary post has been deleted. 


jerome said...

As always it reads well. Just a few comments:

While you state that the August 1880 article on evangelism is displaced by modern Watchtower writers in favour of a later article (i.e. The Thousand Preachers article from April 1881) and also state that the material from January-February 1882 is “more significant”, I think we can understand why modern writers might just focus on the Thousand Preachers article because all they are doing is skimming the subject. As you note, the April 1881 article had a “shock headline” – so that stands out. If the only point you want to make is that the early Bible students were encouraged to evangelise – without any specific detail of content – that headline fits the bill in the fewest number of words.

When you mention Lizzie Allen and her consulting with John Paton when writing an article in the June 1880 ZWT, is it worth noting here that she later sided with Paton in the split and became pastor of one of his (Universalist) Larger Hope churches at Buchanan?

You mention there was a combined edition of Food and Tabernacle Teachings published by CTR in paperback in 1882. Do we have direct proof of this? We know about the combined volume that Sunderlin prepared (footnote 32) because an inscribed copy has been seen. Does anyone have an actual official paperback combination volume? I ask because the Nottingham clergyman featured in ZWT June 1882 (footnote 38) obviously believed he had to order the titles separately.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

combined edition is mentioned in ZWT. We need to footnote that obviously.

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

We stand by our comments on the 1000 preachers article. It may have an attractive title, and that may draw a writer's interest, but it is not the most significant article. And some writers abbreviate their reference to it to the point what it really said is lost.

I think the real issue here is that you do not like even the most mild criticism of Watchtower writers. I've known a few. They really are human.

jerome said...

I fully agree that the 1000 Preachers is not the most significant article in telling the story and background of early WT evangelism - that point is well made in your chapter. All I said was that modern writers, when they are only "skimming the subject" would be attracted to what you call a "shock headline." Because it fits the bill for their purpose. Ultimately I think we are singing from the same basic songbook here.

A footnote about the combined publication of Food and Tabernacle Teachings would be useful. Who knows, maybe one may still turn up even now.

Gary said...

Another fine article with persuasive reasoning and argumentation. Thank you Bruce and Rachael.

Andrew said...

Thank you for including the references in your blog.

I enjoy looking up the articles and letters in the old Watchtowers. It helps me get a better understanding of the conclusions you reach and how you reached them.

Andrew Grzadzielewski