Friday, July 13, 2018

Your analysis of this quotation

I need your comments sooner rather than later. Please.

Christians were to be holy and take the Gospel message to their neighbors. They were to maintain a correct relationship to the state. Russell discussed a Christian’s relationship to governments in 1886. Writing in The Plan of the Ages he said:

Man’s extremity will become God's opportunity,[1] and “the desire of all nations shall come” – the Kingdom of God, in power and great glory. (Hag. 2:7) Knowing this to be the purpose of God, neither Jesus nor the apostles interfered with earthly rulers in any way. On the contrary, they taught the Church to submit to these powers, even though they often suffered under their abuse of power. They taught the Church to obey the laws, and to respect those in authority because of their office, even if they were not personally worthy of esteem; to pay their appointed taxes, and, except where they conflicted with God's laws (Acts 4:19; 5:29), to offer no resistance to any established law. (Rom. 13:1-7; Matt. 22:21) The Lord Jesus and the apostles and the early Church were all law-abiding, though they were separate from, and took no share in, the governments of this world.

Though the powers that be, the governments of this world, were ordained or arranged for by God, that mankind might gain a needed experience under them, yet the Church, the consecrated ones who aspire to office in the coming Kingdom of God, should neither covet the honors and the emoluments of office in the kingdoms of this world, nor should they oppose these powers. They are fellow citizens and heirs of the heavenly kingdom (Eph. 2:19), and as such should claim only such rights and privileges under the kingdoms of this world as are accorded to aliens. Their mission is not to help the world to improve its present condition, nor to have anything to do with its affairs at present. To attempt to do so would be but a waste of effort; for the world's course and its termination are both clearly defined in the Scriptures and are fully under the control of him who in his own time will give us the kingdom. The influence of the true Church is now and always has been small – so small as to count practically nothing politically; but however great it might appear, we should follow the example and teaching of our Lord and the apostles. Knowing that the purpose of God is to let the world fully test its own ability to govern itself, the true Church should not, while in it, be of the world. The saints may influence the world only by their separateness from it, by letting their light shine; and thus through their lives the spirit of truth reproves the world. Thus – as peaceable, orderly obeyers and commenders of every righteous law, reprovers of lawlessness and sin, and pointers forward to the promised Kingdom of God and the blessings to be expected under it, and not by the method commonly adopted of mingling in politics and scheming with the world for power, and thus being drawn into wars and sins and the general degradation – in glorious chastity should the prospective Bride of the Prince of Peace be a power for good, as her Lord's representative in the world.

The Church of God should give its entire attention and effort to preaching the Kingdom of God, and to the advancement of the interests of that Kingdom according to the plan laid down in the Scriptures. If this is faithfully done, there will be no time nor [sic] disposition to dabble in the politics of present governments. The Lord had no time for it; the apostles had no time for it; nor have any of the saints who are following their example.

The early Church, shortly after the death of the apostles, fell a prey [sic] to this very temptation. The preaching of the coming Kingdom of God, which would displace all earthly kingdoms, and of the crucified Christ as the heir of that Kingdom, was unpopular, and brought with it persecution, scorn and contempt. But some thought to improve on God's plan, and, instead of suffering, to get the Church into a position of favor with the world. By a combination with earthly powers they succeeded. As a result Papacy was developed, and in time became the mistress and queen of nations. – Rev. 17:3-5; 18:7.

By this policy everything was changed: instead of suffering, came honor; instead of humility, came pride; instead of truth, came error; and instead of being persecuted, she became the persecutor of all who condemned her new and illegal honors.[2]

[Analysis here]

[1]               The expression “Man’s extremity will become God’s opportunity” traces back to at least 1629 and is found in Adam’s Works published that year. Defoe used it, and in a 1798 George Whitfield described the phrase as “an old saying.” [An Extract of a Letter from a Gentleman in Ireland; to Mr. William Thompson, London, page 8.] It was still in common usage in the late 19th Century.
[2]               C. T. Russell: The Plan of the Ages, Millennial Dawn, volume 1, Tower Publishing, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, 1886, pages 266-268.


Andrew said...

Many years ago I had the privilege of meeting many old Bible Students who either met Russell personally or were influenced by his writings. Whenever I asked them what attracted them to his message, the two most commons answers were:

1) his repudiation of eternal torment.
2) they thought his explanation of why God permitted wickedness was the most reasonable answer they had ever heard.

I think in this article Russell is again trying to explain why he believes God permitted wickedness. The two excerpts that stood out for me are:

(1) "that mankind might gain a needed experience under them" (the governments of this world)


(2) "Knowing that the purpose of God is to let the world fully test its own ability to govern itself"

Russell's reasoning (as I see it) is that two of the primary reasons God permitted wickedness was (1) so that the saints could see for themselves the brilliancy of good as contrasted by the deficiencies of human rule, and (2) that God could give humans a chance to demonstrate that they could not rule themselves, so that when he stepped in, they could not complain that they did not have a chance to try it themselves.

Having been a Witness for over 40 years, I have noticed that although most Witnesses were familiar with these ideas many years ago, and used them to persuade others (including me), today few Witnesses use these arguments when sharing their faith. I think that is unfortunate.

Andrew Grzadzielewski

jerome said...

CTR is here expanding on the comment he made in ZWT December 1882, page 8, where he posed the question should Christians vote or hold public office? His more succinct response there was "No" for the same reasons as given here.

Gary said...

CTR's comments represent a classic premillennialist response. Many American religionists shared this view at the time, although most abandoned ship when America joined the war in 1918. A certain irony exists in that while "Their mission is not to help the world to improve its present condition, nor to have anything to do with its affairs at present", in their desire to be "no part of the world" Witnesses have had a defining influence on ideas of religious tolerance and have undoubtedly improved part of the modern world by their legally defending and establishing the good news and neutrality which ultimately has contributed in bringing important civil rights to millions of non-Witness citizens.

Semer said...

When I read this, it struck me that it reflects quite well JWs present position. I supposse when these ideas were put to the test during the Great War, Bible Students somehow vacillated and they needed to clear their mind in later years.

Gary said...

Alas Semer, to my knowledge no exhaustive research has yet been carried out to assess the stand of Bible Student conscientious objectors in America. Superficial commentaries, usually written by Witness critics, tend to concentrate solely on occasional moments of indecisiveness by IBSA leaders, though their stand as a whole was impressive. Peter Brock stated that Bible Students "took the most determined CO stand in First World War Germany" and the British peace movement has only recently latched on to the profound stand of Bible Student COs in Britain during the conscription period of 1916-1918. One suspects that the history of IBSA COs in America is no less significant.

We tend to judge the WW1 Bible Student stand in comparison with the Witness stand of today, and hence are critical of its faults. Actually it was remarkable in its day, even more so since they lacked experience of war and recent examples of faithful resistance to draw on. So, vacillation? Not much as I can see, although it is certainly true that they strengthened their stand post-war, based on their previous experience.

B. W. Schulz said...

Many American Civil War veterans were still alive in 1917. And Americans fought a brief but intense war with Spain in 1898. The last Indian War was in 1912.

Andrew Martin said...

I suspect it's quite possible that German conscientious objection during World War I is only lacking sufficient documentation, instead of being only minimal.

For one example, André Trocme, the pastor of the Huguenot congregation of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon in South-Central France, credited his pacifist stand to his chance meeting with a captured prisoner during the war, who stated that he was one of many "Bible Students", who felt it immoral to kill their fellow men, and hence only shot their guns in the air [I'll leave judgment of the practicality of that course to others!]

It is estimated that the pastor "converted" by the Bible Student, his wife, and members of his parish saved the lives of over 3,500 refugees - mostly Jewish, including many children - during the course of the German occupation in World War II.

My source is Philip P. Hallie's 1979 book, "Lest Innocent Blood Be Shed: The Story of Le Chambon and How Goodness Happened There".

If Trocme's Bible Student contact was indeed one associated with the Watchtower movement, the impact of Russell's teaching in that one incident was the survival of some 3,500 people more than a quarter century after his death!

jerome said...

Thinking about Bruce's comment on the involvement of Americans in warfare, the issue of conscientious objection would normally only arise when there was conscription or the draft. My knowledge of detailed American history is - shall we say, incomplete - but I believe the draft was applied for the American Civil War (hence the conscientious objectors like the Quakers, Mennonites, and closer to our subject the re-named Christadelphians). The next time conscription was applied was during World War 1, by which time the Bible Students entered the mix.
It was interesting to be reminded that many civil war veterans were still alive at the time of World War 1. As an amateur film historian I have watched Griffiths' Birth of a Nation many times. (A product of its time with the villains being played by white actors in black-face and the heroes being the KKK). But amongst the DVD extras is footage of remembrance parades by civil war veterans. There were quite a lot of them,

jerome said...

One little extra I have just remembered - among the civil war veterans still alive during World War 1 was of course CTR's former associate and friend John H Paton (who conducted his wedding). Pictures of Paton in uniform and at a later military reunion have been published on this blog in the past. He lived until 1922.

Andrew Martin said...

Jerome - to my knowledge, at least three - and possibly four - Civil War veterans died in the Titanic disaster in 1912, just two years before the War began - and the oldest of them was 70.

Gary said...

I think perhaps the word "and" needed stressing in my earlier sentence. Some Civil War veterans later became Bible Students and had experience of war, of course, but I suspect them of fighting rather than resisting it. If anyone knows of any conscientious objectors from the civil war who later became Bible Students please be sure to let me know. Adventists, Christadelphians, Mennonites and Quakers made their stand during the American Civil War, and I guess it is just possible that a few may have become Bible Students later on.

Many thanks to Andrew for the helpful link to Trocme. I was aware of him, but not any possible Bible Student link. Must get this book.

Andrew Martin said...

Gary, you are aware that former Confederate General Alexander P. Stewart later became a Bible student and remained so until his death, aren't you?

Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

In both volume 1 and upcoming volume 2 of Separate Identity we discuss Civil War veterans who became adherents. They were from both sides of the conflict and found unity in their belief system.

J. L. Russell escaped the Civil War draft by being 'over age.' Russell himself was too young.

The modern Watchtower Society suggests that Bible Students 'compromised' during the Great War. A recent article repeats that. The see that as happening in various ways, one of which is okaying the purchase of War Bonds, today's Savings Bonds in the USA. Some accepted the draft, but many did not.

Rutherford recalled an interview with a US General who told them the army and clergy would put Bible Students out of business. As I remember it, that's in the Consolation of 1938 or 1939. Years ago, before I was born, when B was accumulating material for our books, he interviewed an old timer who met Russell in 1912. I've read the notes. The man, new to Watch Tower belief and a Marine, asked Russell what he should do if there was war. Russell told him, "Well, I guess you'll just have to shoot over their heads." If this is accurate, and I believe it is, then the shooting over the heads of enemy soldiers comes from Russell's personal advice to combatants.

We have drifted into an interesting area, and I appreciate the above comments. But can we relate this to the era in which Plan of the Ages was originally written?

jerome said...

Russell's personal advice about shooting over the heads of enemy soldiers was put into print. In Watch Tower for August 1, 1898 (reprints page 2345) he wrote:

"If, therefore, we were drafted, and if the government refused to accept our conscientious scruples against warfare (as they have heretofore done with "Friends," called Quakers), we should request to be assigned to the hospital service or to the Commissary department or to some other non-combatant place of usefulness; and such requests would no doubt be granted. If not, and we ever got into battle, we might help to terrify the enemy, but need not shoot anybody."

How could you avoid shooting anybody? Perhaps by shooting over their heads. In Watch Tower for July 15, 1915 (reprints page 5728) he expanded on this:

"In Volume Six of SCRIPTURE STUDIES, the friends are instructed to avoid taking life. If they were ever drafted into the army they should go. If they could be sent to the Quartermaster's Department to take care of the food, that would be desirable, or into the hospital work. They should endeavor to get such positions. They could not be expected to do service in the way of killing. If they were obliged to go on the firing line, they could shoot over the enemy's head, if they wished."

Gary said...

Thank you Andrew, but yes I was aware of Stewart, Thank you also Rachael. The war bonds episode was one of the "moments of indecisiveness" I had in mind, as was the national day of prayer. The Watchtower Society has acknowledged its faults in these areas.

You're right Rachael. I have strayed somewhat from the direction of the blog and apologise accordingly. I think the variety of comments on this subject shows that readers of the blog can more easily comment on later periods of Bible Student history. This convinces me more than ever of the need for your work. Thank you for what you do.