The Light Does Get Brighter
The ones who would conduct themselves this way truly are journalistic "bullies". They are often times "self-righteous" and "self-exalting". Perfectionists in the extreme.
That's not really a fair characterization Frank. In many cases you are dealing with people who were extremely "gung-ho" Witnesses at one time. They were the bespectacled children who sat on the front row taking notes during the talks; the ones who had intricate chronological timelines compiled from the Society's publications up on their bedroom walls; the same ones who, on visits to their grandparents, would spend time reading the older publications while their cousins were outside playing.
Now you can brand people like AF and others as "self-righteous" and "self-exalting" if it makes you feel better, but you are really attacking the messenger instead of the message when you take that attitude. The primary bone of contention as AF and others have pointed out time and time again is not that the Society was wrong on certain points in the past, but that: (1) They are not open and honest about these things today, and (2) Despite their past track-record, they continue to oust people from the congregation for disagreeing with them.
This brings me to another point you made:
One of the usual "misnomers" is that early bible students such as Russell, were dogmatic about the time chronology that they reported to their readers. The following few exerts from the older volumes shows that these early bible students were seeking to explain the significance of the scriptures and bible prophecy and the times at hand.
Whether you've done this intentionally or not Frank, you've not presented an entirely accurate picture for the simple reason that you can't take a two year sampling of Russell's writings and present these as indicative of his attitude for an entire 35 year period. You do realize this don't you? For example, in the interests of honesty shouldn't it be pointed out that Russell started out on a much more confident note?
The January 15, 1892 issue of Zion's Watch Tower on page 19 spoke of the events which were sure to happen in the coming years before 1914:
"The Scriptures give unmistakable testimony to those who have full faith in its records, that there is a great time of trouble ahead of the present comparative calm in the world -- a trouble which will embroil all nations, overthrow all existing institutions, civil, social and religious, bring about a universal reign of anarchy and terror, and prostrate humanity in the very dust of despair, thus to make them ready to appreciate the power that will bring order out of that confusion and institute the new rule of righteousness. All this, the Scriptures show us, is to come to pass before the year 1914 (See MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vol. II, Chapter IV.) -- that is, within the next twenty-three years."
The July 15, 1894 issue of Zion's Watch Tower on page 266 went so far as to state the belief that these were "God's dates, not ours":
"Seventeen years ago people said, concerning the time features presented in Millennial Dawn, They seem reasonable in many respects, but surely no such radical changes could occur between now and the close of 1914: if you had proved that they would come about in a century or two, it would seem much more probable. What changes have since occurred, and what velocity is gained daily? 'The old is quickly passing and the new is coming in.' Now, in view of recent labor troubles and threatened anarchy, our readers are writing to know if there may not be a mistake in the 1914 date. They say that they do not see how present conditions can hold out so long under the strain. We see no reason for changing the figures - nor could we change them if we would. They are, we believe, God's dates, not ours. But bear in mind that the end of 1914 is not the date for the beginning, but for the end of the time of trouble. We see no reason for changing from our opinion expressed in the view presented in the WATCH TOWER of January 15, '92. We advise that it be read again."
The September 15, 1901 issue of Zion's Watch Tower said on page 294:
"The culmination of the trouble in October 1914 is clearly marked in the Scriptures;* and we are bound therefore to expect a beginning of that severe trouble not later than 1910; -- with severe spasms between now and then."
The Time Is At Hand, (1907 edition) on pages 98 and 99 acknowledge that the Bible Students were making a fairly spectacular claim, but present this claim as an "established truth":
"True, it is expecting great things to claim, as we do, that within the coming twenty-six years all present governments will be overthrown and dissolved; but we are living in a special and peculiar time, the "Day of Jehovah," in which matters culminate quickly; and it is written, "A short work will the Lord make upon the earth."
"In view of this strong Bible evidence concerning the Times of the Gentiles, we consider it an established truth that the final end of the kingdoms of this world, and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God, will be accomplished near the end of A.D. 1915."
However, as 1914 approached and events were clearly not unfolding as Russell expected, he began to "bend" slightly. For example, in the in the July 1, 1904 issue of Zion's Watch Tower on page 197, Russell decided that the culmination of the "time of trouble" would follow rather than precede 1914. This caused a degree of uncertainty on the part of some of the Bible Students as is apparent from the question published in the August 15, 1904 issue of Zion's Watch Tower said on page 250. Russell was quite firm in his view that nothing was really changed.
"QUESTION. -- If the "Times of the Gentiles" can be changed as suggested in the July TOWER, so that the anarchy will follow 1914 A.D., instead of preceding it, might not similar changes be made in respect to all the various lines of prophetic time-proof set forth in MILLENNIAL DAWN, Vols. II. and III?
Answer. -- You are entirely in error. Not a figure, not a date, not a prophecy is in any sense or degree affected by the article to which you refer. Indeed the harmony and unity of the whole is the more fully demonstrated. Read again the article you refer to, "Universal Anarchy, etc." (July 1 issue), and you surely will see this. If it is not apparent to you upon a further study let us know the particular point of your difficulty and we will endeavor to make it plain."
By 1914 however, Russell seemed to accept the possibility that much of his chronology was wrong. For example, there was a melancholy tone of resignation in his reply to a colporteur who had written with the following question:
"How shall we do respecting the STUDIES IN THE SCRIPTURES after October, 1914? Will the Society continue to publish them? Will the Colporteurs and others continue to circulate them? Is it right to circulate them now, since you have some doubt respecting the full accomplishment of all expected by or before October, 1914?" (The Watch Tower July 1, 1914 p. 207)
Russell's reply reads in part:
"So far as the features are concerned, we have merely set forth the Scriptures and our view respecting their application and significance. We have not attempted to say that these views are infallible, but have stated the processes of reasoning and figuring, leaving to each reader the duty and privilege of reading, thinking and figuring for himself. That will be an interesting matter a hundred years from now; and if he can figure or reason better, he will still be interested in what we have presented. In any event, we think that the consummation cannot be long deferred." (Ibid) (emphasis added)
Notice how the dates that were "God's dates not ours" in the year 1894 were only views which are potentially fallible 20 years later. At least some degree of concern that much of the 1914 chronology could be wrong was clearly weighing upon Russell's mind at this point. The acknowledgment made in so many words, that his books might only be of academic interest to Bible students in one-hundred years further testifies to the doubt Russell was experiencing.
You can't take quotes from this period in Russell's life and pretend that this had always been his attitude, Frank. If you've done it intentionally, it's dishonest -- and that's exactly what the bone of contention is in the first place
Is the FDS perfect? Again I say no! Like Abraham selection, it was his "faithful heart" that caught Jehovah's attention.
Of course they are not perfect Frank. That's hardly a secret. It's also not really the issue. The bone of contention here is that the Society demands obedience in the form of doctrinal conformity as if they really were offering perfection. When the Society explains what a particular scripture means in a Watchtower article, the explanation is presented as the TRUTH without equivocation. Literally, the product of Jehovah's channel of communication. To disagree with what is written in The Watchtower at the time it is published is considered apostasy. This, irregardless of the fact that you and I and a lot of other people know that the those articles often contain the opinions and conjecture of a group of fallible Bible students just as they did in Russell's day.
Like Paul, Apollos, Peter and others, their anointed brothers and sisters today match the description and hierarchy described to the Corinthians
Now you would have a valid point here if you could establish that 1st century Christians forced others on pain of expulsion from the congregation to go along with their conjecture, speculations and out and out errors, but as long as we're talking about C. T. Russell, may I point out that he clearly recognized that this was not so?
"What was this one faith? The basis of it is stated by Paul thus: "I delivered unto you first of all, that which I also received [first of all -- as a foundation truth or doctrine, upon and in harmony with which all other doctrines must be built], how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.""
"This true gospel; this simple faith, easily understood and confessed by the weakest babe in Christ, must also be, and always, and equally the faith of the most developed sons of God. This one faith (and not the endless ramifications and details of faith which lead out from it) Paul placed as a standard or test of all claiming the name Christian. All the consecrated who agreed on this one standard, or foundation truth, Paul counted as in and of the one church."
"The endeavor to compel all men to think alike on all subjects, culminated in the great apostasy and the development of the great Papal system; and thereby the "gospel" the "one faith" which Paul and the other apostles set forth, was lost -- buried under the mass of uninspired decrees of popes and councils. The union of the early church, based upon the simple gospel and bound only by love, gave place to the bondage of the church of Rome..." (Zion's Watch Tower, September 1, 1893, pp. 262, 264)