If the Governing Body admitted that Pastor Russell was the Founder of the Bible Students, would that be an admittion that JF Rutherford illegally took the assets of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society away from the Bible Students?
According to the book, “Pastor Russell – Founder of the Bible Students,” published by Bible Students Christian Classics:
For one reason and one simple reason alone is this claim made–“Historic depth.” As a Christian church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses are neophytes. Since the Jehovah’s Witnesses only began in 1931, they need historic credibility. Imagine in the 1930s, ‘40s or ‘50s, saying, “Our Christian group only began in 1931.” To claim Pastor Russell as their founder, however, would project them back into the 1800s as a Christian group. After all, a number of Christian churches had their beginnings in the 1800s. For example, the Disciples of Christ.
As evidence of their sensitivity to historic depth, they do a “one upmanship” on all religious groups by claiming that Abel, Adam’s son was the first Jehovah’s Witness.13 This is really reaching for historic depth! But a pretense of historic depth means nothing. The historic facts are clear. Pastor Russell founded the Bible Students in the 1870s. Judge Rutherford founded the Jehovah’s Witnesses in 1931.
Just to illustrate the point, the Lutherans and Roman Catholics have a common lineage simply because the Lutherans broke away from the Papacy. But they are two separate churches. The Lutherans believe Martin Luther’s teachings and the Catholics believe the teachings of the popes. Just because the Lutherans’ lineage goes back to the popes, does not mean the popes are the founders of the Lutherans. The popes are the founders of the Roman Catholics who believe their doctrines. A few similarities of belief between Bible Students and Jehovah’s Witnesses exist. As well, one might speak with a Baptist regarding their doctrine and then with a Presbyterian. There would be obvious similarities. But to say that the two are the same because of their obvious similarities is inaccurate. Just as Baptists and Presbyterians believe in eternal torment, Bible Students and Jehovah’s Witnesses believe in eternal annihilation. But this similarity does not make them the same group!
In any case, it is well to observe that Bible Students feel most Jehovah’s Witnesses are noble-minded people and are just as likely as other people to enjoy the blessings of God’s eternity. (We only wish they shared such kindly feelings towards us!)
There are many books about the Watchtower organizations, even by former Watchtower members. But none have the insight of Schnell, an insider during those crucial years of terminating the old movement and creating the new.
This loose-knit Bible Student movement of “rugged individualists,” as Schnell called them, is prospering worldwide. Yes, Bible Students are a small movement of “rugged individualists” banded together in congregations that zealously guard their congregational autonomy. But if you have a small band of individualists, each of his own volition, fully consecrated to a vision of Truth, then you have activists (tempered by a Christ-like ideal of love). Thus, Bible Students, as they did in Pastor Russell’s day, impact the world to a degree that far exceeds their size.
Schnell was a “born again” fundamentalist Christian at the time he wrote his book. As such, he did not like some of the basic doctrines of Pastor Russell and the Bible Students. Yet his writing reflected a profound admiration for their Christian maturity.