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What do you think about "Judge" Rutherford?


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While at Bethel my table head shared a lot of really negative stories about Brother Rutherford. I had no idea if they were correct at the time, but I listened carefully to a lot of other brothers who

I would agree. And I think this is more important than might think. Russell may have envisioned his associates to be from a very gentlemanly class, and appeared most comfortable around well-spoken, so

Also, within months after suggesting that the League of Nations was like a political expression of the kingdom of God on earth, this was corrected and a stricter and more consistent separation from al

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While at Bethel my table head shared a lot of really negative stories about Brother Rutherford. I had no idea if they were correct at the time, but I listened carefully to a lot of other brothers who knew Rutherford, and I even recorded several hours of interviews with older Bethelites and some of them volunteered information about him. These tapes were for use when I traveled to other congregations to give public talks, because they made giving a public talk very easy. I had a lot of material that I could not use without editing because two of them gave a much more negative view than the publications give. The brothers and sister interviewed were F.W.Franz, Grace DeCecca, Maxwell Friend, Sam Friend, and Bert Schroeder.

 

But another side of Rutherford also shows up, not just in the interviews, but also in his own speeches and writing. Most of the brothers credit Rutherford as the one who promoted the changes made to doctrines single-handedly. He was fearless when he thought he was right. There were dozens of doctrinal changes made between 1927 and 1931, and a large number of those who were active in the organization decided to leave during that time period. But I believe that while he lost a majority for a while, he had an attitude that one brother likened to Judge Gideon, his all-time favorite Bible character. It didn't matter how many persons left the organization, if the change was the right thing to do. (Gideon went from 32,000 to 10,000 and after a final test ended up with only 300 faithful with whom he would fight the battle against Midian.)

 

With that in mind he wanted to root out "creature worship" from the organization. This was his word for the "cult of Pastor Russell" wherein people wanted to dress like him, look like him, talk like him, carry his picture, name their kids after him, etc. Rutherford did not want such a thing for himself, and knew he was the person with the "faith" to get rid of it, even if it meant the majority of Bible Students would leave. It was in effect, the "sword of Jehovah and Rutherford."

 

Also, there were very few progressive changes under Russell. Very early on they had already set a solid doctrinal course when it came to Trinity, Hell-fire, Immortal Soul, Ransom, Restitution, Salvation, Morality, Christian Character, but only a very few changes, except where these were forced upon them in the area of chronology. Rutherford, from the start, turned the Bible Students into a progressive organization that came to expect change, and that very soon would constantly looked forward positively to more changes. Naturally, he got a few things wrong, but I believe a majority of the changes reflected the Bible more accurately.

 

For example, if we were to solely give Rutherford the credit for being the author of these changes, we'd have to admit that he got the following right:

  • Getting rid of Pyramidology.
  • Getting rid of Creature Worship
  • Getting rid of almost all the complexities and methodologies of the old Barbour/Second Adventist chronology
    • Ultimately turning a system that included 539 C.E. (not BCE) 1799, 1844, 1859, 1873, 1874, 1878, 1881, 1910, 1914, and 1915 into a simpler system that still included most of those dates but focused almost exclusively on just 3 or 4 dates.
  • He put the organization on a road to a more consistent political neutrality
    • including the view that flag salute was a form of idolatry
    • helped true Christians see the folly of involvement in divisive wars and social movements
    • helped Christians recognize political and religious hypocrisy
  • He pushed for legal freedom of speech, and freedom of religion before the world was even ready for it, and these battles were hard-won.
  • He also prompted true Christians seriously consider the relationship between national and religious holidays and their unchristian origins.
  • He promoted the wider use of Jehovah's name
  • Didn't hold back from using the "Old Testament" for life lessons
  • Set an example as a strong personality, full of strong commitment, without mincing words, or pulling punches
  • Prepared the congregations for persecution so that they were not surprised and not weakened
    • Look at how well JWs handled persecution in many countries, not just Germany under Hitler
  • Organized a very efficient organization in terms of ability to publicize and mobilize with the message
  • Made use of all available technologies and venues to spread the word to large assemblies and audiences
  • Organized for growth, envisioned and prepared for expansion
  • Promoted practical, active Christian conduct and morality, but not the mere, quiet internalized form of worship
  • Promoted a purpose and identity that helps Witnesses produce an international brotherhood that transcend class, nationality, and race.
  • Lots of doctrinal specifics are left out to avoid too many off-topic doctrinal discussions, but even where disagreement exists, the bulk of most publications drove more attention to the Bible, Jesus, Jehovah, and Bible characters that we could learn from as examples in our daily lives

 

And from the perspective of "executive leadership" he was both serious and successful with these changes. The numbers he lost from Russell's time were gained back again and multiplied a couple of times over before Rutherford died. Outsiders have been impressed with the levels of activity, and participation, and therefore the levels of growth and conversion over the years. Ultimately, a very strong and powerful organization has been built that rivals the Mormons and the Seventh Day Adventists in terms of its current size, rate of growth and stability. And those religions, for the most part, had a bit of a head start in the 19th century. It outpaces most other religions in terms of publications distributed internally, and definitely outpaces every religion when it comes to publications distributed externally. Most of the foundation for the current organization was made workable under Rutherford's watch. This has created an excellent foundation for an international brotherhood where people show love and generosity and good works toward one another and which continues to bring teachings into closer harmony with the Bible.

 

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He proved that the pen is mightier than the sword by writing the great crowd out of heaven and shutting the door in their faces without even a struggle or a whimper.  I've read there was just a hushed silence.  Even Michael didn't have it that easy throwing the devil out of heaven.....and he needed help to do it.  Rutherford threw the great crowd out single-handed.

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3 hours ago, JW Insider said:

Lots of doctrinal specifics are left out to avoid too many off-topic doctrinal discussions

In view of the @HollyW comment above, I would add that Rutherford opened the door of opportunity to those who have no desire or inkling to go to heaven in order to be close to Jehovah and Jesus, but would that come under this heading?

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5 hours ago, Eoin Joyce said:

I would add that Rutherford opened the door of opportunity to those who have no desire or inkling to go to heaven in order to be close to Jehovah and Jesus

I would agree. And I think this is more important than might think. Russell may have envisioned his associates to be from a very gentlemanly class, and appeared most comfortable around well-spoken, soft-spoken, deeply religious persons. In some ways he thought of the Bride class as very elite. Note what he anticipated in his first major publication, a 64 page booklet, "Object and Manner" (p.42):

"No; the "little flock," -- the bride -- is a very select company. There will be so few taken from the present generation that they will not be much missed."

The great crowd were a second-class group, and for a while were treated as second-class citizens, often criticized and sometimes insulted and always considered less spiritually-minded. But these were obviously humble persons who were sure of the primary truths and the rationality of the Watchtower's message. But they felt less worthy. (Even the context of the quote above reminded them that the 144,000 were granted their white robes but that the great crowd had to wash them.)  Of course, at the time -- and for the next 58 years -- they were still considered anointed, and were still going to heaven, just not as part of Christ's Bride. But their sense of humility and unworthiness helped them to understand and accept that earthly Paradise was held out for them as the most appropriate hope. For so many years, the teaching was that all Christians would be in heaven, and non-Christians would be resurrected to the earth. The quickness with which the change came was amazing, and is one of the reasons this doctrine is so often associated with "lightning" and "flashes of light."

*** w85 3/1 p. 14 par. 12 Shedding Forth Light Amidst Earth’s Gloom ***
These flashes of prophetic light prepared the ground for the historic discourse on “The Great Multitude,” given May 31, 1935, by the president of the Watch Tower Society, J. F. Rutherford, at the Washington, D.C., convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses. What a revelation of divine truth that was!

*** w92 3/1 pp. 20-21 par. 17 The Day to Remember ***
The brilliant flashes of spiritual light that came through The Watchtower in the 1920’s and 1930’s indicate that the gathering of the remnant of anointed ones was practically completed during that period. Those ‘washing their robes and making them white in the blood of the Lamb’ since then have a different joyful hope.

*** w95 5/15 p. 20 par. 18 Part 1—Flashes of Light—Great and Small ***
In 1935 a bright flash of light revealed that the great crowd mentioned at Revelation 7:9-17 was not a secondary heavenly class. It had been thought that the ones mentioned in those verses were some of the anointed who had not been fully faithful

*** re chap. 20 p. 125 par. 17 A Multitudinous Great Crowd ***
They were quick to appreciate the dazzling flash of divine light that emblazoned the theocratic firmament in 1935, at Jehovah’s due time.

And many more!

 

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14 hours ago, JW Insider said:

He put the organization on a road to a more consistent political neutrality

Also, within months after suggesting that the League of Nations was like a political expression of the kingdom of God on earth, this was corrected and a stricter and more consistent separation from all organizations with political goals was maintained.

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Ahem you two......he closed the door of heaven in their faces:

 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in."  Matthew 23:13

And the way he did it was not to even address it to THEM.  No, he had invented a class of earthly hopers a few years before whom he called the Jonadabs and at the convention he had them stand up and then pointing them he pronounced that THEY were the great crowd.

Is it any wonder everyone was speechless?!  He had just ripped a heavenly hope away from a great crowd who had remained seated when he asked those with an earthly hope to stand up.

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4 minutes ago, HollyW said:

Those designated up to this time as the great crowd would not have stood up because their hope was a heavenly one, so they sat there and listened as that heavenly hope was dashed for them by Rutherford giving their designation to the Jonadabs, a group who weren't even called Jehovah's Witnesses at the time.

Thank you HollyW, i love your reference and all of those things ^_^

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59 minutes ago, Alexa said:

I had to repost because of the formatting.  Sorry about that.

Anyway, the article you linked to does mention this incident:

At a Washington, D.C. convention in 1935, Rutherford rejected Russell's teaching that the "great company" of Revelation 7:9 was a "secondary spiritual class" composed of millions of Christians who would be resurrected to heaven apart from the 144,000 "elect", and instead argued that the "great multitude", the "sheep" of Matthew 25 and the "Jonadabs" of 2 Kings chapter 10 all picture the people who could potentially survive Armageddon and receive everlasting human life on earth if they became Jehovah's Witnesses before it began.

The Proclaimer's book describes how the Jonadabs came about and what led to them coming to the 1935 convention:

 *** jv 83-4  7 Advertise the King and the Kingdom! (1919-1941) ***

What About the Jonadabs?

In 1932 it was explained that Jehonadab (Jonadab), King Jehu’s associate, prefigured a class of persons who would enjoy everlasting life on earth. (2 Ki. 10:15-28) The Jonadabs, as they came to be known, counted it a privilege to be associated with Jehovah’s anointed servants and to have some share with them in advertising the Kingdom. But at that time, there was no special effort to gather and organize these individuals with an earthly hope.

However, real encouragement was given to the Jonadabs in The Watchtower of August 15, 1934. The article “His Kindness” stated: “Should a Jonadab consecrate himself to the Lord and be baptized? Answer: Most assuredly it is proper for a Jonadab to consecrate himself to do the will of God. No one will ever get life without doing that. Water immersion is merely a symbol of having made a consecration [or, as we would now say, dedication] to do God’s will, and that would not be out of order.” The Jonadabs were thrilled!

Yet, even greater joy was near for them. The following spring, several issues of The Watchtower, beginning with the April 1, 1935, issue, carried this announcement: “Again The Watchtower reminds its readers that a convention of Jehovah’s witnesses and Jonadabs will be held at Washington, D.C., beginning May 30 and ending June 3, 1935.” The Jonadabs eagerly awaited the convention.

And the 1988 wt describes what happened at the convention:

*** w88 3/1 12  My Life in Jehovah's Spirit-Directed Organization ***

Early in 1935, some six months after my release from prison and return to Bethel, I recall a number of discussions at the Bethel table regarding the identity of the “great multitude.” (Revelation 7:9, 13, King James Version) Some expressed support for the view that this was a secondary heavenly class, even as the first president of the Watch Tower Society, Brother Russell, had taught. Others, however, argued that the “great multitude” consisted of those with an earthly hope. During these discussions, Brother Rutherford did not commit himself.

All of us at Bethel were excited as we traveled by special train to Washington, D.C., for the convention to be held from May 30 to June 3, 1935. On the second day of the convention, Brother Rutherford presented the thrilling news that the “great multitude” are indeed an earthly class. At the climactic moment, he asked: “Will all those who have the hope of living forever on the earth please stand?” About half of the 20,000 in attendance stood. Then Brother Rutherford proclaimed: “Behold! The great multitude!” There was a brief hush. Then we all shared in a gladsome cry, and the cheering was loud and long. The next day 840 were baptized, mostly of the earthly class.

Those designated up to this time as the great crowd would not have stood up because their hope was a heavenly one, so they sat there and listened as that heavenly hope was dashed for them by Rutherford giving their designation to the Jonadabs, a group who weren't even called Jehovah's Witnesses at the time.

 

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