I've noticed quite a few dissidents of Jehovah's Organization that have left with some fixation on Jehovah's Witnesses concept of “new light.” I really don't understand. The antiquity of religion may be historically educational, but not always personally illuminating.
The concept of "new light" is perfectly reasonable to me:
Your word is a lamp to my foot, And a light to my roadway. Psalm 119:105
But the path of the righteous ones is like the bright light that is getting lighter and lighter until the day is firmly established. Proverbs 4:18
Some important developments took place in the first few decades as Jehovah's Organization got its start and before it was firmly established. The first few decades began the ascension out of Christendom. It took several hundred years for Christendom's churches to descend into apostasy and some time to reverse the apostasy that blocked the way to God.
This Time of the End, or day of Jehovah preparation beginning A. D. 1799 and closing A.D. 1914, though characterized by a great increase of knowledge over all past ages, is to culminate in the greatest time of trouble the world has ever known; but it is nevertheless preparing for and leading into that blessed time so long promised, when the true Kingdom of God, under the control of the true Christ, will fully establish an order of government the very reverse of that of Antichrist. Thy Kingdom Come 1st Edition - 1891 Page 59
Apostasy—The Way to God Blocked
WHY are Christendom’s first 400 years of history so important? For the same reason that the first few years of a child’s life are important—because they are the formative years when the foundation is laid for the future personality of the individual. What do Christendom’s early centuries reveal?
The Seduction of Philosophy
Historian Will Durant explains: “The Church took over some religious customs and forms common in pre-Christian [pagan] Rome—the stole and other vestments of pagan priests, the use of incense and holy water in purifications, the burning of candles and an everlasting light before the altar, the worship of the saints, the architecture of the basilica, the law of Rome as a basis for canon law, the title of Pontifex Maximus for the Supreme Pontiff, and, in the fourth century, the Latin language . . . Soon the bishops, rather than the Roman prefects, would be the source of order and the seat of power in the cities; the metropolitans, or archbishops, would support, if not supplant, the provincial governors; and the synod of bishops would succeed the provincial assembly. The Roman Church followed in the footsteps of the Roman state.”—The Story of Civilization: Part III—Caesar and Christ.
Such an attitude left the way open for Greek philosophy and terminology to infiltrate Christendom’s teachings, especially in the fields of Trinitarian doctrine and the belief in an immortal soul. As Wolfson states: “The [church] Fathers began to look in the stockpile of philosophic terminology for two good technical terms, of which one would be used as a designation of the reality of the distinctness of each member of the Trinity as an individual and the other would be used as a designation of their underlying common unity.” Yet, they had to admit that “the conception of a triune God is a mystery which cannot be solved by human reason.” In contrast, Paul had clearly recognized the danger of such contamination and ‘perversion of the good news’ when he wrote to the Galatian and Colossian Christians: “Look out: perhaps there may be someone who will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy [Greek, phi·lo·so·phi′as] and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.”—Galatians 1:7-9; Colossians 2:8; 1 Corinthians 1:22, 23. -Mankind’s Search for God, chap. 11 pp. 261-265
Critics of Jehovah's Witnesses will often zero in on the early development of the organization for any flaws without taking into consideration the environment that surrounded Charles Taze Russell and his contemporaries. There wasn't the kind of guidance as explained in Acts 8:26-31:
However, Jehovah’s angel spoke to Philip, saying: “Rise and go to the south to the road that runs down from Jerusalem to Ga′za.” (This is a desert road.) With that he rose and went, and, look! an E·thi·o′pi·an eunuch, a man in power under Can·da′ce queen of the E·thi·o′pi·ans, and who was over all her treasure. He had gone to Jerusalem to worship, but he was returning and was sitting in his chariot and reading aloud the prophet Isaiah. So the spirit said to Philip: “Approach and join yourself to this chariot.” Philip ran alongside and heard him reading aloud Isaiah the prophet, and he said: “Do you actually know what you are reading?” He said: “Really, how could I ever do so, unless someone guided me?” And he entreated Philip to get on and sit down with him. Acts 8:26-31
There were Christendom's Churches, the polytheistic religions in various eastern cultures and some new religious movements such as the Seventh-day Adventists, a group the early Bible students distanced themselves from:
“The Second Advent Church” people, and many in other denominations, interested in the Lord’s coming and expecting him in the flesh, have turned their attention to 1881, and feel confident that they will see Jesus with their natural eyes this year. Their hopes are based partly upon an old rhyme called “Mother Shipton's prophecy,” which concludes:
“The world unto an end will come,
In eighteen hundred and eighty-one.” The WATCH TOWER never claimed that the body of Christ (congregation of Christ) will be changed to spiritual beings during this year. There is such a change do sometime. We have not attempted to say when, but have repeatedly said that it could not take place before the fall of 1881. -Zion's Watch Tower May 1881 p. 5-6
Using the term "new light" is appropriate upon acquiring new understanding, especially in terms of prophecy and how the Bible relates to world events. This was possible for these men only because of the fulfillment of the promises about guidance by God’s holy spirit. (Joh 15:26, 27) God's spirit wasn't the seal of infallibility, but such help enabled them to recall Jesus’ instructions and teachings, to clarify points of doctrine, and to be progressively guided “into all the truth” revealed to them at that time period.