Was Charles Russell delusional or just a con artist?
I've seen him referred to as both on this forum.
Did he sincerely believe that he was an inspired prophet whose end-time predictions and biblical interpretations came from god? Or was he just a shrewd businessman who saw a market of disillusioned Christians who believed that Armageddon was imminent that he could exploit?
I personally lean toward the latter.
Probably a bit of both. Things are hardly black and white. From what I've learned since waking up, it seems as though the cult started out much more benign under CTR. It wasn't till the Rutherford took over that things started getting super culty and oppressive. I tend to think that Rutherford was a con-man who'd deluded himself into believing he was doing god's work just so he could sleep at night. Not a particularly unique story.
I too personally lean toward the latter. Because an impartial and balanced reading of the Bible would reveal it is like a wild forest with a few fragrant flowers here and there, yet dedicating oneself to such a book, can't be for a divine cause!
Russell was got up in the Adventist theology of the time influenced by ones such as publisher Nelson Barbour and at one time was the co-editor
of the Herald magazine. These two separated with conflicting ideologies concerning the return of Christ and his presence and Russell went
on his own publishing Zion's Watchtower.
I think there was impart some individualistic ego present which drove him to start his own published magazine contained with his own idealogical thoughts.
Maybe he thought that this could also resolve into a business opportunity as well, as its known both Barbour and Russell had business back grounds.
A bit of info about the two ...
As 1873 approached, various groups began advocating it as significant. Jonas Wendell led one, another centered on the magazine The Watchman's Cry and the rest were associated with Barbour. British Barbourites were represented by Elias H. Tuckett, a clergyman. Many gathered at Terry Island to await the return of Christ in late 1873. Barbour and others looked to the next year, which also proved disappointing.
Led by Benjamin Wallis Keith, an associate of Barbour's since 1867, the group adopted the belief in a two-stage, initially invisible presence. They believed that Christ had indeed come in 1874 and would soon become visible for judgments. Barbour started a magazine in the fall of 1873 to promote his views, calling it The Midnight Cry. It was first issued as a pamphlet, with no apparent expectation of becoming a periodical. He quickly changed the name to Herald of the Morning, issuing it monthly from January 1874.
In December 1875, Charles Taze Russell, then a businessman from Allegheny, received a copy of Herald of the Morning. He met the principals in the Barbourite movement and arranged for Barbour to speak in Philadelphia in 1876. Barbour and Russell began their association, during which Barbour wrote the book Three Worlds (1877) and published a small booklet by Russell entitled Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return. Beginning in 1878, they each wrote conflicting views on Ransom and Atonement doctrine. By May 3, 1879, Russell wrote that their "points of variance seem to me to be so fundamental and important that... I feel that our relationship should cease." In a May 22, 1879 letter to Barbour, Russell explicitly resigned: "Now I leave the 'Herald' with you. I withdraw entirely from it, asking nothing from you . . . Please announce in next No. of the 'Herald' the dissolution and withdraw my name [as assistant editor on the masthead]." In July 1879, Russell began publishing Zion's Watch Tower, the principal journal of the Bible Student movement. (Several years after Russell's death, the magazine became associated with Jehovah's Witnesses and was renamed The Watchtower.)
By 1883 Barbour abandoned belief in an invisible presence and returned to more standard Adventist doctrine. He had organized a small congregation in Rochester in 1873. At least by that year he left Adventism for Age-to-Come faith, a form of British Literalism. He changed the name of the congregation to Church of the Strangers. In later years the congregation associated with Mark Allen's Church of the Blessed Hope and called themselves Restitutionists. A photo of Nelson Barbour appeared in the Rochester Union and Advertiser in October 1895.
Barbour intermittently published Herald of the Morning until at least 1903, occasionally issuing statements critical of C. T. Russell. He wrote favorably though cautiously that he was persuaded 1896 was the date for Christ's visible return, an idea that had grown out of the Advent Christian Church. The last date set by Barbour for Christ's return was 1907.
So from Russell's history we can see that he was indeed caught up in adventist theology but he was also caught up in attracting the publics attention
from his own theological teachings, thinking how compelling they were, he decided to sell them to the public by giving public talks and producing his own literature.
But like all of these proselytizing religious charlatans past and present and even the ones before his time such a William Miller, publishing a book with these engaging
theological thoughts concerning the return of Christ were more based from emotion rather than strict adherence to the bible's writings and interpretations.
Those compelling instilled emotions which were originally created by Russell were exploited by the WTS. throughout the 20th century right up to this day
in the present JW religion.
Making money off Geezus, what a novel idea.....
i think he made some mistakes
In writing my last book, I did more in-depth reading on the early life and family of Russell than I ever did before.
He was a momma's boy who lost his momma when he was less than 10 years old.
He had a horror of Hell and really wanted to find a way to escape it. He took the buffet, cherry-pick style of approach.
He was taught how to handle money and make it grow at a very early age.
I believe he began as naive about god/Bile/doctrine.
He sought the company of lunatic-fringe religionists with quirky ideas.
I truly believe he was a Narcissist who rapidly developed a way to nurse others into glowing admiration for him.
His business dealings in setting up dummy corporations to escape notice of ownership strongly indicates his character more than
anything else. He pumped out a great deal of $. If you plug in the figures (available on the Bible Student's websites) into the inflation converter (year and amount=) it is obvious he was a millionaire.
The manner in which he dealt with his wife, Maria, is despicable.
His downfall was the hero-worship he received by women wherever he went.
He was deeply conflicted about sex--that much is revealing.
There was never any scriptural reason for him to refuse to have sexual relations with his wife. I believe it was about power; he controlled everything with an icy cold obsession.
He was not above changing predictions, facts, figures, dates and such.
I believe he saw how emotionally and intellectually stunted ADVENTISTS were in the hang up about END TIMES speculations.
He encouraged their obesssions.
He toyed and dabbled and pontificated and fed his enormous "humble" ego.
I wish there really was a hell.
If anybody deserved a tour of duty there, it is Charles Taze Russell!
Now, wouldn't that be irony!
Deluded...and he would role over in his grave to see the fruit of that delusion.
In regards to religious charlatanism , yes the return of Christ has proven itself a marketable commodity.
The WTS publishing house went about identifying who and what was the evil that Jesus would destroy, making their organization
among the good and righteous to whom God would save , creating their own devout supporting followers.
In reflection the JWS would never have existed if it weren't for C T Russell's aggressive pursuit to promote his own alluring theological ideology.
The accumulative ending result which came from his endeavors is a world wide billion dollar religious publishing Corporation.
Goes to show the power of the press.