Connections between Christadelphians and Russell´s Biblestudents

by oppostate 20 Replies latest watchtower beliefs

  • oppostate

    The Bible Students and the Christadelphians have a lot in common.

    I searched on Facebook...

    And look what I found:

    There´s even a group named like that.

  • Crazyguy

    They were one and the same back in the day.

  • smiddy3

    Their were so many religious groups that sprung up in the 1800 `s in America that had to do with the return of Jesus Christ and the End of The World .

    Christadelphians as a religion was founded by John Thomas in the early 1800`s and they did have similar doctrines that JW`s adopted decades later.

    Was Charles Taze Russell influenced by the teachings of John Thomas ? who came before him ? who knows .

  • blondie

    When I was searching for a religious group that did not teach a trinity, I found the Christadelphians, even correspond on e-mail with a member from their website. But this is what helped me make my decision that they were not for me at the time.

    Christadelphians believe that the Satan or Devil is not an independent spiritual being or fallen angel. Devil is viewed as the general principle of evil and inclination to sin which resides in humankind. They are convinced that, dependent on the context, the term Satan in Hebrew merely means "opponent" or "adversary" and is frequently applied to human beings. Accordingly, they do not define hell as a place of eternal torment for sinners, but as a state of eternal death respectively non-existence due to annihilation of body and mind.

    (I decided after that to stop my search for a religious group of any kind. My beliefs have evolved past that time 18 years ago)

  • Bungi Bill
    Bungi Bill

    Back in the late 1970s, I can recall a local Christadelphian making approaches to the local JW elders about some sort of merger. He was an avid reader of everything printed by the WTS, and felt that the JWs were, to quote "almost there" - so similar were the two respective beliefs.

  • Crazyguy

    It was my understanding that they were part of the Bible students of Russell then broke off after Rutherford took over , I guess I was wrong.

  • Phizzy

    Yup, they were never " in bed together". What is fascinating is that Christadelphians were, in 1919, when the "Inspection" took place, teaching much what JW's call "the truth" today, Rutherford's gang were not.

    Also the Christadelphians were truly Anti War, proper Conscientious Objectors, ever since the Civil War actually, they were a slightly larger group than the Watchtower lot at the time too.

    This begs the question, which I bet you ever get a sensible answer form a J.W to,

    : " Why did Jesus not choose the Christadelphians as the Faithful and Discreet Slave at the time ???? "

  • OrphanCrow
    Phizzy: " Why did Jesus not choose the Christadelphians as the Faithful and Discreet Slave at the time ???? "

    'Cause Joe submitted a better business plan. He bought printing presses and Jesus said "Blessed is he who can print 'the word' ."

  • joe134cd

    I have attended a christadelphian meeting. To be fair I found it probably one of the few churches where every member has a bible and can look up the scriptures. The thing that really stood out to me is how I was able to use jw speak and doctrine (something until that point I thought was just unique to the JWs ) and they knew exactly what I was talking about. It was like I had never left the KH. Both myself and slim boy fat have both posted on our experiences with the chtistadelphians. It is a dying religion - perhaps more so than the JWs. I would suggest if your really interested in finding out more that you attend a service. You will find it surprisingly fascinating as to how similar the 2 faiths are.

  • vienne

    From Separate Identity, vol 1 [ ]

    Christadelphian Connections

    A number of writers postulate a Christadelphian connection. Among more modern writers one finds repeated references to Benjamin Wilson as a Christadelphian. Russell, they say, got his ideas from Wilson’s Emphatic Diaglott, and Wilson was a Christadelphian. This is a fable. Wilson, son of an Oxford professor of Greek and an immigrant to North America, was associated first with the Campbellites. He was attracted to John Thomas’ teachings but he and Thomas quickly parted company. Thomas was bitter and vituperative. Newell Bond addressed the issue in a letter to Thomas dated October 29, 1866, pointing to Thomas’ “sarcasm and [the] sport made of others who have believed and obeyed the same Gospel.” Such “go not very far with candid, thinking men as arguments in defense of the truth,” Bond wrote. Thomas’ reply was that Wilson was “of that class I am commanded to avoid.” He called Wilson a “rabid politician” and one of “the world’s own.” “I repudiate in toto the idea of such having like precious faith with the Apostles.” Thomas did not see Wilson as a Christadelphian. Wilson repudiated the association. Not at all ashamed of his repeated ad hominem attacks, Thomas published the letters for all to read.[1]

    Because One Faith believers and Christadelphians draw from the same Literalist roots, Christadelphians speculated about a connection with Russell. Without confirming it, Christadelphian writers asserted that Russell was once “connected with the truth.”[2] When “The Photo Drama of Creation” was released, The Christadelphian described it as a “piece of apostasy from the truth from which we understand Pastor Russell was in some way connected many years ago.”[3] The editors of The Berean Christadelphain went further:

    About 50 years ago a man named Russell attended meetings of Christadelphians in Glasgow. He picked up part of the Truth and then went to America. There he started a new sect, which he called The International Bible Students' Association. Popularly its members were soon known as “Russellites” and he himself as “Pastor Russell.” We heard him on two occasions expound his ideas of religion.[4]

    These claims constitute a self-serving myth. Still, Russell was acquainted with Christadelphian theology. He used their descriptors, calling Watch Tower congregations Ecclesias and traveling evangelists Pilgrims. His topic during a speaking tour in late June 1880 was “Things Pertaining to the Kingdom of God,” a characteristically Christadelphian topic and phrasing.[5] We shouldn’t read too much into that. The topic is derived from Acts 1:3 and was used by many who were not Christadelphians. As we shall see in the next chapter, his theology was not derived from that source. It came from the Age-to-Come movement centered on The Restitution. Because the doctrines are somewhat similar and Christadelphians saw the One Faith movement as “vile,” they preferred to see themselves as the source. “He was once in touch with Christadelphains, and is much indebted to their writings for what good his system may contain,” one editor wrote.[6]

    We cannot date with any assurance Russell’s first encounter with Christadelphianism. An “old brother Cattelle” claimed to have known him “many years ago” in Allegheny or Pittsburgh. We cannot date this, nor can we identify which Cattelle this was. That leaves us with an interesting claim but no way to evaluate it. It is probable that Russell’s introduction to Christadelphian teaching came early. Adherents were often isolated and attended meetings sponsored by others with similar faith, trying to persuade them to Christadelphian belief. A. E. Williamson, a Watch Tower evangelist, recalled an example of this. He reported that he had to contend with “a Christadelphian, who seemed much incensed because the discourse was so lengthy that he could not have a good opportunity to express himself.”[7]

    John H. Thomas, a physician, moved to Pittsburgh toward the end of 1879.[8] The Christadelphian noted him as a subscriber resident in Canada in 1867. By his advent in Pittsburgh he was straddling the line between One Faith and Christadelphianism. Letters and articles from him appear in The Restitution, one of which Russell reprinted in abridged form.[9] Some of Thomas’ lectures were reissued in tract form and sold through The Restitution.

    If Russell and Thomas associated on any sort of friendly basis, that ended in 1882 with the publication of Food for Thinking Christians. A brief notice found in The Christadelphian of 1882 says that “Dr. Thomas lectured twice at Berwick, Pa., and once at Bloomsburg, Pa., at which places he did much to neutralize the influence of that subtle enemy of God’s truth, called Russellism, which is a mottled mixture of truth and Universalism.”[10] He was tarring Watch Tower belief in a fair chance for all with the brush of Universalism. There is no Universalism in “Russellism.” To The Restitution he wrote: “I am sorry to say that the believers here are tinctured a little with Russellism, which is subversive of the truth as it is in Jesus.”[11] It is interesting to note that Berwick, Pennsylvania, believers were on Russell’s speaking itinerary in June 1880.

    Thomas drew the small remnant of the original Church of God (Age-to-Come) congregation to himself, acting as its pastor. A letter from a Restitution reader noted that a “body of believers has been called out in Pittsburgh, and that they meet regularly every week” in Thomas’ home.[12] The congregation continued to have mixed views, and Thomas was willing to tolerate these. This caused controversy among his Christadelphian associates. A “brother Gunn” wrote to the editor of The Christadelphian complaining about Thomas. The main complaint seems to have been about his less than pure associates: “I had hoped that some of the brethren in the United States would have cautioned you long ago against Dr J. H. Thomas, who certainly is not sound in doctrine, and is striving to hold a position in which he can do great damage to the truth – passing as a Christadelphian and fraternizing with the vile Restitution.” A letter to the editor of The Christadelphian appearing in the April 1883 issue suggested that he seemed “to hold the truth himself, but is unprepared to exact it in every particular as the basis for fellowship with others.” R. K. Bowles, a fairly prominent One Faith adherent and contributor to The Restitution, commented on this, writing: “I think his remarks are uncharitable and I read them with regret. I do not know that I have seen all that Dr. T. has written, but what I have seen I highly commend, and hope he may prove himself worthy as a good soldier ever to the end.”[13]

    Thomas left Pittsburgh for Rochester, New York, about 1883 and the small congregation dwindled. He circulated a broadside announcing his removal to Rochester. “Read and be Wise,” it said. “Dr. J. H. Thomas & Wife (late of Pittsburg, Pa.) at the Earnest Solicitation of Friends Have Removed to this City ... They Have Established for Themselves a Widespread Reputation in the Treatment of Chronic Diseases of Every Description by Electricity.” Thomas continued to lecture on Christadelpian topics and to promote quack medicines.[14] He was as positive about his unfailing cures as he was about his religion.

    Lucius C. Thomas, John’s brother, left Pittsburgh sometime in 1882, returning in 1888 for his son’s funeral. He does not seem to have been a Christadelphian or even sympathetic to them. He was an American-born Electro-Medical Physician but a resident of Canada in 1870. The 1871 Census lists their church affiliation as “Church of God,” which would mark them as Age-to-Come (One Faith). His repeated contacts with The Restitution verify this. When his son Irving died in September 1888, G. D. Clowes preached the funeral sermon and The Restitution printed his obituary as written by his father:

    He had been an obedient and constant believer of “the gospel of Christ …” for many years. … Elder Cloughs [sic] of Allegheny City … talked to the people about ‘the hope and resurrection of the dead,’ very appropriately and ably; showing that while Atheism, Infidelity, Skepticism, Philosophy and Science can afford no comfort in the time of such bereavements and heart-rending grief, the Scriptures present us with ‘a strong consolation’ – a ‘blessed hope.’”[15]

    We do not know what connection Lucius had with Clowes or Russell. It is interesting, however, that he sought out Clowes instead of any of the Christadelphian adherents.

    The Pittsburgh Age-to-Come congregation shifted to Christadelphianism by 1893. Henry Cornman wrote to The Christadelphian in late 1893 describing a series of lectures held in Pittsburgh. They added two to their number, he explained, but numbers remained small. What interest there was in Christadelphianism was undercut by Watch Tower evangelism. Cornman wrote that, “being myself acquainted with many who have been drawn to the Russell Party, of Zion Watch Tower fame, our giving up the hall at this time would be very much deplored.” He saw the loss in numbers and worried.[16] Similar complaints continued up to Russell’s death. In 1916 The Christadelphian described “Russellism” as “the system … that has beguiled some among us.”

    One must remember that both groups were very small, and though they saw their teachings as of major consequence, they were only marginally influential as religious movements. A continuing Christadelphian complaint was that The Watch Tower drew away “the faithful.” Louis B. Welch, most often called ‘Dr. Welch,’ a dentist in Shire Oaks, Pennsylvania, bemoaned this: “There are many of the faithful who read Russell’s works, and some have allowed their minds to be bewitched by his spiritual sorceries. He is very plausible to those who do not look deeply into the truth.” The difference between Welch and Russell was Christadelphian willingness to find types and symbolisms where Russell saw only the Bible’s plain statements.[17]

    Welch wrote to Russell, trying to convert him to Christadelphian belief. He didn’t like the result:

    I know the man. I have corresponded with him. I know he is immovably fixed in his beliefs. I cannot therefore be “charitable” to his work, a work so deadly to the truth. He is the bitter, relentless enemy of the truth, though professing friendship for it. He must be treated as an enemy of the truth, and his teaching must be antagonised with all the power of truth at one’s command, regardless of how it may hurt his feelings or wound his vanity, or how it may affect those who, in any way, sympathise with his teachings.[18]

    Welch presented Russell’s teaching, which he called Watch-Towerism, as denying “the very foundation of future life and being to us” and as a deadly insult to God and His truth.” Watch-Towerism was worse than Catholicism, worse than Adventism. Welch was disturbed at the significant sympathy for Russell he found among Christadelphian believers, writing:

    And you, a brother, a Christadelphian, ask me to be charitable towards such teaching “because of the great work done” by the chief apostle of “Watch-Towerism!” Ah, brother, brother, do you know what you are asking at my hands and at the hands of others who know the length and breadth and depth of “Watch-Towerism?” God forbid that I or you or others should ever subject His truth to such a kiss of charity.

    Sympathetic voices continued to be raised among Christadelphian adherents up to Russell’s death. In 1915 The Christadelphian released two “cheap” pamphlets to counter sympathies for “Russellism, some of the tenants of which have found favour here and there in the brotherhood.” The magazine “commended” them to “those who may be inclined to be smitten with ‘charitableness’ of this plausible ‘heresy.’” Russellism was, the editor said, “a greatly perverted” system.[19]

    Russell was unquestionably familiar with Christadelphian belief. He rejected major portions of it, especially their “narrow” view of salvation. None of his doctrine is traceable to that source. Instead it comes from the One Faith movement with its similar, sometimes overlapping doctrine.

    [1] N. Bond and J. Thomas: Important Correspondence Between a Member of the Self-Styled “Church of God,” Cleveland, Ohio, and John Thomas, M. D., Christadelphian Association, Detroit, Michigan, 1867. Wilson repudiated Christadelphian connections in an interview with J. Bohnet published in the April 4, 1916, issue of The Saint Paul, Minnesota, Enterprise.

    [2] The Christadelphian, Digital Edition, 1913, 50:359.

    [3] The Christadelphian, Digital Edition, 1915, 52:324.

    [4] C. G. Denny and B. J. Dowling: “Turned Unto Fables,” The Berean Christadelphian, December 1940, page 417.

    [5] C. T. Russell: The Editor’s Eastern Trip, Zion’s Watch Tower, June 1880, page 8.

    [6] The Christadelphian, Digital Edition, 1918, 55:450-455.

    [7] Williamson in 1907 Convention Report, part 2.

    [8] Because there is no date associated with J. H. Thomas’ article as it appeared in Zion’s Watch Tower, some have confused him with the similarly named founder of the Christadelphians who died in 1871.

    [9] J. H. Thomas: The Creditability of Scripture – Extracts from an Address by Dr. J. H. Thomas before the “Liberal League” (an Infidel Society) of this City, Zion’s Watch Tower, June 1881, page 3. The full lecture appears in the May 18, 1881, issue of The Restitution. See the June 1, 1881, issue for an advertisement for the lecture in pamphlet form. We could not locate a copy of the pamphlet,

    [10] The Christadelphian¸ Digital Edition, 1882 19:192-193.

    [11] J. H. Thomas to Editor of The Restitution in the February 22, 1882, issue.

    [12] Samuel Wilson to Editor of The Restitution in the November 8, 1882, issue. S. Wilson attributed the information to L. C. Thomas, a Pittsburgh physician and John H. Thomas’ brother.

    [13] Gunn’s complaint is found in the January 1882 issue of The Christadelphian. Bowles’ letter is found in the May 23, 1883, issue of The Restitution.

    [14] The only copy of the broadside known to us is in the medical library of the University of Rochester, New York. Thomas claimed to be able to unfailingly cure asthma with a formula of Nitrite of Amyl, lobelia, skunk cabbage and blood root. [Claims to Cure Asthma, The Medical World, June 1906, page 219.] Sermon notices appear in various New York state newspapers.

    [15] L. C. Thomas: Death of Irving O. Thomas, The Restitution¸ September 19, 1888.

    [16] The Christadelphian, Digital Edition, 1894, 31:208.

    [17] The Christadelphian, Digital Edition, 1891, 28:130-131. Welch wrote at least one pamphlet, The Recovered Truth in the Latter Days. He patented several inventions, including a carriage break. He was an explorer of sorts and a fossil find was named after him. Before moving to Pennsylvania, he lived in Wilmington, Ohio, where he and his son had a dental practice. – Dr. Chas. Welch, The Dental Cosmos, November 1900. page 1236.

    [18] The Christadelphian, Digital Edition, 1894, 31:428-431.

    [19] The Christadelphian, Digital Edition, 1915, 52:324.

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