Russell's Opinion on Organizations

Norman Hovland

Charles Taze Russell was no doubt a very religious man, and as such as prone to superstition as religious people today. As we know he had some really weird ideas about the pyramids and sexuality. On the subject of "organizing" and religious organizations he also had very clear views. If he had been alive today, he would very promptly have been disfellowshipped for expressing his ideas about organizations. Just take a look at some of the things the Watchtower wrote in his time:

"Beware of "organization." It is wholly un-necessary. The Bible will be the only rules you need. Do not seek to bind other consciences, and do not permit others to bind yours. Believe and obey so far as you can understand God's word today, and so continue to growing in grace and knowledge day by day." (Zion's Watch Tower, 1895, p. 216.)

"In view of these facts and also of the nature of the harvest work, and the addition. In fact that each one so gathered is expected to enter into the harvest work as a reaper, and will do so to the extent of his ability and opportunity, it is plain that the forming of a visible organization of such gathered out ones would be out of harmony with the spirit of the divine plan; and, it done, would seem to indicate on the part of the Church a desire to conform to the now popular idea of organization or confederacy. (See Isa. 8:12.) ... While, therefore, we do not esteem a visible organization of the gathered ones to be a part of the Lord's plan in the harvest work, as though we expected as an organization to abide here for another age, we do esteem it to be his will that those that love the Lord should speak often one to another of their common hopes and joys, or trials and perplexities, communing together concerning the precious things of his Word, and so help one another, and not forget the assembling of themselves together as the manner of some is; and so much the more as they see the day approaching. -- Mal. 3: 16; Heb. 10:25." (Zion's Watch Tower, 1894, p. 384.)

In the next quote from Zion's Watch Tower we can see how the churches had made "fatal mistakes". Of course Russell had no idea that his successor J. F. Rutherford would make the same "fatal mistake" only a few years later:

"There is no organization today clothed with such divine authority to imperiously command mankind. There is no organization doing this today; though we are well aware that many of them in theory claim that they ought to be permitted to do so; and many more would like to do so. This was the fatal mistake into which the Church began to fall in the second century; and the effort to realize this false conception culminated in the boastful, imperious counterfeiting of the coming Kingdom in Papacy, which for centuries sought to dominate the world, by claimed "divine authority". This idea more or less pervaded and poisoned the ideas of all the Protestant "clergy" as well; who copying Papacy's false ideas of the Church, claim also that the Church of Christ is now organized, though they now make less boastful claims to "divine authority" to teach and rule mankind in general, that the Papacy does." (Zion's Watch Tower, 1893, page 266.)

Few organizations today have made more boastful claims of "divine authority" than the Watchtower organization. As we can see in the next quote the "natural man" (worldly) would naturally think of an organization as a good thing, but of course Russell and his followers were spiritual men and did not have any need for such a secular idea:

"Q. Could not an earnest, aggressive organization (or sect), built upon Scriptural lines, be the best means of spreading and publish the real good tidings...

A. We believe that a visible organization and the adopting of some particular name would tend to increase the numbers and make us appear more respectable in the estimation of the world. The natural man can see that a visibly organized body, with a definite purpose, is a thing of more or less power [...] But the natural man cannot understand how a company of people, with no organization which they can see, is ever going to accomplish anything." (Zion's Watch Tower, 1883, page 6.)

Again, Russell had no way of knowing that the Watchtower Society would later be directed by the most "natural man" of them all.