Charles Taze Russell was born in 1852. He is the founder of the so-called “Bible Student Movement” of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. The followers of Russell deny the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Charles Taze Russell was brought up in a Presbyterian/Congregationalist setting and leaned toward Unitarianism which is the natural progression of Calvinism. Unitarianism denies the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Where Calvinism teaches that the infinite God cannot be found in the finite bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, Unitarianism takes this line of logic to the next step maintaining that the infinite God cannot be found in the finite body and blood of Jesus.
Notice the direct correlation between a proper understanding of Christology (the person and work of Christ) with a proper understanding of the Lord’s Supper instituted by Christ. The Son says, “This is My body and this is My blood” and it is. When we receive the Lord’s Supper, we receive the body and the bread, the blood and the wine. The Father says, “This is My Son” and He is. When we receive the Lord Jesus Christ, we receive both His humanity and His divinity. The two natures of Christ cannot be separated.
Just as the line of logic promoted by Calvinism led the Unitarians to deny the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, it also led Russell to the same conclusion. The result is that Russell and his students teach a different Jesus than the one proclaimed by the apostles. The Apostle Paul warns his students in Corinth saying,
But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.(2 Cor. 11:3–4, ESV)
In the 1800’s there were many false teachers proclaiming a different Jesus and a different spirit. Not only do the students of Russell deny that Jesus is coessential, coeternal, and coequal with the Father, they also teach the Holy Spirit is merely God’s active force. Their view on the Holy Spirit flows from their teaching that Jehovah is not omnipresent and needs an active force to be able to act throughout creation.
In 1916, Charles Taze Russell died. After his death, his students split into a variety of factions such as the Pastoral Bible Institute, Watchers of the Morning, the Dawn Bible Students Association, the Christian Millennial Fellowship, the Stand Fast Bible Students Assocaition, the Elijah Voice Society, the Servants of Yah, the Angel of Jehovah Bible and Tract Society, the Berean Bible Institute (Australia), New Covenant Fellowship, the Christian Truth Institute, the New Covenant Believers, and the Watchtower organization (Jehovah’s Witnesses). SOURCE
This last group was led by Judge Rutherford who was a student of Russell. The schism amongst the “Bible Students” was the result of disagreements with Rutherford. It is said that only about a quarter of the students of Russell continued to follow Rutherford. Nevertheless, of all of these splinter groups, the largest and most common are the students of the Watchtower organization. They are commonly known as the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Most likely, you have come across one of their magazines: 1.) The Watchtower 2.) Awake
Watchtower organization utilizes a teaching technique in which their publication make assertions, provide multiple proof texts from the Bible, and engage the reader with leading questions based upon common sense. For example, they may assert that there is only one God and his name is Jehovah. Jesus never claimed to be Jehovah. Then they quote a Bible passage such as 1 Timothy 2:5 as found in their own translation, “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man Christ Jesus.” Next, they would ask a question such as, “Is it reasonable to say that Jesus is God if he is the one mediator between God and men?”
Please note that the Watchtower organization has developed a method of interpretation and translation that “proves” that their teaching is from the Bible. At this point, we must comment on the problem with “proof texting.” This method is employed to “biblically support” a teaching. Understand that first an organization starts with a premise and second it gathers a lists of Bible verses to prove the truth of their premise.
This was the method that was employed by Ulrich Zwingli with his debates against the Luther regarding the Lord’s Supper. Zwingli started off with a premise that the Lord’s Supper is just a symbolic mean and then he gathered an army of verses to prove that God uses symbolism in the Bible to support his premise. The method of interpretation used by Zwingli was to read the text symbolically.
Luther, on the other hand, wanted to start off with the Biblical text and read it as it has been given. Jesus “took bread and when He had given thanks he broke and gave it to His disciples and said, “Take eat. This is My body which is given for you.” What does this mean? The bread that Jesus gave to His disciples to eat is the body of Jesus. The method of interpretation used by Luther was to read the text as intended by the one who spoke/wrote the words.
Zwingli employed the technique of proof texting. Again, this method starts with a teaching and then quotes Bible passages to support the teaching by using reason and common sense. If God uses symbolism to teach us, then it is reasonable that he would use symbolism in teaching us about the Lord Supper. This is the same system of reasoning that Arius used in the early church regarding the person of Christ. Arius taught that the Son of God is a created being who did not exist from eternity. His method of proof was to quote Bible passages that declared that the Father sent the Son. Then Arius and his students would argue that it is reasonable to believe that there was a time when the Son did not exist. After all, first there has to be a father before there is a son. A son comes after a father in time. It cannot be the other way around.
On the other hand, Athanasius and his students would approach the topic differently. They wanted to know what God had revealed in the scriptures. They desired to look at a text and ask the question, “What does this mean?” If the Holy Spirit teaches us through the mouths of the apostles that Jesus is the Only Begotten of the Father, what does this mean? Well, it means that Son is God of God, begotten not made, being of the same essence of the Father. He is light of light and True God of True God.
Like Zwingli and Arius, the Watchtower organization starts with a premise. They teach that Jesus is not Jehovah. Then they come up with a false system of proof texting to prove that their teaching is from the Bible. The system works like this
- Jesus is not Jehovah
- Jesus never claims to be Jehovah
- The prophets and apostle do not teach that Jesus is Jehovah
- In the Greek language, when the word “theos” (god) is referring to Jehovah it uses the definite article which would be translated as “the God.” The God is Jehovah.
- When the word “theos” (god) is referring to Jesus it does not use the definite article which would be translated as “a god.” A god is not Jehovah.
After establishing their teaching and method of interpretation, they quote a multitude of verses to “prove” their teaching comes from the Bible. This system was developed for one purpose. This method of interpretation and translation is utilized to prove that Jesus is not Jehovah. Here is the place in which we can see a huge flaw in “proof texting.” You can prove that any teaching comes from the Bible if you use the appropriate method of interpretation. It is like watching a movie that is based upon a true story.
For example, we can use the Watchtower method of interpretation and translation to prove that the person of the Father of Jesus is not Jehovah either.
- The Father of Jesus is not Jehovah
- The Father of Jesus never claims to be Jehovah
- The prophets and apostle do not teach that the Father of Jesus is Jehovah
- In the Greek language, when the word “theos” (god) is referring to Jehovah, it uses the definite article which would be translated as “the God.” The God is Jehovah.
- When the word “theos” (god) is referring to the Father of Jesus ,it does not use the definite article which would be translated as “a god.” A god is not Jehovah.
Like the Watchtower, we could quote a multitude of verses from the Bible to prove this premise using their method of interpretation and translation.
The method of biblical interpretation and translation used by the Watchtower organization is pure deception. Understand that the method of interpretation was developed by the Watchtower organization to prove that their teaching is from the Bible. The devil is a deceiver and a liar. He promotes a different Jesus than the Jesus proclaimed by the apostles. Satan is actively at work blinding the unbeliever and misguiding the believer. The devil used the trick of “proof texting” to “prove” that Jesus was not the Son of God in Matthew chapter four. He started off with a premise that Jesus is not the Son of God. Then he mixing in leading questions combined with “poof texts” to “prove” his false teaching.
However, if one reads Matthew chapter four in the context flowing from what was revealed in the previous chapter, one will learn that Jesus in deed is the Son of God. At the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River, it was the Holy Spirit who anointed Him as the Christ and the voice of the Father who declared Him to be His Son.
While Satan trains his students to ask the question, “Did God really say what the text says?,” the Holy Spirit is at work in the baptized teaching them to ask the question, “What is God revealing to me in this text?” The Apostle John declares, “We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:6, ESV) Jesus says, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”” (John 8:31–32, ESV) Take note that Jesus did not say, “You are truly My disciples if you proof text your own teachings.” Instead, Jesus instructs us as His students to abide in His word. To abide in His word, is to remain in it.