Charles Taze Russell

The “Seven Thunders” of Millennial Dawn—Part 2


Transcript of OnionUnlimited podcast episode 020

HELLO AND WELCOME TO EPISODE 20 OF ONIONUNLIMITED—THE PODCAST. I’m your host, Daniel Torridon. In this episode, I continue my review of the 1928 booklet The “Seven Thunders” of Millennial Dawn by Methodist minister, B H Shadduck. 

In 1926, Shaddock proposed a public debate with the foremost proponents of Watch Tower. However, they learned that he had in his possession earlier editions of the Millennial Dawn books by Charles Taze Russell, along with the later editions where Watch Tower had changed the failed date predictions. Fearing that he would expose their jiggery-pokery, Watch Tower refused to meet with Shadduck unless he put down a bond of $500 which he would forfeit if he used any of their literature against them. In the “Seven Thunders” booklet there is a copy of the handwritten note from Watch Tower that detailed the bond request. It reads as follows:

Obviously, Shadduck refused these ridiculous terms and The “Seven Thunders” was his written response. On page 5 of his booklet, Shadduck tells the history of the Watch Tower movement and its relationship to Millerism in very accurate terms:

Isn’t it interesting that Shadduck identified Millerism as a cult? Yet he gave credit where credit was due insofar as William Miller—when his prediction for Christ’s return in 1844 was found to be in error—[he] did not try to “insert other dates and perpetuate the mistake”. This is where Russell went wrong. He simply took Millers 1844 date for the return of Christ and added 30 years to it. 1874 became the beginning of the “great tribulation” and Christ’s return. Obviously, nothing had happened in 1874 and so Russell claimed that Christ’s return was invisible, which meant it was unfalsifiable. It was also pretty darn hard to prove by any real facts. Instead, Russell used a number of convoluted calculations based on obscure portions of the Bible, as well as measurements of the Great Pyramid of Giza.

On page 17, under the heading “Changing the Pyramid” Shadduck makes this observation:

Amazing! So when the World War broke out in 1914—because this seemed to fit the “great tribulation” better than 1844—the book was altered from 1844 to 1914, but the publication date in the front of the book was still displayed as pre-1914, thus making it look like Russell had predicted the First World War! Very sneaky!—and even sneakier, 41 inches were added to the length of the passage in the pyramid to make the calculation still work. Shadduck could see these dishonest changes because he had two versions of the Millennial Dawn volume, but anyone with just the later version would have thought Russell had predicted the First World War! It’s not dissimilar to what Watchtower did in 1989 when they changed the bound volume text of a previously released Watchtower predicting that the preaching work “would be completed in our 20th century” to “in our day”. 

Returning to the thought that the Bible Students were a cult, on page 6 under the heading “Are the Followers of Russell a Sect?” Shadduck writes:

One of the definitions Jehovah’s Witnesses use to define cults is that they follow a human leader. Although Jehovah’s Witnesses claim to follow only Jesus as their leader that really isn’t true. Just as Shadduck noted back in 1928, the Bible Students—and it’s the same for Jehovah’s Witnesses today—followed men. The only difference is back then they followed one man and now they follow eight in the form of the governing body. Witnesses may object, but objecting doesn’t change the facts. When you read quotations such as this one in The Watchtower November 15, 2013 p. 20 it becomes very clear that Jehovah’s Witnesses do, indeed, follow human leaders. It reads: “All of us must be ready to obey any instructions we may receive, whether these appear sound from a strategic or human standpoint or not.” Now, they may argue that the “instructions” are coming from God, but that just makes it worse. That means the governing body is presuming to speak for God which, when you take into account that their end-time predictions have continually failed, makes them a false prophet.

Shadduck makes a very interesting point when he notes that Watch Tower’s doctrines couldn’t have been true because if they were multiple people and groups around the world would have come to similar conclusions—and made similar mistakes. Obviously, there are some early links to Millerism because that’s where Barbour, and later Russell, got their ideas from, but beyond that, no other group in the world, as far as I’m aware of, has ever agreed with Jehovah’s Witnesses’ date predictions—1878, 1881, 1914, 1925, 1975 are all unique beliefs, and they are unique because they’re not only wrong but not what any honest Bible reader would conclude unless they were trying to make things fit. It reminds me of Daniel 11:14 which says that “ones among [God’s] people [would] be carried along to try making a vision come true; but they will stumble.”

The point Shadduck is making is that Watch Tower, even back in 1928, was a cult with a human leader and very strange ideas. Nothing has changed. As the years progressed, after Rutherford, Knorr, and Franz, Watch Tower swapped its prominent “president” for a governing body, but all they’ve done is give themselves eight human leaders to idolise, and they do. The governing body today is viewed as God’s spokesperson on earth, as the “faithful and discreet slave” appointed by Jesus in 1919, and as an unquestionable source of truth.

This is not like the obsession with Russell back in the day. Volume 7 of Millennial Dawn really highlights this. Russell’s name is mentioned 232 times in The Finished Mystery alone, a point Shadduck picks up on on page 6 of his booklet. How similar that is to the way, today, the governing body are promoted. When I was a Jehovah’s Witness I would sometimes count the number of times the “governing body” or “faithful and discreet slave” were mentioned in talks at the meeting. Then I would compare it to the number of times “Jesus” was mentioned. It was so clear that the governing body was viewed as the authority—this for a group claiming to follow Jesus, not human leaders.

The “Seven Thunders” notes that The Finished Mystery, published after Russell’s death, applies much of Revelation to Russell. Russell is interpreted to be an angel in heaven offering incense in Revelation 8:3. He is the “seventh angel” in chapter 10, the “man in linen” in Ezekiel’s prophesy, and the “loud voice” in Revelation 10:3, 16:1, and 18:2. Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses apply the latter verses to Jesus, Jehovah, and an angel in heaven respectively. They will say it was “new light” that led them to this “clarified belief”, but Shadduck, a Methodist minister, was questioning their application to Russell all the way back in 1928. He wrote on page 7 of The “Seven Thunders”:

It’s very clear when reading The Finished Mystery, that although credited on page 144 as a “Posthumus Work of Pastor Russell”, it was really nothing of the sort. It was pieced together by his admirers using some of his unfinished study notes. Russell’s colleagues Clayton J Woodworth and George H Fisher wrote most of the book, and it was edited by none other than Russell’s successor J F Rutherford. Yet it was claimed to be channelled from Russell himself, from “beyond the veil”. How that worked is anyone’s guess. Ironically, page 5 of The Finished Mystery claims that “Pastor Russell was a man of unusual modesty”, so modest it would seem that he felt the need to mention his own name 232 times and apply scriptures about Jesus, God, and the angels to himself!

On page 7 of The “Seven Thunders”, Shadduck notes how The Finished Mystery claimed that “in 1878 the stewardship of the things of God, the teachings of Bible truths, was taken from the clergy, unfaithful to their age-long stewardship, and given to Pastor Russell.” In 1881, Russell became, according to The Finished Mystery “God’s watchman for all Christendom”. It’s much the same today with the governing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses. At one time they applied the “faithful and discreet slave” to all anointed Christians on earth, but since 2012 they’ve assumed that role themselves. They now view themselves as the steward, and as Geoffrey Jackson proclaimed during the Australian Royal Commission investigation into organisational child abuse, “Guardians Of Doctrine” or G.O.D. for short.

On page 20 of The “Seven Thunders”, Shadduck poses the question “Was Mr Russell Sincere?” This is what he wrote:

If you were to take this 93-year-old quotation and replace “Mr Russell” for “Stephen Lett”, or “Anthony Morris III”, or “David Splane”, or—you get the point—it would highlight the exact same problem that exists with the governing body today. Are they sincere? I don’t know. They may think they are sincere, but one thing is certain—they are continuing to “bolster up a discredited movement”—and that, as Shadduck notes, takes some level of dishonesty, if only on an unconscious level.

I believe the governing body should come clean. They should throw up their hands and admit that their “unique interpretations of the Bible” are simply false. 1914 is wrong. 1919 is wrong. The application of the “faithful and discreet slave” to themselves is wrong. There’s no “overlapping generation” that will “by no means pass away”. They are not appointed or anointed, by anyone other than themselves and the organisation that continues to “maintain and justify an untenable position rather than admit defeat”. They have become the “champion wrong guessers” of the 21st century, and as time passes more and more people are realising this and just walking away from Jehovah’s Witnesses. Meanwhile, the governing body will, no doubt, continue to try to save their false doctrines with “as little confession of error as possible”.

Now, die-hard Jehovah’s Witnesses will say “You’re just being negative. We don’t teach 1925 anymore. God has refined us”, but that’s not the point. The point is that Watch Tower from the outset was a cult, with a human leader, giving false prophecies. He may have been admired, even worshipped, by his followers, but as Jesus said in Matthew 7:15-20: “Be on the watch for the false prophets… By their fruits you will recognize them… A good tree cannot bear worthless fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce fine fruit.” Shadduck showed the Watch Tower “tree” to be rotten from the beginning. Nothing true could ever come from it because it was built on lies. In recent years, the governing body has made attempts to distance itself from Russell, saying now that he was never part of the “faithful and discreet slave”, and yet in the 2021 Annual Meeting, it was stated that Russell, even after his death, was helping to direct the organisation—an organisation that continues to teach a failed 1914 doctrine as the very basis for their end-time predictions.

There’s really no way to present the Watch Tower’s dodgy origins in anything but a negative light, not if honesty is important to a person. As Shadduck highlighted 93 years ago, Watch Tower was—and still is—a cult, its leader was a false prophet, just as the governing body is today, and its teachings were—and still are—unscriptural.

That’s all for this time. Thanks for listening again. Join me next time as I consider in more detail the numerous changes that were made to the Millennial Dawn books to hide Russell’s errors.

Further reading