Tobias from the other side of the globe penned a long and thoughtful post on religion. I commented about something or other, and he responded with:
Personally, I don't believe the Jehovah's Witnesses. I'm more inclined toward the Protestant (maybe Presbyterian) view, but that's just my belief.
Russell did make several mistakes, after all, declaring 1874 as the Second Coming of Christ and World War I in 1914 as Armageddon. He was wrong on both counts.
Like I said, it all eventually comes down to your interpretation of the Bible.
Dear Tobias from the Other Side of the Globe:
It may seem odd to you, but I don't regard the mistakes you mentioned as very serious wrongs. Embarrassing, yes. But not so serious as to disqualify Russell as a genuine Christian, or the movement he founded. After all, we all know that humans are imperfect. And we all know (I think) that Christians are instructed by our Lord to "keep on the watch" concerning his return. For example:
Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man............Luke 21:36
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour...........Matt 25:13
Okay, okay, so we may not know the day and the hour. But to nail the year has proven an irresistible temptation. Not just for us, but for many - even the esteemed Sir Isaac Newton, still thought by many to be the greatest scientist who ever lived. He foretold all would end in 2060, a date which the discerning reader will note, lies yet before us.
Combine Jesus' words with human imperfection, and it is not so hard to understand that a genuine Christian might jump the gun on occasion. Their mistake is not that of issuing a prophesy, which would make them (gulp) false prophets. Instead, they misinterpret an existing prophesy. A different thing altogether, not unlike misreading a bus schedule. A perfect person will not misread a bus schedule. An imperfect one sometimes will.
Frankly, you could even turn it around and count the failed dates as a plus. If we really are to "keep on the watch," as Jesus said, what are we to say about a group who never even comes close to anticipating a time for Jesus' return - indeed, who never even thinks of it? Aren't they sleeping on the job? After all, the guy high up on the mast, peering into the mist for all he is worth, ready to sound the alarm at the approach of an enemy ship - well, he may sound off prematurely once or twice. The stakes are high. He wants to not let his shipmates down. He's been charged by the captain to keep a sharp eye on things.
But the guy who is sound asleep up there will never issue a false alarm. He also won't issue a true alarm. When the bow of the approaching ship smashes through the hull and pinches his toes....that's when he'll sound the alarm. Who's the better watchman?
Or the racer on the blocks who jumps the gun. It's a great nuisance. They have to restart the race. But nobody holds it against him - so long as it's occasional. They realize it's a consequence of an imperfect person "keeping on the watch." Now, there are probably some racers who never jump the gun. But they never win any races, either.
No, a failed "Armageddon date is not such a bad thing. Nor has it been especially common. In my lifetime, it's happened only once, in 1975. So just how many times have Jehovah's Witnesses foretold the end of this system of things, anyhow? Well, there is the aforementioned 1975, which I've written about here.
And there are the dates 1874 and 1914, which Tobias mentioned, and which I've written of here.
And there may be one or two right around 1914. They really were pretty sure they were going to heaven that year. So, like when you drive in a nail, and it doesn't go in straight, and in frustration you hit all around the spot.....um...maybe it was something like that. Or maybe not. History is murky, and there are a lot of grousers who gleefully try to inflate the figure, hoping to embarrass me, as if JWs predicted the end every other week, so some of these enddates may come just out of their own wishful thinking. I'm not sure.
Oh....and I think there was something in 1925. Not the big deal that was 1914 or 1975, but something. How widespread it was I'm not sure. I'll bet, though, that since 1925 differs from 1975 by fifty years, the 1925 date has something to do with the Jubilee system, in which every 50th year had significance. Aspects of that system have long been thought to be prophetic.
And sometimes on the internet, from these soreheads who try to pump the numbers, one comes across 1994. I've no idea where that comes from. I was very active in the faith throughout that time, and I never heard a thing about it. It was certainly never in print. I think it's the soreheads and number-puffers at work.
All the same, we're not doing it any more, setting dates. We've gotten burned too many times. Besides, we've sailed past all the markers, as I recall one speaker saying. Besides, we don't have to do dates; the Aztecs have 2012 as a end of the world date! This one's not even biblical, so it's more palatable for the new-agers, astrologers, modern witches, and the like. And don't forget 2060, from the Father of Science. Didn't he stand on the shoulders of giants to figure out that one?
More on 1914 here.
More on 1975 here.
How to Predict the End of the World (EOW) here.
[EDIT Oct 1, 2020....Additional material here from Dr.George D. Chryssides, which I came across recently, and, might as well say it, is more scholarly in tone than my own stuff.]
False Prophets here.