Yesterday I shared a quote from Henry Ward Beecher, I like the quote, not a fan of the man. I noted that on the basis of 1 Timothy 3:1 – 13 and Titus 1:5 – 9 he would not have been qualified to be a deacon much less a pastor.
But there is a more troubling reason than his character. He departed from orthodox Christianity, but there was a reason, before I share that this is what Wikipedia says about his changing theology:
In the course of his preaching, Henry Ward Beecher came to reject his father Lyman's theology, which "combined the old belief that 'human fate was preordained by God's plan' with a faith in the capacity of rational men and women to purge society of its sinful ways". Henry instead preached a "Gospel of Love" that emphasized God's absolute love rather than human sinfulness, and doubted the existence of Hell. He also rejected his father's prohibitions against various leisure activities as distractions from a holy life, stating instead that "Man was made for enjoyment".If you review the paragraphs from yesterday that deal with his character, you will remember that Beecher was accused of multiple affairs, in fact he was formally charged with adultery and was tried. The case ended with a hung jury.
Beecher at some point in his thinking, and I have not been able to establish the date, became a universalist. If you look at his conduct it becomes clearer why he taught a “Gospel of Love,” taught that “Man was made for enjoyment,” and embraced universalism. It allowed him to ignore the Word, carry on multiple affairs, and still be saved. His theology functioned for him. It gave him freedom to continually violate the clear teaching of scripture and remain “saved”.
I have found that same functional heresy with other leaders. They embrace some heresy, like universalism, for the purpose of justifying their own actions. But it is not just leaders that do so. All of us at some level are theologians. We behave consistent with what we believe about God and His plan for redemption. All of us will be drawn to alter our understanding of Scripture to better fit what we want to do.
The lesson from Beecher’s life, or better the question we have to continually answer, is in our pursuit of God, do we allow our desire and experience or the Word of God to determine our beliefs, our theology.
I would suggest if it is not the latter, one could find oneself at odds with God. I would also suggest that we have a continual assault by our enemy that makes this a continual battle for us.
Sort of makes sense that Christ told us that we needed to abide in His Word.