The Great Debate of the Moral Relations of God and Man
by Edward Beecher, Phillip A. Ross, Editor, 510 pages.
This is a dangerous book, dangerous because it deals with perhaps the most serious conflict in history, and I commend it with some trepidation. That conflict began in Genesis and has continued unabated through history. Many people believe it to be a conflict between believers and unbelievers, and a great many people, traditions and religions have framed the conflict in these terms. The Old Testaments prophets described the conflict as between the one true God and the many false gods, or the true prophet and the false prophets. Both conceptions are equally true, but the latter is to be preferred because the former suggests that those who oppose the God of the Bible don’t believe anything, when in fact they believe as strongly as believers, but believe falsely.
The Beecher Legacy stands today as a crown jewel in the treasury of American culture, though it is full of conflict. The Beechers have been a prolific, cantankerous, well-placed and very human family. It seems to have begun with Lyman Beecher, Edward’s father. He survived three wives and was the most consistent person at the source of that legacy, firing up his children with the great concerns and big questions of life and history. For the most part Harriet Beecher Stowe has cornered the market on the Beecher legacy, to the paucity of the available treasure, I should add. Nothing against Harriet, but there is much more to this legacy than Harriet’s work. All of the Beecher children were serious scholars, writers and theologians and are worthy of serious study and reflection.
In my estimation, this book by Edward Beecher needs to be reconsidered from a slightly different perspective. Or, because he has been forgotten by history, it needs to simply be considered. He was consumed with both temporal (historical) and eternal concerns, and those concerns and his treatment of them may significantly contribute toward the renovation that is so needed by the Christian church in our day.
(Must be read in conjunction with Concord of Ages.)