Questions About Moody's Theology
1. Was Moody a Calvinist or an Arminian?
Both Calvinists and Arminians cooperated with him in his meetings, although neither camp was entirely comfortable with his views. Moody had been profoundly affected by both the Arminianizing trends of North American evangelicalism and the more Calvinistic views of British evangelicals.
Arminians were ill at ease with Moody’s “once in grace, always in grace” views, and they were not happy with Moody’s statements about election. But Calvinists felt uncomfortable with Moody’s evangelistic emphasis on human responsibility to believe and the universal provision and offer of salvation. In Moody’s words, “I don’t try to reconcile God’s sovereignty and man’s free agency.”
2. Did Moody experience or teach a second work of grace, commonly known a the “second blessing?”
Moody believed that the Holy Spirit established a permanent relationship with the believer at the moment of regeneration. Nevertheless, he believed that something more was needed for effective Christian work. That “something more” was the “Holy Spirit upon us for service.” He had such an experience himself in 1871, and on those rare occasions when he referred to it, he spoke of it as a filling, a baptism, an anointing, an empowerment for service. However Moody disavowed that such an experience led to entire sanctification, eradication of the sin nature, or perfection.
3. Did Moody speak in tongues or advocate the practice?
No. Moody seldom mentioned the subject; when he did, he never did so in a way suggesting sympathy with the practice or the belief.
4. Was Moody a premillennialist? a dispenstionalist?
Moody was clearly a premillennialist; in fact, he was the first premillennial evangelist of note in North American history (the rest had been postmillennialists). History was on a downhill trend, and Christ would return in judgment before his kingdom would be set up. In Moody’s words, God had given him a lifeboat to rescue people off this world as off a sinking vessel. This was a key motive to evangelism. But Moody’s eschatology was hardly more specific than this. He was sympathetic to dispensationalists and dispensationalism, but his sermons only indirectly reflect dispensational themes. It is even difficult to establish that he believed in the pretribulation rapture of the church. When premillennial ranks began to splinter on this point in the 1890s he said, “Don’t criticize if our watches don’t agree about the time we know that he is coming.” He later warned, “I don’t think anyone knows what is going to happen.”
5. Was Moody tolerant of theological liberalism?
Moody had cordial relationships with several scholars and theologians known for their liberal tendencies (e.g., Henry Drummond, William Rainey Harper, George Adam Smith). He even would invite them to speak under his auspices if he thought they had a positive contribution to make to his ministry. But this reflected his high regard for them as individuals and for the genuineness of their faith, in spite of his reservations about their theological tendencies. He specifically disapproved of their theology and often expressed concern and dismay over trends that, after his death, were to come to fruition in what we now call modernism.
-Stanley N. Gundry
Dr. Stanley N. Gundry is publisher for academic and professional books and general manager of Zondervan Publishing House in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His book Love Them In: The Life and Theology of D. L. Moody (Moody, 1976, and Baker, 1982) is the definitive study of Moody's theology.
Copyright © 1990 by the author or Christianity Today/Christian History magazine.
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