Dr. Patrick Vossen
In Moody method triumphed over message.
This claim takes a variety of forms and most frequently comes from historians who have no particular sympathy with Moody, from critics who feel that in Moody legitimate theological concerns were shortchanged, or from admirers who like the alleged fact that Moody sat very loose to theological issues.
Now before we go any further, it is important to acknowledge one thing. By no stretch of the imagination was Moody a trained theologian; nor did he tend to think systematically about such issues. But at the same time, all of us are theologians, whether or not we like it or acknowledge it. Moody is no exception. So the task with Moody is to go to his sermons to discover his implicit and explicit attitudes toward theology in general and doctrine in particular.
In a 1973 thesis by Stan Nussbaum we find one of the more severe criticisms that, for Moody, ‘theology, as least as a systematic discipline, is superfluous to Christian faith’.
1. Theology is basically superfluous to salvation and therefore wastes precious time.
2. Theology will not stand against the devil because it is based on human reason.
3. Theology tends to divide Christian forces because it obscures the mission of the Church.… Perhaps in heaven we will be theologians, but on earth we are called to be evangelists.
Lyman Abbott, a noted contemporary who was friendly to Moody, wrote that Moody was ‘indifferent to theological theories’.
Moody clearly regarded it as his mission to preach the Gospel, and his refusal to preach ‘this or that doctrine’ he regarded as debatable and on the periphery of the ‘whosoever’, does lend itself to the interpretation that he was indifferent to or opposed to doctrine.
A strong case can be built for this position. In London in 1875 an interrogator asked him for his creed. As reporters held their notebooks at the ready, Moody replied, ‘It is already in print in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah.’