Monday, April 24, 2006

Moody, the Revivalist: The Bright Side

I had a brief, unexpected opportunity Friday night to flip through The Altar Call: Its Origins and Present Usage by David Bennett. Published in 2000, it's out of print and only available for $60+. Mark Noll enthusiastically endorses it for its evenhandedness and lack of theological bias. Bennett includes about seven pages on Moody. His documentation buttresses Gerald Priest's point in the comments of a recent post that Moody did not take revivalism near the extremes of Finney and others.

Bennett documents what he calls arminian or semi-pelagian statements in Moody's sermons, such as "Christ wants to [take into heaven] every sinner here" and "every creature here can be saved if he will." Frankly I have trouble seeing severe theological deficiencies in these statements. Is there a better way to articulate the concepts? Yes. Is this heresy or a revivalism spun out of control? I don't see it that way.

Moody's methodology was fairly benign. It seems that his only evangelistic tactic that approached the manipulative techniques common to Finneyistic revivalism was this practice in the 1860s in Chicago:
[H]e would often roam around his congregation asking anyone who looked concerned after the just-preached message, if they were Christians or not. If the reply was hesitant or negative, Moody, who was a big man, would ask, "Do you want to be saved? Do you want to be saved now?" Often not waiting for an answer, he would urge the man or woman to kneel, then kneel down beside them and plead the Savior's cause. Under these circumstances, in the words of W.H. Daniels, an American Methodist minister, the seeker "would generally give himself to the Lord." He did not usually in this period make a formal appeal for a public response, but after-service inquiry meetings were already a common part of his ministry. Later his methods were somewhat less aggressive.
Most of the rest of Bennett's summary describes Moody's fairly limited use of the anxious bench and his innovations of using soloists during invitations and trained laypeople in inquiry rooms. Moody is often credited with pioneering the use of inquiry rooms themselves, but Bennett contends that Edwards, Wesley, and Whitefield employed similar if not identical methods.

The next post in this series will look at the disappointing aspects of Moody's revivalism.

1 comment:

Dave said...

Just as an FYI, I believe that you can find examples of Spurgeon encouraging this same kind of personal work follwoin his sermons among those who attended the Taberacle by the members. This was prior to any influence by Moody and not inconsistent, at least in CHS's mind, with his evangelical Calvinism.