Saturday, 15 February 2014


DL Moody
How Calvinistic was DL Moody?

I have read some of Moody’s sermons, but found no real trace of anything distinctly Calvinistic. He preached the basic gospel which all Christians, Calvinist or otherwise are in agreement over.

However,  I do know this:

* In his interesting little autobiographical work, “My life and my books” SM Houghton related a story about JN Darby having a heated argument with Mr Moody on the doctrine of “free will”. According to SMH, Mr Moody was found to be “leaning in the direction of freewill”.  

* The first book which DL Moody  published under his new launched Moody Press label was Spurgeon’s “All of Grace” where the no-doubts-about-it-whatsoever-Calvinist, CH Spurgeon applied his warm Calvinistic doctrine of salvation to sinners.

* DL Moody went to hear and preached for CH Spurgeon. Spurgeon endorsed his ministry wholeheartedly  and referred in the Sword and Trowel to Moody’s “scented Calvinistic theology” (and “vigorous discourses”)  upsetting some of the Methodists when he preached in the YMCA in Sunderland in the NE of England. (Sword and Trowel January 1876)

* It is true that DL Moody came under attack from a leading Free Church of Scotland minister (John Kennedy of Dingwall) who attacked him on several fronts and branded him an Arminian. This attack caused great pain to CH Spurgeon who was a mutual friend of both men – having opened Kennedy’s church building for him in the Highlands of Scotland. Spurgeon handled the delicate matter very well, writing:

"We are very sorry that our esteemed friend, Dr. Kennedy, issued a pamphlet severely criticizing the labors of Messrs. Moody and Sankey, whom we judge to be sent of God to bless our land in an unusual degree. Dr. Bonar’s reply strikes us, as amply meeting Dr. Kennedy’s strictures, and needing no supplement. But we are sorry to read every now and then the most bitter reflections on Dr. Kennedy, as though he were an enemy of the gospel. Now, we know him to be one of the best and holiest of men, and quite undeserving of severe upbraiding. Nothing but zeal for the truth has moved him we are quite sure. He is fearful lest the doctrines of grace should be forgotten, and he is jealous for divine sovereignty. He is also fearful that the work owes more to music than to the force of truth, and is more the work of fleshly excitement than of the Holy Spirit, Is it altogether an unpardonable sin to feel such a sacred anxiety? We think not. At the same time we do not feel as Dr. Kennedy does. Had the revival under our American friends been what he thinks it to be, and what most similar ones have been, his remarks would have been timely and useful, although they would even in that case have been fiercely resented. As it is there are many things suggested by his pamphlet which it will be well for the people of God to ponder, and in so doing they may be saved from grievous disappointments. We feel sure that Mr. Moody does not count Dr. Kennedy an enemy, nor wish to silence him, and we trust that others will learn the same moderation of temper and speech. Convince Dr. Kennedy that the Lord’s hand is in the work, and his powerful voice and pen will be secured, and he will not be slow to issue a retraction: but to denounce him as an opposer of the Spirit’s work is unchristian, and to those who know the man it is a monstrous libel. We cannot expect all men to see alike, and we ought to admire the courage which enters an honest protest, even though it be a mistaken one. We wish that the religion of this age had more in it of the deep, heart-searching, devoted, and unflinching piety of our Highland brethren; while we also wish that some of our northern friends were more joyous in heart, and less severe in their judgement of other servants of the Lord. The matter ought to end in both sides quietly learning something from each other, and resolving that if they cannot agree in each other’s views they will at least abstain from ungenerous judgements and angry replies. The work which God is doing is so great and manifest that it cannot be injured by any man’s comments upon it; those engaged in it can afford to turn such things to profitable account." (Sword and Trowel March 1875)

This is an interesting reply and directly relevant to the question at hand:

1/ CH Spurgeon did not declare at this point whether Moody was Calvinist or not, although the balance seems to weigh against it in that he recorded Kennedy’s fear that the doctrines of grace were being forgotten and the truth of divine sovereignty were being overlooked. Ultimately, though, Spurgeon was only articulating in his monthly magazine Kennedy's position. Having said that…

2) CH Spurgeon referred to the written defence of Moody by Horatius Bonar which he declared “strikes us, as amply meeting Dr. Kennedy’s strictures, and needing no supplement.”  I have in my possession as I type this article a little book entitled “Evangelism -  A Reformed Debate” which is made up of three separate historical booklets all compiled in one slim volume – Kennedy’s initial attack on Moody, Bonar’s reply and lastly, Kennedy’s answer to Bonar’s reply. The publisher of this interesting and informative book is The James Begg Society who (judging from the comments in the introduction) sided with Kennedy. However, it is significant that they refer in the title to the fact that it is a “Reformed Debate” which naturally recognises Bonar's credentials as being Reformed. In his written defence of Moody, the undisputed Calvinist Horatius Bonar (who had frequented many of Moody’s meetings in Edinburgh) answers Kennedy’s accusation that the offspring of these meetings would be a molluscous flabby creature that would struggle to survive outside the excitement of the meetings that gave it birth. Bonar was persuaded that such a prediction would not be verified. He continued:

“I am satisfied that the teaching given is not fitted to produce such evil results. It has not been perfect, for the teachers are but men. It may have been not to the standard of some, but it is the teaching of the Westminster Confession and the Shorter Catechism; and seldom have I heard the doctrine of the divine purpose in election more unreservedly and unequivocally stated than by Mr Moody.” (p86)

Again, Bonar argued: 

“There was no prophesying smooth things, no soothing of the soul to sleep with Arminian or Antinomian opiates…” (P86)

And again: 

We say that the doctrine at these meetings was altogether in harmony with the Shorter Catechism; for we heard it with our ears, from Mr Moody and others – nay, we taught it ourselves.” 

Then, after he pitted the evidence of one who was not present with the declaration of hundreds of Presbyterian and Calvinist ministers who present on hundreds of occasions, he went on: 

“… and who heard not only the thoroughly Calvinistic teaching of Scottish brethren, but the no less Calvinistic teaching of him [Moody] who is once and again in this pamphlet called ‘their leader.’ ‘I speak unto wise men, judge ye what I say.’”

Bearing in mind that Bonar lived in a day of Calvinistic giants in Presbyterian  Scotland, then his comments carry great weight. His observations cannot be lightly dismissed.

So was DL Moody Calvinistic? The evidence would suggest he was. 


"My faith is the reflection of God's eternal purpose. We are expected when we come to Christ." (DL Moody) From 'Notes in my Bible' on Romans 8:29

See also DL Moody on identifying the elect



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