D. L. Moody the Barthian
February 25, 2014
Blogging will probably be minimal for the next month or so, because of other commitments. I did happen to read through a short biography of D. L. Moody, the influential preacher in 19th century Chicago. Here is an account of Moody, after hearing a sermon series from a young, untested evangelist from England:
[Moody speaking to his wife:] How do the people like him?
“They like him very much.”
Did you hear him?
Did you like him?
“Yes, very much. He has preached two sermons from John 3:16; and I think you will like him, although he preaches a little different from what you do.”
How is that?
“Well, he tells sinners God loves them.”
Well, said I, he is wrong.
She said: “I think you will agree with him when you hear him, because he backs up everything he says with the Word of God. You think if a man doesn’t preach as you do, he is wrong.”
I went down that night to church, and I noticed everyone brought his Bible. …
He preached a most extraordinary sermon from that verse. He did not divide the text into “secondly” and “thirdly” and “fourthly” — he just took it as a whole, and then went through the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, to prove that in all ages God loved the world; that He sent prophets and patriarchs and holy men to warn them, and last of all sent His Son. After they murdered Him, He sent the Holy Ghost.
I never knew up to that time that God loves us so much. This heart of mine began to thaw out, and I could not keep back the tears. It was like news from a far country. I just drank it in. …
I used to preach that God was behind the sinner with a double-edged sword, ready to hew him down. I have got done with that. I preach now that God is behind the sinner with love and he is running away from the God of love.
[The Life of D. L. Moody, pp. 66-68]
So, there you have it. Moody the proto-Barthian! Of course, other Christians have proclaimed the same truth. Unfortunately, I would say that most Christians today believe that personal faith is the hinge upon which God’s love turns (against Romans 5:8). Also, I appreciate the “far country” language, which Barth uses repeatedly in CD IV.1 (wherein our world is the far country into which the Son enters).
As for Moody’s trenchant Arminianism (which even caused the ire of Darby, an otherwise terrible theologian), I will ignore for now.