“What we need today is men who believe in the Bible from the crown of their heads to the soles of their feet:
who believe in the whole of it, the things they understand, and the things they do not understand.”
— D.L. Moody
D.L. Moody’s View of the Bible
D.L. Moody’s influential ministry became very effective after he accepted the challenge to “stop preaching your own words and preach God’s Word [instead].” Moody became a man of one book—the Bible. He found that as he spoke God’s words from the Bible, thousands responded. In a forty-year span, he preached the gospel to an estimated million people, founded three schools, and a publishing house. Here are several quotations which show his uncompromising view of biblical inerrancy and his lack of tolerance for the criticism that cast doubt on the Bible. Some of the quotations are about D.L. Moody and others are by D.L. Moody himself.
When preaching on heaven, for example, Moody introduced his sermon with a question. “On this important matter how are we to gain reliable information? Simply by Scripture. Here then is our guidebook, our textbook—the Word. If I utter a syllable that is not justified by the Scriptures, don’t believe me. The Bible is the only rule. Walk by it and it alone.” Reflecting at least an awareness of developing liberalism in the churches, he warned of any minister who used a “penknife on the Bible, clipping out this and that part because it contains the supernatural or something he cannot understand.” Moody had no use for the so-called higher criticism of the Bible. He told a reporter, “You want to know what I think of the effect of higher criticism upon the Bible and upon Christians? Frankly, I don’t know anything about the higher critics of late. I haven’t seen ’em. I’ve been six months in the wilderness of Judea calling upon people to repent.” Moody had no patience with anything that would undercut the source of Christian belief—the Bible—because that source contains the very heart of Christian belief—the gospel.[i]
Mr. Moody was never more interesting, than when giving his Bible readings. He could hold his great audiences spellbound with his plain, practical, and yet powerful interpretations of the Scripture. He had no use at all for the so-called higher criticism. At one of the last conferences held in New York, he said to a company of ministers: “I don’t see why you men are talking about ‘two Isaiah’s half the people in the country do not know that there is one Isaiah yet; let’s make them know about one, before we begin to tell them about two.” There is one thing I can predict, and that is, that every one of these young converts who studies his Bible till he learns to love it better than anything else, will be sure to hold out; the world will have no charms for him. What all these young converts want is to be in love with the Word of God; to feed upon it till it comes to be sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.[ii]
He really had no patience at all with the so-called higher criticism of God’s word. He was one day approached by a newspaper reporter who asked for some word from him regarding the higher criticism. “I’m not up to that sort of thing,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye. “You see, I never studied theology, and I’m precious glad I didn’t. There are so many things in the Bible that everybody can understand that I’m going to preach about them until they are exhausted, and then, if I have any time left, I’ll take up the texts I don’t understand.” “Aren’t you ever asked to discuss difficult passages of Scripture?” was the inquiry. “Mercy, yes” answered Mr. Moody, “almost every day, but I always answer people just as I have answered you, and tell them that there is satisfaction and consolation enough in the promises of the Savior, all that anybody can want. The single verse, ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,’ contains all the theology and religion that I need, or any other man or woman.[iii]
Dwight L. Moody did invite to Northfield some who did not hold to biblical inerrancy, but it must be remembered that Mr. Moody was not trained in theology and did not understand the implications of a departure from inerrancy. Mr. Moody himself adhered to inerrancy. In James F. Findlay, Jr.’s biography Dwight L. Moody he makes this statement: “One of the keys to Moody’s power as a preacher was that he seemed to express so frequently the full intensity of the spirit evangelicals felt with contemplating the Bible. Shortly after his death one of his close friends summarized his general attitude towards the written Word. “The plenary authority of the bible was the fulcrum of his work. . . . On his platform it was not subject to dispute or debate, though it always was strongly defended as well as affirmed. . . . He knew that there were difficulties to be accounted for in Scripture as we have it. . . . [But] he believed that the Bible not only claims a Divine authority for all of its teachings but vindicates its own claims.” In a practical sense, too, the Bible was of overriding importance to him. It was the only book that he read and reread constantly. His personal copies of the Scriptures were dog-eared and heavily thumbed, and they contained innumerable marginal notes in the owner’s sprawling handwriting.” [iv]
William R. Moody, son of the evangelist, wrote a biography of his father. In it he talked about his father’s belief in the Bible. One could not expect a man of Moody’s limited education to understand the implications of German rationalistic criticism in his day. Time had not yet shown how this form of unbelief would empty the German churches and destroy the faith of many. But Mr. Moody himself held strongly to an inerrant Scripture. His son said of his father: I believe, said Mr. Moody, that there are a good many scholars in these days, as there were when Paul lived, ‘who, professing themselves to be wise, have become fools;’ but I don’t think they are those who hold to the inspiration of the Bible. I have said that ministers of the Gospel who are cutting up the Bible in this way, denying Moses today and Isaiah tomorrow, and Daniel the next day and Jonah the next, are doing great injury to the church; and I stand by what I have said. I don’t say that they are bad men. They may be good men, but that makes the result of their work all the worse. Do they think they will recommend the [p.26] Bible to the finite and fallen reason of men by taking the supernatural out of it? They are doing just the opposite. They are emptying the churches and driving the young men of this generation into infidelity…”[v]
He [Moody] often told this experience:
Mr. Moody, what do you do with that?
I do not do anything with it.
How do you understand it?
I do not understand it.
How do you explain it?
I do not explain it.
What do you do with it?
I do not do anything with it.
You do not believe it, do you?
Oh, yes, I believe it.
Well you don’t accept anything that you can’t understand, do you?
Yes, I certainly do. There are lots of things that I do not understand, but I believe them. I do not know anything about higher mathematics, but I believe in them. I do not understand astronomy, but I believe in astronomy. Can you tell me why the same kind of food turns into flesh, fish, hair, feathers, or hoofs, according as it is eaten by one animal or another? A man told me a while ago he would not believe a thing he had never seen, and I asked him if he had seen his own rain. Did you ever notice that the things at which men cavil most are the very things on which Christ has set his seal?[vi]
“Thirty years ago people did not question the gospel. They believed that the Lord Jesus Christ, by dying on the cross, had done something for them. … And my work was to bring them to a decision to do what they already knew they ought to do. But all is different now. The question-mark is raised everywhere. There is need for teachers who shall begin at the beginning and show people what the gospel is. What we need today is men who believe in the Bible from the crown of their heads to the soles of their feet: who believe in the whole of it, the things they understand, and the things they do not understand.”[vii]
“Look here, what’s the use of telling people there are two Isaiah’s when most of them don’t know that there’s one?”[viii]
“Any study of Moody’s life makes it impossible to believe that he would have had any patience with the view that Paul did not write Ephesians and the pastorals, or that Peter did not write the two epistles ascribed to him. Since he accepted the historicity of Jonah it would require a great leap of imagination to suppose he would at any point deny what the Scripture so clearly affirmed.”[ix]
Some wise, advanced, philosophical, and very self-sufficient preachers have laughed at Mr. Moody’s narrowness and his mediaevalisml but let them point to results one hundredth part as beneficient as those that accompanied his “narrow and antiquated preaching,” or else keep still… The word of God had such power in Mr. Moody’s hands, first, because he thoroughly believed it from end to end. The time other men spent in picking it to pieces, he spent in feeding upon it. The difference between Mr. Moody and many a college and seminary bred preacher, is the difference between the man who eats a good dinner and the man who criticizes it, and tries to display his knowledge of cookery. He not only believed the Bible; he studied it. There are many who believe theoretically that the Bible is the word of God, but they do not dig into it. Mr. Moody did. It has been said that Mr. Moody was not a student, but h was a student, a student of one book, and that book was more worthy of study than all other books put together—the Bible.[x]
Perhaps in no institution of the country would there be manifest a more intense zeal for work than would be found there [at Moody Bible Institute]. The main object of the institution was both practical and simple; it was to give all the students a thorough working knowledge of the Scriptures, in order that they might be equipped for personal Christian work, and at the same time have their own spiritual lives stimulated. … It is in no sense a theological seminary; it was never designed to be; it was not even designed to supplement the education that might be obtained at a theological seminary. The institution was born of the necessity of bringing into the field workers who would be skilled to meet the needs and difficulties of those who never would come within the reach of the graduate of the theological school. If, however, the Institute does not cover the ground of theoretical study, which is ordinarily taken up by the technical school, it is nevertheless in its own way giving a thorough training for those who are to do a special work in the world. The Bible itself is the book upon which the attention of the student is constantly centred. The book is approached from various standpoints. All the great doctrines are most carefully and systematically taught the students. It would be a strange thing for any young man or woman to pass through the course of studies without having at the end a very clear conception of the great truth of salvation; and also a clear idea as to how salvation might be presented to other men. Whoever has had the privilege of working in the Institute of Chicago, or in any other place where graduates of this institution have assisted in the work, would see as no other how much real value lies in an institution of this kind. It would not be too much to say that the effectiveness of any evangelistic campaign would be quadrupled if there could be distributed through the audience a number of trained workers such as are to be found in the Chicago Bible Institute. I pray God, that in Chicago the Bible Institute may ever stand as a memorial of the work of this consecrated man of God. [xi]
Mr. MOODY loved his Bible. He knew it so well that his eyes and fingers could find any passage that he wanted from Genesis to Revelation, and it mattered not how hurriedly he was speaking, it was as easy for him to find the text he wished as for the master musician to find the notes on the keyboard of a piano, and yet, he tells us himself that, when he first entered the Sunday-school class in Boston, he did not know the difference between the Old Testament and the New.[xii]
The Bible as a book was more than precious to him. His own Bible was a storehouse of richest treasure. He was never heard even by his closest friends to make a play on Bible words and phrases, and he was always quick to rebuke those who did. He really had no patience at all with the so-called higher criticism of God’s word. He was one day approached by a newspaper reporter who asked for some word from him regarding the higher criticism. “I’m not up to that sort of thing,” he said, with a twinkle in his eye. “You see, I never studied theology, and I’m precious glad I didn’t. There are so many things in the Bible that everybody can understand that I’m going to preach about them until they are exhausted, and then, if I have any time left, I’ll take up the texts I don’t understand.” “Aren’t you ever asked to discuss difficult passages of Scripture?” was the inquiry. “Mercy, yes” answered Mr. Moody, “almost every day, but I always answer people just as I have answered you, and tell them that there is satisfaction and consolation enough in the promises of the Savior, all that anybody can want. The single verse, ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest,’ contains all the theology and religion that I need, or any other man or woman.[xiii]
Years ago Harry Moorehouse, the English Bible reader, said to him while visiting his church in Chicago, “If you will stop preaching your own words and preach God’s Word, you will make yourself a great power for good.” This prophecy made a deep impression on Mr. Moody’s mind, and from that day he devoted himself to the study of the Bible as he had never done before. He had been accustomed to draw his sermons from the experiences of Christians and the life of the streets, now he began to follow the counsel of his friend, and preach the Word. His first series of sermons on characters of the Bible was preached during the summer before the Chicago fire, and at once attracted great attention. He also began to compare Scripture with Scripture. ” If I don’t understand a text,” said his friend Moorehouse, ” I ask another text to explain it, and then, if it is too hard for me, I take it to the Lord and ask Him to explain it for me. This method Mr. Moody adopted, and this was one of the secrets of his power. He was mighty in the Scriptures, and spoke as with. authority from God.[xiv]
He had a large library at his house at Northfield, much of which had been presented to him by admiring friends; but it is safe to say that there are not half a dozen books in the world, besides the books of the Old and New Testaments, of which he could give the names and a general outline of their contents; hence there was room in his head for God’s Word, and with it he kept himself continually full and running over. His method of Bible study was like the method of a humming bird studying a clover blossom. From the cells of sweetness down into which he thrust his questions and his prayers, he brought up the honey which God has stored away; he reveled in the profusion and preciousness of the promises, like a robin in a tree full of ripe cherries. It was enjoyable just to see how heartily he enjoyed the Word of God, and almost convincing to see with what absolute faith he clung to it for his own salvation, and with what absolute assurance he urged others to do the same. To Mr. Moody the Word of God was food, drink, lodging, and clothes; he climbed by it toward Heaven, as a sailor climbs the rigging; it was an anchor to hold him; a gale to drive him; it was health, hope, happiness, eternal life.[xv]
A good many people are asking, ‘Will this work hold out?’ Now I am not a prophet, nor the son of a prophet, but there is one thing I can predict, and that is, that every one of these young converts who studies his Bible till he learns to love it better than anything else, will be sure to hold out; the world will have no charms for him. What all these young converts want is to be in love with the Word of God; to feed upon it till it comes to be sweeter than honey and the honeycomb.[xvi]
Heaven and earth shall pass away before any one of them shall fail. If we could only get these Christians out of Doubting Castle, how rich they would be, and what a work of grace there might be. O, these Devils, Ifs! When shall we ever get rid of them?” [xvii]
Mr. Moody was never more interesting, than when giving his Bible readings. He could hold his great audiences spellbound with his plain, practical, and yet powerful interpretations of the Scripture. He had no use at all for the so-called higher criticism. At one of the last conferences held in New York, he said to a company of ministers: “I don’t see why you men are talking about ‘two Isaiah’s half the people in the country do not know that there is one Isaiah yet; let’s make them know about one, before we begin to tell them about two.” The last conversation of any length, that I had with him, he must have talked for half an hour, concerning his absolute confidence in the Bible and his growing love for it.
In Ephesians, 5th chapter and 18th verse, we are commanded to be filled with the Holy Ghost. A person who is full of the Holy Spirit deals much with the Scriptures. One of the things we lack in the present day is more Bible study. I think this nation is just waking up to the fact that we have had a famine, it is not the man now that makes a fine oration in the pulpit so much as it is a man that expounds the Word of God that we need. A boy once asked another boy how it was that he caught all the pigeons that were in the neighborhood. He said: ‘Well, I tell you, it is because I feed them well. If you feed the people well they will come; and people have got tired hearing a little more or less eloquence. The preachers have hitherto used the Bible merely as a text-book. They have taken their texts out of the Bible, and they have gone all over Christendom for their sermons. The result is that our churches are weak in spiritual power. But it is beginning to improve already. The churches are not now hunting after a man that will make a grand oration, so much as they are for a man that will unfold to them the Word of God. That is what the people want. If they can only get back to the Word of God, then we will have not just here and there a revival, but we will be in a revival all the time. The church will be constantly in a revived state. It is those Christians that are feeding on the Word of God that are revived all the while. There is something fresh about them, and people are glad to hear them talk.[xviii]
As we come to study this Word of God, we want to keep in mind that it is the Word of God, not the Word of man; and that as the Word of God, it is true. … Look around us; if a man becomes a profligate, he begins to talk against the Bible; if he is upright he takes it as a lamp to his feet. We are never afraid of a man that tries to live according to the teachings of this book. This book is God’s Word, and it will stand. Over the new Bible House recently built in London, England, are written these words, ‘The Word of the Lord endureth forever.’ That building will pass away, that city may pass away, like Babylon and Nineveh, and other cities that once flourished, but the Word of God shall endure forever. Not one word that God has spoken shall fall to the ground. We want also to bear in mind that the Bible is not a dry, uninteresting book, as a great many skeptics try to make out. They ‘say, ‘We want something new; we have outgrown that.’ Why, the Word of God is the only new book in the world. All that the newspapers can do is to tell of things as they have taken place, but the Bible will tell of things that will take place.[xix]
If you just take the Bible itself alone, without any other book to help you to interpret it, one passage will explain another. Instead of running after the interpretations of different men, let God interpret it to your soul. As Stephens said, Do not study it in the blue light of Presbyterianism, or the red light of Methodism, or the violet light of Episcopalianism, but study it in the light of Calvary. One man says, “I am a Romanist, and it has got to teach what Romanism teaches;” another says, “I am a Protestant, and it has got to teach me what Protestantism teaches.” Take it up independent of these, and after you have dug its meaning out for yourself it will be so much sweeter to you. – D.L. Moody
The truly wise man is he who always believes the Bible against the opinions of any man. If the Bible says one thing, and any body of men says another, the wise man will decide, “This book is the Word of him who cannot lie. – R.A. Torrey[xx]
[i] Stanley N. Gundry. Christian History Issue #25, 1990. https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/uploaded/50cf79ab726927.41671672.pdf and https://christianhistoryinstitute.org/magazine/article/moodys-theology/
[iv] Harold Lindsell, The Bible in the Balance (Zondervan, 1979) 25.
[v] Ibid, 25-26..
[vi] Ibid, 26.
[vii] Ibid, 26-27.
[viii] Ibid, 27.
[ix] Ibid, 28.
[x] R. A. Torrey, Lessons from the Life and Death of D. L. Moody (Fleming H. Revell, 1900) 17-18. https://archive.org/details/lessonsfromlifed00torr
[xi] J. Wilbur Chapman. The Life and Work of D.L. Moody. Chapter 16 – The Chicago Bible Institute. http://articles.ochristian.com/article15818.shtml. Chapman was an evangelist who preached alongside of D.L. Moody a the World’s Fair and later became the Vice-President of the Chicago Bible Institute, which was, after Moody’s death, renamed to Moody Bible Institute.
It sounds like Moody Global may have just formally adopted the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy as part of their doctrinal statement! (Read more here.)