No one can claim to understand the American social and religious mind of the last half of the nineteenth century who does not understand sympathetically what evangelist Dwight L. Moody and his career represented. Moody was an entrepreneur, a self-made man, a living expression of much that was hearty and some of what was crass about religion in his day. This is the first biography to place him fully within the context of the broad social, theological, and cultural developments of his time.
Most of the existing biographical literature about Moody is either simplistically eulogistic or sarcastically hostile. These polar views reflect the split that occurred within the Protestant church between fundamentalists and modernists during and after Moody's career. It is with an objective overview of these divergencies that the author has prepared his biography.
Mr. Findlay demonstrates how Moody's outlook evolved from the small-town framework of early nineteenth-century New England and developed into the mainstream of American evangelicalism. In the rising cities of Boston and Chicago, he concentrated his efforts to "urbanize" revivalism as part of a general struggle to adapt a traditional faith to a rapidly changing external environment. After his triumphant revival crusades of the 1870s, the impact of his style and message faded before the progressive liberal approach to religion that was to shape twentieth-century Protestantism.
The present biography of this great evangelist is far superior to any other, both for its scholarly approach in determining the place of evangelicalism in American social and religious history and for its portrayal of the overpowering impact of Moody's personality. It will be particularly fascinating to those interested in American social history and the history of evangelism, the man and the movement.
James F Findlay, Jr. Martin E. Marty
James Findlay Jr. is Professor of History Emeritus at the University of Rhode Island. He taught there from 1971 to 1999, and served as chair of the department for part of that time. He is also the author of Church People in the Struggle: The National Council of Churches and the Black Freedom Movement, 1950-1970 (New York,Oxford University Press, 1993), and a number of other scholarly articles on American religious history. He has been active in professional, civic, and national religious organizations and is a lifetime member of the United Church of Christ.