What makes a man great? Is it his eloquence as an orator? Does his character play a role in the successes or failures in culture? These questions and more are answered by Kevin Belmonte in his take on D.L. Moody in his newest biography, D.L. Moody – A Life: Innovator, Evangelist, World Changer. Not only does Belmonte give us an inside look at the man, but also a glance at how history has changed because of God’s great mercy on men like Moody and the company he traveled with.
The value of this volume, historically, can be of great value to the church today. Not only do we see a man rise from nothing to the heights of popularity in the nineteenth century, but we see the graciousness of God to even the least of His people. This is less a story of Moody and much more a story of God’s faithfulness to raise up men and women who have a passion to preach the gospel to the very ends of the earth.
That being said, I do have some reservations about the methodology and theology of Moody himself. This biography takes a very biased view towards Moody, in almost praise-like fashion, he hails Moody as one of the greatest souls Evangelicalism has seen. To be sure, Belmonte does include some of the flaws and shortcomings but for the most part this volume is a very positive view towards Moody. For that reason, I see the value of this volume not resting in uncovering the nuances of the man but in the fact that it covers much of the context of nineteenth century life.
As I peer deeper into the halls of that particular period of church history I am beginning to see a clearer division between the men who would fall between the blurry lines of Holiness Theology and those outside the lines. Moody as one of the largest influencers of the Higher-Life Movement, quickly aligned himself against the mainline Protestants and yet, at the same time, became almost an idol in the Pentecostal/Charismatic branches of the Church.
With all that in mind, this volume does take into view recent scholarship and tries its best to disseminate that information for the rest of us. Belmonte tells us a good story and brings the reader along with anticipation of what crazy thing God is going to do next. No matter what denominational lines we hide behind there is no easy way to hide the fact that Moody was passionate to evangelize the furthest reaches of the world, but not only that, he was passionate to share the gospel with his neighbor and all those he came in contact with.
Though I think this biography takes a high view of Moody and his cohorts, I like the story Belmonte tells. His writing is very engaging and he draws the reader in as the life of Moody unfolds before us. To completely dismiss Moody would be a mistake but there is an opposite error that is equally dangerous. To hold Moody up as a man God couldn’t do without would raise him up to heights man was never meant to occupy.