An analysis of Dwight Moody's Urban Social Vision

Quiggle, Gregg William (2010). An analysis of Dwight Moody's Urban Social Vision. PhD thesis The Open University.



Dwight Moody was the dominant English-speaking evangelist of the late nineteenth century. Much of Moody's work focused on urban centers. This thesis is an analysis of the origins of Dwight Moody's urban social vision. Specifically it studies the role Moody's theology played in the formation of his approach to the various urban ills that emerged during the mid to late nineteenth century in the United States and the United Kingdom. The thesis seeks to show that theology drove Moody's approach to urban ills. Because of Moody's temperament and limited educational background, his personal experiences and personal relationships played an inordinately significant role in the formation of Moody's theology. The thesis explores these experiences and relationships demonstrating how they shaped Moody's theology. It concludes by outlining Moody's theological commitments that framed his social vision, and his resultant social activities. The thesis concludes Moody was an evangelical whose social vision was in significant ways contiguous with those of earlier revivalists like Finney. Specifically, Moody, like Finney, always made evangelism his first priority. Further, similar to Finney, Moody was active in the temperance movement and various educational endeavors. However, Moody's conception of human sinfulness and commitment to premillennialism created a different set of expectations. Moody was dubious about the future of human society. He believed sin was the cause of poverty and that conversion brought freedom from sin and a desire to love others, especially the poor. He also believed the Bible commanded charity to the poor. Consequently, while Moody never fully embraced the Calvinistic goal of a righteous republic, he was concerned about the moral state of the country and the lot of the poor. In fact, Moody was active in numerous charitable endeavors targeting the urban poor. However, Moody maintained the only way to improve public morality and the suffering of the poor was through personal conversion, because only conversion would solve the problem of sin and generate charity. Thus, from Moody's perspective political or structural reforms divorced from evangelism were ultimately doomed to fail.

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