Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Moody isn't just a Bible institute

The first time I heard the name “Moody Bible Institute,” I wondered what it was all about, with a name like that.

I’m not picking on the Chicago-based institute. It’s a fine institution. But as fascinated as I am with words, and their sounds and meanings, I can remember the first time I heard someone refer to it, and I thought it was a place for people with personality issues. So I asked, and was told it was named for Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899), one of the great evangelists of the 19th century.

Moody sounds like a 19th century name, something out of Dickens, or perhaps Mark Twain.  It’s also a word that applies to all of us, in that it is part of the human condition that we are often moody. We have moods, and when we say someone is moody, we usually do not mean it as a compliment, unless, of course, it's my wife talking about me being moody. Fortunately, moods change, and a bad mood usually gives way to a good mood.

Moods (and emotions), as innate a part of the human personality as they are, are no basis for making major decisions. Yet we do it all the time, even in matters of faith. (At the risk of a barb or two being flung, I would suggest – only suggest, not state categorically – that joining a church only because you like the pastor’s sermons is more a decision based on a mood rather than reason. Pastors change; they retire or are called by another church.)

“Now Faith,” writes C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, “in the sense I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes.”

And, we might add, circumstances change, too.

If our faith is true, it survives moods and circumstances.

What I particularly responded to in that statement by Lewis was him calling faith an art, the art of “holding on to things your reason once accepted.” The word “art” suggests creativity and imagination, and more than that, it suggests individuality.

St. Paul said we each have different gifts, according to the grace given us (Romans 12:6). How we come to faith, that art, is as different as we are different. And how we display that faith, how it plays out in our lives, through all the changing moods and circumstances, is like how we each paint a picture, or write a poem, or carve a piece of wood, or write and sing a piece of music.

Faith is not a mood, nor does it depend upon everything going right in our lives. It is an art, specific to each of us, sharing the great themes and ideas of Christianity between and among us but written out in our own particular, individual style called a life.

Led by Jason Stasyszen and Sarah Salter, we’ve been discussing Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. To see more posts on this chapter about faith, please visit Sarah at Living Between the Lines.


Mari-Anna Frangén Stålnacke said...

Excellent post! Thank you! I love the way you open up the word "art" in the quote. Too often we do exactly the opposite: take creativity, imagination, and individuality out of faith! But then faith is not faith anymore. It just a creed. Thank you for sharing. God bless you!

Ruth said...


Two of my sisters went to D.L. Moody's institute. Eons ago!

Maureen said...

I also like Lewis's description of faith as an art. One could write an essay on that statement alone.

lynnmosher said...

LOL I never thought that Moody Bible could be taken literally! Faith truly is not a mood. If that were the case, we would never have faith at all! I, too, loved the Lewis' quote...and your post! Thanks, Glynn!

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I used the same quote and loved faith being characterized as an art. I just never got around to talking about that aspect in my post. :) Wonderful post--thanks so much for being a part, Glynn.

S. Etole said...

Your reviews bring out great points.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Lewis was, of course, and Anglican, and took liturgical worship as an established part of the church. The liturgies used in Lutheran, Anglican, and Catholic Churches are very old and very similar. Orthodox forms go back to the Greeks. These forms have proved their worth over many centuries. They are artistic, and they go on with or without me, without effort to produce the feelings that sometimes accompany worship, until everything clicks into place again and faith has a life of its own.