Burning Bush and A Few Acres of Snow

Burning Bush and A Few Acres of Snow: The Presbyterian Contribution to Canadian Life and Culture

Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 299
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  • Book Info
    Burning Bush and A Few Acres of Snow
    Book Description:

    The twelve essays collected here explore the formative influence Presbyterianism has had on Canadian religious heritage and culture, including education, church/state relations, literature and music.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7391-8
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    • 1. There’s More to a Presbyterian than Meets the Eye
      (pp. 1-12)

      Presbyterians have played a conspicuous role in many aspects of Canadian life and culture. The close connection of the two is expressed in the title of the volume: the burning bush, with the Latin inscriptionnec tamen consumebatur(“nevertheless not consumed”), is the official emblem of the Presbyterian or Reformed faith and the “few acres of snow” (“quelques arpents de neige”) is Voltaire’s dismissive description of Canada in his novelCandide(1759). This collection of essays attempts to explore and assess the not inconsiderable part Presbyterians have played in the development of Canadian life and culture.

      Over a century ago,...

  4. I Presbyterians and Canadian Education
    • [I Introduction]
      (pp. 13-18)

      Presbyterians have always attached great importance to education. In 1560, in theFirst Book of Discipline, reformer John Knox introduced the ideal of a church and school in every community as one important aspect of the reformation of the Scottish Church and society. Knox’s dream of a nationwide parish school system was not carried out until a century and a half later and even then imperfectly. Still, as G. M. Trevelyan has noted, at the union of Scotland and England in 1707, the Scots were among the best-educated people in Europe.¹ Their system of popular education made them, at home...

    • 2. Schooling for Presbyterian Leaders: The College Years of Pictou Academy, 1816–1832
      (pp. 19-38)
      B. Anne Wood

      Scholars have long acknowledged that education and religion were closely related in nineteenth-century Atlantic Canada. Although a number of good religious histories in recent years have dealt with this relationship, as Terrence Murphy recently stated, there are only three major new histories of one of the largest denominational groups—the Presbyterians—and only one of these works, Laurie Stanley’sThe Well-Watered Garden: The Presbyterian Church in Cape Breton, 1798-1860,deals with schooling in any depth.¹ Murphy also notes that there is little recent work on Presbyterianism in mainland Nova Scotia. This is particularly surprising when the birthplace of its native...

    • 3. Presbyterianism, Liberal Education and the Research Ideal: Sir Robert Falconer and the University of Toronto, 1907-1932
      (pp. 39-60)
      Michael Gauvreau

      “I believe,” proclaimed Robert Falconer at his inaugural as President of the University of Toronto in 1907, “that the highest type of citizenship cannot be permanently trained apart from a sense of obligation to and reverence for the moral order which is Divine. Religion is the crowning function of our manhood, for in religion we reach out to that which completes this fragment of the present.”¹ That the new president should choose to affirm so forcefully the centrality of religion was not surprising. Falconer had been trained as a Presbyterian minister, and although he had never occupied the pulpit of...

  5. II Canadian Presbyterians and the State
    • [II Introduction]
      (pp. 61-66)

      Few issues have been as contentious as the relation of church and state. The history of the Christian Church is, in part, a record of how Christians have sought to understand aright and to apply wisely Jesusʹs dictum, “Render to Caesar the things which are Caesarʹs and to God the things which are God’s” (Matthew 22:21) as well as the Apostle Paul’s injunction, “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God” (Romans 13:1).

      In the sixteenth century, Martin Luther, John Calvin,...

    • 4. ‘Who Pays The Piper…’: Canadian Presbyterianism and Church-State Relations
      (pp. 67-82)
      John S. Moir

      The problematic relationship of church and state has been at the heart of every secession and every reunion in the history of Scottish Presbyterianism, and in Canada that same issue, like so many other features of Presbyterian identity, has been shaped primarily by those Scottish precedents and traditions. Most of the arguments used in Canada and in Scotland owe more to John Knox than to John Calvin, but the ultimate appeal to authority leads back to the Bible. Scripture contributes several often-cited proof texts, but these are both inconclusive and even conflicting. The exhortation “Render unto Caesar” (Matthew 22:21) provides...

    • 5. Canada’s Sunday: The Presbyterian Contribution, 1875-1950
      (pp. 83-100)
      Paul Laverdure

      What can or cannot be done on the Canadian Sunday has been largely shaped by Presbyterian church-state struggles during the early twentieth century. Why politicians have debated Sunday laws can only be answered by studying the Presbyterians—William Caven, John Charlton, John G. Shearer, and William Rochester—who were involved in shaping a national Canadian Sunday. Canadaʹs Sunday, however, also tells the story of declining Presbyterian influence and of a Presbyterian retreat to southwestern Ontario. Finally, Presbyterians have shown that they do not believe in freedom of conscience where Sunday is concerned.

      With the Westminster Standards of 1646-48, Presbyterians strictly...

  6. III Presbyterians and Canadian Literature and Music
    • [III Introduction]
      (pp. 101-108)

      In hisA History of Canadian Literature, W. H. New notes that “though Canada was a secular state, religion was everywhere in its history and lang~age.”¹ The pervasiveness of both Protestant and Roman Catholic religions has been one of the important factors in the growth and vitality of Canadian literature—literature which today commands international attention and respect. Anyone interested in the origins of Canadian literature needs to consider this religious context.

      This section examines the contribution both of Presbyterian authors and of writers influenced by Presbyterian ideas. In “Ralph and Stephen and Hugh and Margaret: Canlit’s View of Presbyterians,”...

    • 6. Ralph and Stephen and Hugh and Margaret: Canlit’s View of Presbyterians
      (pp. 109-122)
      Joseph C. McLelland

      An alternative title for this somewhat irreverent look at Canadian Presbyterians might be “The Quest for the Historical Presbyterian, from Irving to Trevor.” Thus one might cite literary imagery in Irving Layton, “a man learning to forgive God,” through to our own Trevor Ferguson, who enjoys both God and Presbyterians.¹ Layton laments effete Christianity, particularly Puritan ethos:

      What luck, what luck to be loved

      by the one girl

      in this Presbyterian


      who knows how to give

      a man pleasure.²

      Similarly, novelist M. T. Kelly states: “Everything felt like the worst Presbyterian Sunday.”³ American critic Edmund Wilson writes that Louis...

    • 7. Fleeing The Emptiness: Presbyterian Guilt in Laurence’s Manawaka Tetralogy and Davies’s Deptford Trilogy
      (pp. 123-138)
      Jack Robinson

      InThe Knowledge of Man, Martin Buber states, “Man is the creature who is capable of becoming guilty and is capable of illuminating his guilt.”¹ The premise underlying Laurence’s Manawaka tetralogy and Davies’s Deptford trilogy is that the causes of guilt are not inscrutable. Unlike Kafka’s fictions, wherein guilt is soul destroying precisely because its sources are so diffuse that they cannot be named, the novels of Laurence and Davies show clearly how guilt arises from a sense of sin rooted in specific religious and cultural myths. For both authors, the Presbyterian tradition provides a testing ground for character: the...

    • 8. Modernity Without Tears: The Mythic World of Ralph Connor
      (pp. 139-158)
      D. Barry Mack

      The years between the election of 1896 and the end of the First World War witnessed the birth of modem Canada. In one generation of rapid transition, Canada evolved from a string of largely isolated agricultural communities stretched out along the American border to a significantly urbanized and industrialized nation. These were the years of the Laurier boom, in which the National Policy of Sir John A. Macdonald and the Conservatives finally took hold, and Canada became “a nation transformed.”¹ The integration of Canada’s economy entailed an increased concentration of capital in central Canada, the rapid growth of labour unions,...

    • 9. The Contribution of Alexander Macmillan to Canadian Hymnody
      (pp. 159-182)
      N. Keith Clifford

      In most discussions of the relationship between religion and culture, hymnody does not occupy a conspicuous place because the elitist bias of many historians has led them to focus exclusively on high culture. The recent interest of social historians in “popular culture” and “popular religion,” however, has meant that hymns and hymn writers have begun to receive some attention.¹ Unfortunately those responsible for compiling and editing denominational hymn books have not shared in this revival of interest. Yet without understanding the criteria editors have used in selecting the hymns and tunes which will be available to church members, it is...

  7. IV Presbyterians and Canadian Theology
    • [IV Introduction]
      (pp. 183-192)

      Presbyterianism represents a particular way of believing and practising the Christian faith. The Reformation in Zürich under Huldrych Zwingli, in Geneva under John Calvin, in Basel under John Oecolampadius, in Strasbourg under Martin Bucer, and in Edinburgh under John Knox developed in ways that distinguished Presbyterianism from Lutheranism on the right, on which it was strongly dependent, and from the Anabaptist and Spiritualist movement, by which it was also influenced on the left. The Reformation spread through France, along the Rhine to the Low countries, to Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland, and to England and Scotland.

      The term “Reformed” was the...

    • 10. History of Presbyterian Theology in Canada to 1875
      (pp. 193-218)
      William Klempa

      The aim of this essay is to trace the history of one strand of Protestant theology in Canada up to 1875. Yet, can we speak without cant¹ of a history of theology in Canada and thus of a history of Presbyterian theology? From early days, Canadians established places of theological education, taught the body of knowledge known as theology, and to a greater or lesser degree used and communicated this theology in their preaching, teaching, and practice. The issue is whether there is something that can properly be designated as theology in the Canadian idiom—as there was and is...

    • 11. Canadian Presbyterians and Princeton Seminary, 1850-1900
      (pp. 219-238)
      Richard W. Vaudry

      Writing in August 1878 on the occasion of the death of Charles Hodge, the editor of thePresbyterian Recordcommented that “to say that he was the greatest theologian America has produced, is not to say enough. No theologian of the age was better known or more universally respected. His great work onSystematic Theologyis a text book in many lands.”¹ While not all would agree with the editor’s judgment, his comments certainly indicate the high regard in which Hodge was held by his Canadian contemporaries; perhaps no other American theologian had as much influence among nineteenth-century Canadian Presbyterians....

    • 12. Recovering the Reformation Conception of Revelation: The Theological Contribution of Walter Williamson Bryden and Post-Union Canadian Presbyterianism
      (pp. 239-258)
      John A. Vissers

      These words were written by the late James D. Smart in 1956, some four years after the death of Walter Williamson Bryden. In Smart’s estimation it is not possible to understand the development of the Presbyterian Church in Canada following 1925, including its contribution to Canadian culture, apart from understanding the signifihcance of Bryden’s life, ministry, and theology. As Professor of Church History and the History and Philosophy of Religion at Knox College in Toronto, Bryden shaped an entire generation of theological students in preparation for the pastoral ministry of the then Continuing Presbyterian Church. In this context Bryden’s influence...

    • 13. The Role of Women in the Preservation of the Presbyterian Church in Canada: 1921-28
      (pp. 259-278)
      Roberta Clare

      It is interesting that historical writing on women in the Presbyterian Church in Canada focuses on famous women who happen to be Presbyterian, rather than on Presbyterians who happen to be women. This is to say that like much scholarly work on Canadian Presbyterianism, it emphasizes biography. While well-written essays of thisgenrerecreate the fascinating characters of Presbyterian history, important historical events sometimes become consumed by the character sketch.

      The biographical approach is particularly evident in materials touching on the role of women in the years 1921 to 1928. For example, in an essay inEnkindled By the Word,...

  8. Contributors
    (pp. 279-280)
  9. Index of Names
    (pp. 281-290)