Evangelical Century

Evangelical Century: College and Creed in English Canada from the Great Revival to the Great Depression

Copyright Date: 1991
Pages: 416
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  • Book Info
    Evangelical Century
    Book Description:

    Gauvreau explores the persistence and development of the evangelical creed as the intellectual expression of Protestant religion which largely defined English-Canadian culture in the Victorian period. This popular theology, which linked Methodist and Presbyterian church colleges to the world of popular preaching, was based on the Bible not only as the foundation of personal piety but as a sacred record of human history: past, present, and future.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6255-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Illustrations
    (pp. xi-2)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    Goldwin Smith, Victorian Canada’s pre-eminent man of letters, surveyed the turbulent Anglo-Saxon cultural life at the end of 1895 with considerable foreboding. He believed that during the preceding halfcentury the foundations of Protestant religion had been undermined by the advance of evolutionary thought. Natural science and biblical criticism had already eroded the strongest bulwark of Christianity, “the cosmogonical and historical foundations” of traditional belief contained in the Bible. Worse, complained Smith, the defenders of the faith had surrendered to the enemy. Dubious theories of “semi-inspiration” applied to the biblical record had led “liberal” theologians to give up “the authenticity and...

  6. 1 Between Awakening and Enlightenment: The Evangelical Colleges, 1820–1860
    (pp. 13-56)

    In the fall of 1819 a group of young men gathered outside a large white frame house in the little port town of Pictou, Nova Scotia. Dressed in the uniforms of Glasgow University scholars, they eagerly awaited the opening of the Pictou Academy, the first institution of higher learning sponsored by the Presbyterian Church in the provinces of British North America. For the founder and principal of the college, the Reverend Thomas McCulloch, it was a proud moment, the fulfillment of a vision that had fired him from the moment of his arrival from Scotland in 1803. Containing a small...

  7. 2 Authority and History: Evangelicalism and the Problem of the Past
    (pp. 57-90)

    “Surely nothing can afford more pleasure to an enquiring mind,” confided Egerton Ryerson to his diary in 1826, “than the perusal of documents relating to the ancient chosen people of God.” For this young Methodist circuit-rider, it was simply marvellous that the Old Testament Israelites who “according to their legitimate records” had more than eight hundred thousand men of military age, “should slip from the records of men, hide themselves from human observation, and inhabit limits beyond geographical research.“ It was, Ryerson declared, “a phenomenon unprecedented in the world’s history,” and a compelling proof of “the wonderful government of Him...

  8. 3 Prophecy, Protestantism, and the Millennium: The Preaching of History
    (pp. 91-124)

    In a Sunday sermon, the Rev. Henry Flesher Bland reminded his congregation that even in a new land, the past was an ever-present reality. He urged them to consider the great events and heroic acts that marked the history of Christianity, and referred them to the spiritual transformation of the Roman Empire by the Church, the bold resistance and reforming zeal of John Wycliffe and Oliver Cromwell, and the “leaven of evangelism” injected by the preaching of John Wesley in the eighteenth century. All these, Bland declared, presented a clear and unequivocal message to the Christian believer. God’s hand was...

  9. 4 The Evolutionary Encounter: “Every Thought is to be Brought into Captivity to the Obedience of Christ”
    (pp. 125-180)

    “The doctrine of Evolution,” the Rev. S.H. Janes wrote in 1877, “when kept within certain bounds is quite consistent with a belief in an intelligent First Cause; and we think it is one of the ways in which God has proceeded in the preparation of the earth for man.”² After nearly two decades of heated debate among evangelicals on both sides of the Atlantic concerning the implications of evolution for Christian thought, Janes, a Methodist, found it possible to reconcile the concept of evolution with the fundamental tenets of the evangelical creed: the activity of God in the world, and...

  10. 5 History, Prophecy, and the Kingdom of God: Toward a Theology of Reform
    (pp. 181-217)

    “The wise will disregard theorists and study the past to estimate what the future is to be,” Grant advised in a sermon outlining his hopes for Canada’s destiny, and underlining the conflict between the tenets of the evangelical creed and the assumptions of late Victorian social thinkers and idealist philosophers. Confident that the application of evolutionary naturalism to the study of humanity provided scientific certainty regarding human origins and the progress of mind, morality, and society, many of these secular thinkers had by 1890 rejected the intellectual claims of Christian tradition as antiquated, unscientific, and immoral. Faced with such a...

  11. 6 The Paradox of History: College and Creed in Crisis
    (pp. 218-254)

    With a plaintive note of uncertainty, Nathanael Burwash, recently retired as Chancellor of Victoria College, reflected in 1914 on the changes that had taken place in Canadian Methodism over the past four decades. In an address delivered to the Nova Scotia Conference on the eve of World War I, he observed that while he had witnessed a vast growth of the church in numbers, wealth, and activity, a “worldly spirit” had crept into Methodism, displacing the deeper spiritual life. Burwash warned his colleagues that the church had lost the “revival spirit and power of conversion & with it individual responsibility...

  12. 7 The Passing of the Evangelical Creed: War, the College, and the Problem of Religious Certainty
    (pp. 255-283)

    “The old evangelism,” wrote Chown from retirement in 1930, “consisted of the public proclamation of the gospel of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ, and a call for the complete dedication of life to the service of God and the people.” This preaching aimed to produce the experience of “conversion,” an “immediate and vividly conscious personal transaction between the Divine Being and the individual soul.”¹ In the half-century since his entry into the Methodist ministry, Chown argued, he had witnessed the dilution of the core of the evangelistic message - the conviction of the immediacy and horror of sin, and...

  13. Conclusion: The Evangelical Mind and the Persistence of the Eighteenth Century
    (pp. 284-292)

    For over a century the Baconian method of biblical study and its equation of theology, prophecy, and history gave shape and coherence to education and preaching in the Methodist and Presbyterian church colleges of English Canada. This evangelical creed attempted to harmonize the tensions between a rising tide of revivalism and the eighteenth-century balance of reason and authority represented by a late manifestation of the Scottish Enlightenment. The revival stressed belief as the fruit of experience, rather than of mere assent to confessions of faith or participation in a common ritual. Faith was the outcome of a personal encounter between...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 293-368)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 369-392)
  16. Index
    (pp. 393-398)