Aspects of the Canadian Evangelical Experience ed. by G.A. Rawlyk, and: The Contribution of Presbyterianism to the Maritime Provinces of Canada ed. by Charles H.H. Scobie and G.A. Rawlyk (review)
- The Canadian Historical Review
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 79, Number 2, June 1998
- pp. 365-368
- Additional Information
Book Reviews 365 Presbyterian Church union in Canada in 1875 is examined, and the author clearly shows how Covenanter decline was precipitated by the repeated defections that took place. The author touches only lightly on another important cause for ultimate failure: Reformed Presbyterianism was a movement with its eyes too firmly fixed on the past, especially the perceived wrongs done to early seventeenth-century Scotland. One is forced to conclude that the ease with which both clergy and laity of Chignecto jettisoned important Covenanter distinctives showed a lack of understanding of and commitment to their importance. The only major problem with this fine study is its unfortunate brevity (n6 pages of text). A number of events are passed over too quickly, and the understanding of some readers may suffer as a result. Better, fuller definitions of some terms would have been useful - session , synod, presbytery, for example. 'Communion tokens~ are casually mentioned, with no explanation. In the last three pages ofthe book, the author deals with the impact on the Covenanters of higher criticism and the move from religion to religiosity in the late nineteenth century. There is no time, and certainly no evidence advanced, to examine these important themes. These are, however, minor criticisms, and come only from an Oliver Twist who is always asking for more. BARRY MOODY Acadia University Aspects of the Canadian Evangelical Experience. Edited by G.A. RAWLYK. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press 1997· Pp. xxv, 542. $55.00 The Contribution of Presbyterianism to the Maritime Provinces of Canada. Edited by CHARLES H.H. SCOBIE and G.A. RAWLYK. Montreal and Kingston : McGill-Qu'een's University Press 1997· Pp. xix, 267, illus. $49·95 The late George Rawlyk prodded Canadian historians to integrate the Maritime region into Canadian historiography and accept the presence of an evangelical tradition in Canadian society. In his ongoing work on Henry Alline, in particular, these two themes came together. The fruits of Rawlyk's scholarship are demonstrated in these valuable collections. In Aspects of the Canadian Evangelical Experience, the contributors adopt David Bebbington's influential definition ofwhat comprises evangelicalism : emphasis on personal conversion, insistence on activism, belief in the Bible as the word of God, and attention to the meaning of Christ's sacrifice through the crucifixion. In this volume, religions as diverse as evangelical Anglicanism, the preaching of Aimee Semple McPherson, the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and Lutheranism 366 The Canadian Historical Review are all considered under this evangelical umbrella. There is little discussion of whether the concept of evangelicalism is being applied too widely or broadly. Much like those who think the term 'secularization' should be put in the trash heap of historiography for being applied without reservation, the same case could be made for evangelicalism. Nevertheless, many religious traditions or movements that have been largely ignored in Canadian historiography are explored in this collection . Debate on the question of evangelical religion's success and influence , especially in the twentieth century, does surface. John Stackhouse questions the image of a victorious evangelicalism by suggesting that it was the faith of a minority and that it made little impact on most Canadians.- Andrew Grenville presents statistical evidence, based on polling data, to suggest that sixteen per cent of Canadians, including evangelical Catholics, can be included within the evangelical fold. Many essays focusing on the nineteenth century demonstrate the vibrancy of evangelicalism. Marguerite Van Die's essay on Methodism challenges the notion that evangelicalism declined as Methodists became more respectable and middle class. Instead, she argues that the new middleclass ethos that emerged in the 1850s revitalized Methodism through an emphasis on philanthropic and charitable activity. The Methodist faith represented a potent mix of evangelicalism and capitalism. On the opposite pole is the provocative essay by Barry Mack on Presbyterianism . He argues that there was a profound generational change in the early twentieth century. In leading Presbyterians into Church Union, the new leadership lost sight of the evangelical concern about sin, grace, and redemption. The result, Mack argues, is that Presbyterianism was characterized by a 'decay oftraditional belief.' It was unable to 'withstand the secular wasteland of ... Canada.' The essays that concentrate on the crucial role...