Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


The primary focus of this study is the intellectual formation and thought of an influential but largely unknown Canadian Methodist theologian and educator, Nathanael Burwash (1839-1918), dean of theology and chancellor of Victoria University, Toronto. Historians studying the relationship between organized religion and society during Burwash's lifespan have detected a profound reorientation within Canadian Methodism and Protestantism generally, as educated individuals came to terms with the critical thought and structural changes of the late Victorian period. This dissertation seeks to establish to what extent John Wesley's revivalist theology remained authoritative both for Burwash as the denomination's leading theologian, and in directing the official pronouncements of the Methodist Church in Canada during this period of change.;In order to ascertain this, two questions have been raised. The first is an inquiry into the nature and ideals of Methodist theology as articulated and practiced by Nathanael Burwash, but placed within the wider context of his denomination and of nineteenth-century religious revivalism. Secondly, in order to ascertain to what extent religious faith shaped both thought and institutions, six significant issues affecting Burwash and Canadian Methodism are examined in detail: child nurture, the role of reason and religion in Methodist higher education, increased denominational affluence, ministerial college training and the teaching of the higher criticism, university federation, and church union.;With the exception of university federation (whose religious dimensions have remained unexplored) scholars have interpreted Canadian Methodism's stand on these issues as part of a general pattern of decline in religious belief and practice. This dissertation, however, by demonstrating the authoritative role of Wesley's thought in shaping Methodism's response to new issues emphasizes continuity rather than change. Thus an analysis of Burwash's thought and his influence on Canadian Methodism suggests that the religious developments within late Victorian Canada cannot be understood only in terms of the decline of faith and practice and the growth of unbelief. What must also be recognized are the nature and ideals of religious revivalism.



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