Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Dr. Douglas Leighton


This biographical study of the militant fundamentalist, Dr. Thomas Todhunter Shields, tests traditional understandings of fundamentalism, especially its militancy, and applies both a new interpretative model for understanding Shields and a revisionist approach to the question of fundamentalist militancy. Shields’ fundamentalism was not the rabid anti-intellectualism of “a disgruntled and backward people who could not keep up with the culture of their time”[1] but instead illustrated the paradox of competing forces within the modern dialectic. The spiritual consequences of cultural liberalism within his own church and the horrific scenes he encountered as a guest of the Ministry of Information in World War 1 motivated Shields to become a militant fundamentalist. By tracing the trajectory of Shields’ fundamentalism it becomes apparent that, although he fought modernists, he did so as a modern man, using modern weapons and fighting for truly modern ideals. In the face of modernity’s optimism about the rationalization of all fields of endeavour, the progress suggested by scientific and industrial advances and the liberty promised by new prosperity, Shields and his militant fundamentalist allies had to appeal merely to the legacy of modernity’s first war. Theirs was not an anti-intellectual reaction to rationalism’s domination, but rather a devastating disclosure of the moral price to be paid for modernity’s neglect of the spiritual element in the human condition.

[1] Mark Parent, “The Christology of T. T. Shields: The Irony of Fundamentalism” (Ph.D. Thesis for McGill University, 1991), 60.