The best books on the history of Christianity in Canada

Mark A. Noll Author Of A History of Christianity in the United States and Canada
By Mark A. Noll

The Books I Picked & Why

The Church in the Canadian Era

By John Webster Grant

Book cover of The Church in the Canadian Era

Why this book?

In the sixteen years between this book’s two editions, religion in Canada underwent a revolution. John Webster Grant’s history of developments in Canada’s first century after Confederation (1867-1967) sparkled with wit, limpid prose, and telling incidents succinctly portrayed. His deep research in French sources, as well as English, made for an exceptionally well-balanced account of both Protestants and Catholics, both Quebec and the rest of Canada. The new chapter he added in 1988 was just as informative, perceptive, and wise about the difficult days for the churches that began so suddenly in the 1960s.


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Ravished by the Spirit: Religious Revivals, Baptists, and Henry Alline

By George A. Rawlyk

Book cover of Ravished by the Spirit: Religious Revivals, Baptists, and Henry Alline

Why this book?

In his years as a historian at Queen’s University (Kingston, Ontario) Rawlyk inspired a wealth of solid writing on Canada’s religious history, while also inaugurating an ambitious series in religious history for the McGill-Queen’s University press that continues to this day. Rawlyk’s own research detailed the religious history of the Maritime Provinces, especially the dramatic, long-term impact of radical Christian revivals in the period of the American Revolution that were spearheaded by Henry Alline. A special feature of this book is the shrewd assessment of how Canada’s early religious history differed from parallel developments in the United States.


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Religion and Public Life in Canada: Historical and Comparative Perspectives

By Marguerite Van Die

Book cover of Religion and Public Life in Canada: Historical and Comparative Perspectives

Why this book?

This wide-ranging collection of authoritative chapters provides an outstanding general account of Canadian religion at the start of the twenty-first century. Coverage extends across the nation (New Brunswick, Quebec, Toronto, Alberta); the book includes perceptive articles on Catholics, mainline Protestants, and newer evangelical Protestant movements; there is revealing treatment of Jews and Sikhs, residential schools for Natives, and church-guided social reform, efforts of missionary outreach and more. The diverse ways that Canada’s religious organizations have engaged with national public life provide a strongly unifying theme.


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The Catholic Origins of Quebec's Quiet Revolution, 1931-1970, Volume 2

By Michael Gauvreau

Book cover of The Catholic Origins of Quebec's Quiet Revolution, 1931-1970, Volume 2

Why this book?

With deep research in both French and English sources, Gauvreau offers a convincing explanation for the dramatic flight from traditional Catholicism that occurred in Quebec during the 1960s. He shows that young reforming Catholics, whose number included the future prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, successfully critiqued the stultifying conservatism, unthinking nationalism, and intellectual sterility of the province’s traditional alignment of church and state. Gauvreau also details the reasons why the reformers’ hopes for a reformed, but reinvigorated Catholicism were frustrated by trajectories they themselves had set in motion. The result was to transform Canada’s most actively religious province into its most secular, and to do so in less than a decade.


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A Church with the Soul of a Nation: Making and Remaking the United Church of Canada

By Phyllis D Airhart

Book cover of A Church with the Soul of a Nation: Making and Remaking the United Church of Canada

Why this book?

The United Church of Canada began in 1925 with the merger of the nation’s Methodists, Congregationalists, union churches in the West, and two-thirds of its Presbyterians. The church’s early leaders aspired to guide all of Protestant Canada, indeed the whole nation, in realizing the best of activistic Methodism, theologically consequential Presbyterianism, and the social potential of ecumenical cooperation. Airhart’s empathetic study shows how powerfully the United Church contributed to moving Canada in the direction of humane social development, but then how internal divisions and the growing secularism of Canadian society frustrated the grand nationalistic and spiritual visions with which the church began.


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