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Greatest Preachers

Thomas T. Shields

Thomas T. Shields

THOMAS TODHUNTER SHIELDS
1873 - 1955

Thomas Todhunter Shields, affectionately T.T., provides the historian with one of the more colourful chapters in the history of Ontario. His exploits fascinated the Toronto media from the earliest years of his tenure in that city. By 1949 one Toronto paper had accumulated enough press clippings to fill three bulging scrapbooks.[1] It was that same year that Gerald Anglin wrote his not-so-flattering account of the Battling Baptist for Maclean's Magazine. Though written from a hostile stance, the Battling Baptist well captures something of the spirit of the man who captivated audiences for nearly half a century. Anglin catalogues a few of his minor skirmishes:

T.T. has gone scalping after gamblers, card players, burlesque comedians, the United States of America and women. He has attacked beverage rooms ("trapdoors to hell"), bobbed hair ("The Lord never intended women to go to the barber") and athletics ("The Lord hath no pleasure in the legs of a man.")

Laying about at his fellow believers," continues Anglin, "he has denounced Methodists, Anglicans, the United Church and the Oxford Group. More than any of these he has attacked the Roman Catholic Church -but he has lashed out at brother Baptists more relentlessly and more vehemently than at all other objects of his wrath combined."[2]

A few years earlier Kenneth Johnstone of the Standard had produced a similar list of skirmishes. He speaks of the Des Moines University affair, the McMaster problems, Shield's calls for legal reforms, including the introduction of the lash as a punishment for criminals. He is said to attack Premier Ferguson for his unholy partnership with rum. He decries the Romanization of Anglicans and also attacks the Amalgamated Builders council of Toronto and the evangelist J.C. Kellogg. Johnstone also notes the dissolution of the Women's Missionary Society of Jarvis St. ending "Petticoat rule" in said Church. He also records skirmishes in the Union of Baptist Churches and more political fighting this time with Premier Hepburn.

The year 1935, says Johnstone, was the year of Dr. Shields' big campaign on Mitch Hepburn, and for once Mitch had met his match in the gentle art of invective. First he announced that Hepburn was a vulgarian demagogue. Then he noticed that Hepburn strongly resembled Hitler. He asked the pertinent question: Did Rome assist Hepburn? Finally he lit upon the golden phrase of "Hepburn's Alliance with Rum and Rome."

Noting that the past few years had posed some few problems for Shields he concludes:

However, his great crusade goes on with unabated and uninhibited fervour. He still calls for the ousting of Mackenzie King, Premier Drew, the Catholic Church, the Baptist Modernists, the Baptist Fundamentalists who oppose him, Labour Unions and cartels.... But these are merely a few of the things that Dr. Shields opposes and combats with pen and voice. Just you name something else and he will be against it, providing, of course, that it isn't Pastor Shields himself."[3]

These were of course hostile accounts of the activities of Dr. Shields. But what is well illustrated is his fighting spirit. His own attitudes are reflected in the statement:

I have no love for contention; but any man who contends for the faith is immediately labelled as a fighter, as a man who would rather contend than anything else.... They may say what they like about revival by compromise; but I challenge the men of compromise to show me their revival. Where is it? Where are the fruits of it?[4]

Contending for the faith
When Doctor Shields saw a principle worth fighting for there were no holds barred! In his own denomination he fought most of his major battles. Sensing a weakening of the traditional Protestant position on the authority of scripture he challenges every manifestation of theological liberalism. His first fight comes with the editor of the Baptist magazine over an editorial espousing liberal views. He emerges from the 1919 Ottawa Convention completely triumphant. But enemies have been made and over the next ten years the battle will rage in several forums, including McMaster University, the Baptist convention and his own Church. At home in Jarvis Street Baptist Church he suffers through intense opposition on three occasions and in 1921 survived by the narrowest margin. In this year the Church went through serious internal divisions, at least in part, because of Shields' continual habit of "knocking." Many members, especially those of the business class, became tired and alarmed at his continual "knocking" of Catholicism, suspected heresies and questionable social activities. Shields, true to form, refused to capitulate and expelled over 300 members from the Church.

I have been a Pastor for some years-Pastor of this Church for nearly twenty-eight years. There was a time when some of my friends used to say, "Why does Mr. Shields not do this or that?" Because I could not. Why? Because I had a cabinet called Deacons. I recently published a book on it called, "The Plot that Failed", giving the whole story. I could not move. I was once going to give an address on the Roman Catholic situation in Ireland-I delivered it in a certain university, and a committee of ladies asked that it be repeated here. Immediately the good Deacons said, "You must not do that." "Why?" "It would cause a disturbance. Roman Catholics would come in and break up the seats." "Nonsense." A business man said, "It is like this, Pastor. We are business men, and many of our customers are Roman Catholics. We do not want to offend them."... I got rid of those deacons...![5]

In the end Shields emerged victorious and his determination to go to heaven from Jarvis St. would ultimately be realized!

Throughout his years as Pastor of Jarvis Street Baptist Church, Shields was continually on the prowl for any manifestation of wickedness which might infect the society in which he lived. Outside of the ecclesiastical arena he defied and tormented "ungodly political figures." He courted voters though he never ran for office. He incensed French Canadians and Catholics alike until French politicians were calling for his arrest - even a public hanging. Quebec's threatened secession brought from his pulpit a cry to arms and a recommendation for civil war. He carried on an extensive controversy with Premier Mitch Hepburn in 1935. Lashing out at him from the pulpit Shields laments the state of affairs.

"I attempt no argument;" he says, "I can see nothing but for the Province, with what fortitude it can command, to resign itself to suffering the indignity of your premiership, until by the lapse of time the citizens of this Province, in the exercise of their constitutional right, will be able to cast you into the political oblivion which your personal insolence so richly merits." (in "Hepburn's Alliance with Rum and Rome." vol. 13, no. 45 p. 4)

His denunciation of of the federal government's policies brought censure on the floor of parliament. Prime Minister King's threat of arrest excited his sense of suffering for righteousness sake and provoked a fiery retort. He scorned the preacher who would not risk arrest for the gospel's sake!

You know there are a lot of preachers who are in no danger of going to jail. They are too eminently respectable ever to suffer a fate of that kind. Indeed there are some in our day that are so respectable that even the devil himself can find no fault in them and would not criticise them for anything they say for the good and sufficient reason that they never criticise him.[6]

Dr. Shields travelled from coast to coast in both wars in his efforts to promote enlistment. In the first World War he was utilized by the Union government of Robert Laird Borden for that purpose. From his own Church he sent nearly three hundred men to the first world war.

During the Great War," he comments, "this Church gave nearly three hundred men to the colors,-not a conscript among them. On the north wall there is a bronze tablet bearing the names of forty-one who never came back. We have elsewhere in the building the names of the three hundred or almost three hundred, that we may keep them in remembrance.[7]

Passivism, Shields contends, is both philosophically and religiously wrong.

Those of you who regularly worship here know that for several years, directly and indirectly, I have protested against the doctrines of pacifism as being not only wholly unscriptural, but as being philosophically anarchistic. I believe infinite harm has been done since the conclusion of the Great War by the propagation of pacifist views, which I, at least, believe to be without any basis of reason, and are equally devoid of either historical or biblical sanction...The state is a divine institution, and in that state there must be a sword. There can be no orderly society without the principle of compulsion.[8]

The fight for conscription brought Shields into direct conflict with Quebec politicians because of their repeated evasions and outright refusals to support the war effort. The Gospel Witness became the tool in his hand to castigate Quebec and a to expose a suspected Roman Catholic alliance with Hitler. Herein he denounced and ridiculed every such evasion. For instance, Shields attacked the law which allowed men to get out of conscription by merely getting a letter from his minister.

Now a new measure has been passed whereby any man who wants to get out of the army, or refrain from joining the forces, has but to get a letter from a minister of religion- no tribunal, no court - and he will be excused. The priests of Quebec will be kept busy. That regulation is for that province. I have written scores of letters of recommendation since the war began, to help secure admission for men to the army: I have not written one to try to secure a man's discharge. If you want to get a letter of that sort from "a minister of religion", go to the priest; do not come to me! But that is the situation we face."[9]

All of this, of course, excited the animosity of the Quebec media and they cried loud and long for public execution. Prime Minister King, caught in the middle of the controversy, commented from the floor of parliament "Speaking here as a member of the Protestant Church, I wish to say that I have the utmost contempt for Dr. Shields and all the utterances he can make!"[10] Shields replied to King's criticisms with open defiance.

...I stand on my rights as a British citizen, and contend that it is an element in the principle of religious freedom that I have a right to believe in and to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, and an equal right to denounce the blasphemous presumptions of the Papacy as representative of that 'continuous person,' the Antichrist. For that I stand, and shall continue to stand; and I challenge the Premier of Canada, his Minister of Justice, and the Attorney-General or the Province of Ontario, to dare to try to stop me.[11]

He was outspoken in his opposition to the Liquor trade.

"Personally," says Shields, "I am a Prohibitionist. I would prohibit the Liquor Traffic everywhere, just as I would prohibit a man-eating tiger from wandering at large. I am not a chemist, but it seems to me that there is enough of the devil in whisky to afford material for high explosives of some sort; and I should like to turn the chemists of the Empire loose upon what supplies we have in stock, with instructions to convert them into stuff to blow up Prussianism with. I say this to make my own attitude unmistakably plain. The damning and damnable record of this traffic everywhere merits the unsparing, unmitigated, curse of earth and heaven."[12]

Jarvis Street Baptist Church was surrounded in those days by beer halls and so in a sense Shields was on the front lines. When Hepburn legalized the sale of beer in restaurants and hotels his fury was unmatched. Shields called for letters of protest and the response was overwhelming:

Without any organized effort, but as a result of the call for action from this pulpit we have already received twenty-four thousand signed protests against the Hepburn Beer Parlours, or more than the combined votes received by Mr. Hepburn and his opponent at the recent election....Without waiting for the receipt of our protest-but hearing of it through the press-the Premier of Ontario has already expressed his view that these protests come from "offensive temperance cranks". I am quite willing to accept the designation, and to reply to the Honourable Mitchell F. Hepburn that so far as this "temperance crank" is concerned he is resolved to become more "offensive" still.[13]

Judging by the sweeping condemnations that soon filled the newspapers, in this last resolution, Shields was eminently successful! In the personal files of Premier Mitch Hepburn is a letter received from Dr. Shields. There Shields writes:

Sir,

I enclose herewith a declaration made by the secretary of Jarvis St. Church to the effect that we have in our possession protests against the continuance of the present beverage rooms, and particularly against authorities being granted to such places adjacent to educational, charitable, or religious institutions, which protests bear forty thousand six hundred and seventy-nine signatures. These lists are open to inspection, and if there be any doubt as to the accuracy of the count, you are at liberty to send anyone you like to inspect the lists and to count the names in order to the verification of this statement.

His attack upon the liquor trade excited the animosity of the bars which surrounded the Church. Personal threats were received including one recently uncovered in Jarvis Street's archives. "Say Doc," it reads. "Be Careful. The boys across the Street are coming to take you for a ride. Don't be out alone. A friend."

His open professions of male superiority would have caused an upraised eyebrow in times not so sensitive to feminist concerns as our own. In animated fashion he thundered from his pulpit "God almighty made man superior to woman, and superior he must always be, I'll have no `Women's aids (or) Women's auxiliaries' in this Church ... I rule this Church ... and no woman shall ever dictate to me."[14] As early as 1917 he displayed a hostility to the franchise for women! In a playful moment he complains,

"Oh these women! When did ever a man win in verbal conflict with a woman? And now they have the franchise, and soon they will be sitting in Parliament - and as sure as fate they'll get all the votes! Gentlemen, when your wife invites you to explain your views, if you are wise, I say, if you are wise you will say you have no views apart from hers! The most comfortable view which any man can entertain on any subject is that which his wife insists on holding."[15]

On the other side Shields was a family man with a love for domestic joys. He was married twice, his first wife dying in 1932. He loved to garden and at his 35th anniversary at Jarvis St. the congregation presented him with a full set of garden furniture. He loved his dog, and according to some witnesses expressed a confidence that one day he would enjoy again this canine companionship beyond the Pearly Gates. One wonders though how at times his wife ever tolerated him. He comments with humour in 1917 about the domestic responsibilities he would prefer to avoid.

"Any man who has ever gone shopping with his wife (and no wise man will go if he can either find or invent a respectable and not unchivalrous excuse for not going), but any man who has failed to discover or effectually to plead just reason for exemption, and has heroically taken the path of duty, will know how hazardous a venture is involved in such an expedition."[16]

T.T. was also a beloved pastor and preacher. Jean Graham, a reporter for Saturday Night, noted with some surprise his pastoral skills!

Could this gentleman of benign countenance and mellifluous voice be the turbulent pastor who hated his enemies and loathed his theological opponents until he became wrathy and violent and longed for the Lord to destroy them? Surely there must be some mistake. As the sermon progressed the bewilderment increased. It was what would be called a simple gospel sermon, with no reference to modernists or other monstrosities....

It is little wonder that there was no middle grounds when it came time to express an opinion on Dr. Shields. George Rawlyk acknowledged his place as the dominant personality among all North American fundamentalists. However, he clearly points out the split in opinion over this man. "T.T. Shields," says Rawlyk, "was either loved or hated, respected or detested, considered as a true "disciple of Christ" or as a "minion of Antichrist." He repeats the story told by Dr. Morely Hall, which illustrates this polarizing tendency. This story was about "two women in the Jarvis Street Baptist Church, Toronto, who were struck by the special effect of a shaft of morning sunshine on the countenance of the Reverend T.T. Shields as he sat piously behind his pulpit. "One was impressed by the angelic look on her pastor's face. The other was certain that she saw traces of the demonic." Shields' supporters saw him as the Spurgeon of Canada. Some went so far as to liken him to such men as Luther, Calvin and Wesley. His opponents were not so kind. The media characterized him as the "hatingest person in the country." Quebecers were infuriated by him, though Ontario tended to be amused by his exploits. The Prime Minister once declared that he had "nothing but contempt" for Dr. Shields. The notoriety, however, never daunted him. On one occasion he declared: "I court the fullest publicity. I wish to speak into the ear of the world."[17]

Character of the contender
There were a number of factors that contributed to the shaping of Doctor Shields' character. One of the foremost was his Christian ancestry. His father, also T.T. Shields, was a minister of the gospel, first in the Church of England, then among the Methodists in Britain and then in Baptist circles in Ontario. Doctor Shields was always very conscious of the Protestant ancestry he had inherited. Shields often referred to his great great grandfather, also Rev. Thomas Todhunter Shields, an Anglican Vicar who lived during the days of Wesley and Whitefield. For the next 200 years Shields' family tree contained an unbroken line of Protestant preachers. There was little wonder that Shields should feel the claims of the Protestant ministry press upon him. Thomas Todhunter was raised from the beginnings in a strict Christian setting. In many ways his parents prepared him for the ministry that would one day be his. His father trained him meticulously in the English language. Every day Shields was made to find a new word in the dictionary and to write it in a sentence. His tremendous gifts of oratory in all likelihood stemmed from this early influence. His mother, regretting her inability to speak publicly for her Lord, prayed for years for a son who could speak for her.

Not only was his upbringing Christian, it was also distinctly British. Shields loved England and empire. For T.T. England was the defender of all his Protestant liberties.

O London! exclaims Shields, "intangible, fascinating, paradoxical, incomparable, mighty, invincible, glorious, London! through travail of soul, through centuries of toil, and conflict, of patience, and determination, of self-discipline, of moral and religious culture, thou hast attained to thy proud position as the capital, the heart, of that Empire which is the bulwark of the world's liberties.[18]

During his career he travelled numerous times to England even defying the German u-boats in his journeys. In the first World War, he travelled on the White Star Lines Arabic knowing even as he did that the Arabic was on the German hit list! Indeed on its return voyage the Arabic was sunk! He writes from London on Aug. 15, 1915:

I arrived here ... at 8.10 and the first thing I saw at the station was a bulletin - White Star Liner sunk. I bought a paper & learned that it was the good ship Arabic. If I had finally decided not to remain for Aug 29th that was the ship I was going on. [My] reason for thinking of returning earlier was the matter of expense as the Arabic was the only "one class" boat sailing. However I did not go & the poor Arabic did. I am thinking of the Captain & crew many of whom I got to know.

A hint of his British resentment towards the United States' neutrality spills over in this same letter.

My present plan is to sail on White Star Liner Lapland, Sept. 1st from Liverpool. I expect there will almost surely be some American on the Arabic. I believe there is a growing feeling of contempt for the United States in England. I notice that Joncett and others are returning on neutral ships, but I have decided if I can't get back under the Union Jack, I'll stay here and help fight. I won't sail under the contemptible Stars and Stripes if I never get back.[19]

This resentment is short lived however, and when the United States joins the war effort he was equally impassioned in his praises.

Reflecting his love of the British Empire was his almost fanatical insistence upon the singing of "God Save the King!" One might wonder whether he had never heard of the American Revolution when he attempted to impose this rite upon the American students at his newly purchased Des Moines University!! At home in Jarvis Street there were many periods in which every service ended with the singing of three verses of this British Anthem.

"I don't know how you feel," comments Shields, "but as often as we sing God save the King to me it becomes a very earnest personal prayer. I cannot help feeling that I am praying for someone for whom God has given me a great affection and I never think of their Majesties without feeling profoundly thankful to God that this empire has at its head such rulers who have set before the people of the world such a noble Christian example in these days of conflict."[20]

Career of the contender
The career of T.T.Shields spanned sixty-one years. From the outset his goal was to emulate England's Charles Haddon Spurgeon. One of his most prized mementos was a letter opener which had belonged to Spurgeon and which was presented to him by Spurgeon's son. Shields dreamed of standing in the place Spurgeon once occupied. Years later that dream would be fulfilled as he preached in the pulpit of the famous Metropolitan tabernacle.

Doctor Shields' first pastorate was in Florence, Ontario beginning in 1894. He has pastorates also in Dutton, Delhi, Hamilton and London. He comes to Adelaide St. Baptist Church in London in 1905, where he will remain until 1910. The present building situated at the corners of Adelaide and King was built during his pastorate. Having initiated 16 cottage prayer meetings in various parts of the city, a period of revival ensued. The building they then occupied was soon too small to hold the crowds so the building was expanded to its present state. With regular Sunday night baptisms, his critics soon began to speak of "Dr. Shields and his Sunday night tub!" When Charles Taze Russell, one of the founders of the Jehovah's Witnesses, came to town, he found a significant adversary in Dr. Shields. With his denial of a literal hell, he announced his topic, "To Hell and Back." When Shields saw the interest that Russell's topic was stimulating he announced his own topic; "To Hell and Stay!" Speaking of that experience years later Shields remarks: "Pastor Russell paid my advertising bill that week, for literally, not only the sidewalks but the streets as well were packed so that it was impossible to get in the Church!"[21]

In 1910 Dr. Shields received the momentous call that was to occupy the remaining years of his life. For the next forty-five years the histories of Jarvis St. Baptist Church and Dr. T.T. Shields would be inseparably intertwined! These were to be times of mixed blessing for both Church and pastor. Jarvis St. under Dr. Shields' ministry was blessed with a large congregation. The auditorium was often filled to capacity. When the Sunday afternoon Bible School celebrated with a Saturday picnic it was a grand event indeed. Hundreds gathered necessitating the use of the Toronto Island and on occasion the buildings of the C. N. E. However, three times the Church will struggle through painful internal divisions. Many find that they must part company with Shields but a great many more are added. The trickle of deserters, however, more than once threatened to turn into a full scale flood. In 1921, 341 members left in one mass exodus and formed Park Road Baptist Church. In spite of the fact that many of these were wealthy businessmen Dr. Shields was able to boast of one millionaire who had not left. His faith in God, his ultimate benefactor, was rewarded and the offerings for the six months following the disruption were substantially larger than those for the same period the previous year. Indeed, by 1945 he estimates that over 2 million dollars flow through the coffers of Jarvis St. Baptist Church, financing the multitude of projects that he sponsored. All of this by the tithes and freewill offerings of his local and extended congregation. As to the loss in membership, one reporter indicates that within three years 893 new members took the place of the 341 that had left.[22]

In March, 1938 tragedy struck without warning. Perhaps in rough parody of the fiery figure who occupied its pulpit Jarvis Street Baptist Church was gutted by a spectacular fire. Though a lesser man might have been overwhelmed, Shields emerges undaunted. Before the flames were fully extinguished he had made arrangements to rent Massey Hall for the following Sunday. During the whole period of rebuilding not a service was missed! The loss was estimated at over $300,000.00. Insurance paid only 210,000.00, yet when the restored building was opened 14 months later, only 21,000.00 was outstanding.

Pastor Shields introduced many new innovations. Of particular note was his move of the Sunday school to Sunday morning, something which had not yet been tried in Canada. Traditionally the Sunday School had been held in the afternoon. His efforts were eminently successful and hereafter a huge Sunday morning crowd of children and adults gathered for Biblical instruction.

When he brings a cowboy into the pulpit the newspapers are quick to take note. One writer makes the following observation:

T.T.'s answers to rumours that his congregation was about to split for a third time and that he would at last be driven from the Jarvis Street pulpit was to share his rostrum with a cowboy evangelist. Complete with ten gallon hat, hand-tooled leather boots, spurs and an electrifying dramatization of Jonah being swallowed by the whale. After a three-week roundup which had the old Jarvis Street corral packed to the limit the cowboy returned to his American range, leaving Dr. Shields to baptize 37 new converts at a single Sunday evening service. Pending the hoped-for return of the evangelist in chaps, the ageing preacher was himself carrying on the revival services, preaching every week night and twice on Sundays.[23]

During the period of his tenure with Jarvis Street Baptist Church, Shields occupied his free time with many other responsibilities. In 1923 Shields helped found the Bible Baptist Union and became its first president. As he accepts the presidency he demands: "What then can be our answer to Modernism's declaration of war? There can be but one answer: the Baptist Bible Union is designed to mobilize the Conservative Baptist forces of the continent, for the express purpose of declaring and waging relentless and uncompromising war on Modernism on all fronts."[24] In his role with the Union he negotiated the purchase of Des Moines University as an instrument for the education of Christian youth in fundamentalist causes. He took the role of President and then chairman of the board of governors. However, neither the faculty nor the students shared his vision and when the faculty was dismissed the students rioted. Shields and a sympathetic student were said to hide in a broom closet for fear of their lives. The University was officially closed in 1929.

This was not Shield's first experience with an institution of higher learning. McMaster University was the training centre for the Baptist convention of Ontario and Quebec. It had been established some years before by the convention largely with the funds given through Jarvis St. Baptist Church. William McMaster, founder of the Imperial Bank of commerce, was a deacon of Jarvis St. In his lifetime and in his will over a million dollars was given towards establishing the University. The university's incorporation statement included Jarvis St.'s statement of faith. Shields himself occupied a position on the board of governors of the University. When a liberal professor was appointed to the faculty of theology Shield's protest started a fight that would end with his expulsion from the university and the Convention.

As a result of this, Shields begins his own association of Baptist Churches known as the Union of Regular Baptist Churches. A new school is begun, Toronto Baptist Seminary, which is now tied closely to Jarvis St. Baptist Church where Shields can exercise a watchful eye. Tragically, in 1948 Toronto Baptist Seminary is torn apart by internal difficulties, and over 50 students leave to form the Canadian Baptist Seminary, later known as Central Baptist Seminary. Several significant issues can be identified in the controversy. The question of the obligation of the seminary to Jarvis Street Baptist Church is raised when some in the seminary desire to be free of Shields' and the Church's directives. Shields complains at one point: "In a very little time, the way we are going, I can see that we should be allowed no relation whatever to the Seminary." Shield's vision of a Church School is directly under fire. Shields' ideal was that every student would know Christ better, something only possible in a "healthy spiritual environment." He had long ago determined that "such an ideal is most likely to be realized in association with a New Testament Church, founded upon New Testament principles, surcharged with the power of the Holy Spirit." It is Dr. Shields' insistence upon an increased integration of the students into the Church that provokes the first major confrontation with the Dean. Shields also is fighting to maintain the distinctively Baptistic character of the Seminary. He states: "We will not have this school a convenience for interdenominationalists to come here, and cut our throats." Other issues involve the character of the students and a growing anti-Shields, anti Jarvis St. sentiment. Behind it all however seems to be, very basically, a power struggle. Shields speaking of the dean says: "by his tone [he] virtually told the President to mind his own business, so far as the direction of the Seminary was concerned. He was free to acknowledge that the Trustees could dismiss him, but utterly unwilling to admit that anyone had any right to direct him." Sensing this intransigence, the trustees require his resignation. When he refuses it the dean is dismissed. Reports of these difficulties soon circulate within the Union at large. With the hostile reaction of many Union Churches, Jarvis Street withdraws and forms The Association of Regular Baptist Churches.

Throughout much of his pastorate at Jarvis Street Shields edits the Gospel Witness, which provides him with a valuable tool to carry his message around the world. Herein his opponents are castigated, though he will often publish their responses. His controversies are reported in great detail and then sent into over 60 countries of the world, to over thirty thousand subscribers.[25]

With the celebration of a Roman Catholic mass on Parliament hill in 1941, Shields organises a protest meeting. An audience of over 3,000 was in attendance and out of that meeting the Canadian Protestant League was formed with Shields again holding the reins. The league particularly fought for true separation of Church and state where no one religion would be favoured by the government. In time the Gospel Witness was made the official publication of this organization and was renamed the Gospel Witness and Protestant Advocate. [back to top]

Other ventures included his involvement with the International Council of Christian Churches, for which Shields wrote the doctrinal statement. This was an association founded in large part by Carl McIntyre as a response to the formation of the world council of Churches. He broadcast regularly on the radio. At one point he bought a radio station and gave it the call letters CJBC (Jarvis Street Baptist Church.) In difficult financial times this had to be sold, but the station still broadcasts as a CBC station.

Throughout all these endeavours his first love was still his own congregation. Something of his love for them can be detected in a last taped message recorded from his bed only months before his death. In a halting voice he expresses the loss he feels in the confinement of his sickbed:

But first of all, I must tell you how grievously I have missed you all and how much I have longed for your fellowship. And I do not boast when I say that as long ago as I can remember, I can not recall having missed one opportunity of attending the house of God as was possible. I have loved the habitation of God's house and place where his honour dwelleth.[26]

Philosophy of contention
Shield's broad involvement in the issues of his day has fascinated the media, delighted his followers and infuriated his opponents. It is not surprising then that so many disparate interpretations of the man have arisen. To his opponents his name conjures up visions of any number of monstrosities. His pugilistic character earned him the reputation as a religious bigot. His altercations with French Canadians painted him as a racist. His outspoken opinions of women have often made him look like a misogynist. His denominational skirmishes earned him the reputation as a dictator. His refusal to brook resistance to any of his schemes tarred him as an unscrupulous despot. His inability to see the other side of an argument have made him look narcissistic. To some he was simply the "hatingest" man in the country.[27] Among his supporters his accolades ran to equivalent extremes. Here was the man who single-handedly held back the tide of Catholic insurgence. He was seen as a prophetic figure announcing the doom of every ungodly encroachment upon Ontario society. He rose to almost divine proportions as he daily waged war with the world, the flesh, and the devil. Here was the reincarnation of Luther, Calvin and Zwingli as the victories of the Protestant reformation promised to sweep across the Ontario scene.[28]

To the few historians who have ventured to examine Dr. Shields, his character has appeared equally enigmatic. Some have suggested the picture of a man with an over-sensitivity towards higher learning because of his own lack of formal education. It has been hinted that Shields manifested a profound disappointment in not being called as pastor to Spurgeon's Tabernacle. Another suggestion involves a resentment directed at denominational leaders for the fact that his father was never given a Church sufficiently large for his capabilities. Another alludes to Shields' self-understanding as an Athanasius contra mundum.[29]

The voices acclaiming and declaiming, praising and cursing, are many. But amid all the clamour one voice rises above all the rest! Few ever bested Dr. Thomas Todhunter Shields in the art of invective. As vitriolic as his critics and as profuse as his devotees, Dr. Shields himself was the most outspoken. Very little that touched upon his life was left without full commentary. Any interpretation of the man must take into account his own view of life and his place in it.

Dr. Shields was a man who fought for a fundamental conviction. For Shields the place of religion was paramount. His religious ideology has been styled a "whole life" view.[30] Every thing in life rested upon a religious foundation. "Religion," says Shields, "is concerned with, and is inseparable from, the fundamentals of human life." He points out that the questions of origin and destiny are both religious issues. The question of origins necessitates the consideration of obligations which are religious in character. A man's ultimate destiny is also determined by his religion. Religion then is all-inclusive. "There is nothing," proclaims Shields, "relating to the life of the individual, to the life of the primary social unit, the family, nor to society at large, in its national, international, and world relations, that does not, philosophically, rest upon a religious basis." Basic morality is at the heart of all human relations.

There can be no true concept of morality in any sphere of life from which a recognition of God is excluded; and without a sense of such moral responsibilities as such recognition involves there can be no right human relations anywhere. [31]

In this Shields was not a man of limited vision. His great and burning desire was that all the world would be characterized by righteousness. Praying in May 1940 for the destruction of Hitler's forces this "whole life" view is immediately in evidence. While the rest of the world prays for peace, Shields prays for righteousness! "Even so, we pray for victory, not for peace alone. Let us not have peace until righteousness shall reign, and on the basis of righteousness and justice and truth, bring peace again to the earth."[32] The war for Shields was not about politics or economics or geography but about morality!

"The crisis we face is a moral and spiritual one. The issues involved transcend all national and international considerations; and, that being true, petty party principles or prejudices or personal interests should not only be obscured but utterly obliterated by its tremendous importance. Civilization is threatened with destruction; and Christianity with the vilest and fiercest persecution hell has ever devised."[33]

Shields also insisted that this religious base had to be conformable to truth. This truth he found in Scripture. "Here," proclaims Shields, "I confess my faith. To me, the bible is the inspired, infallible, and supremely authoritative Word of God. It is therefore the only authority in religion."[34]

If then society had a religious foundation the Church had a unique responsibility to the State. Traditionally Baptists have claimed the doctrine of Separation of Church and State as a fundamental distinctive of the denomination. Shields also upheld the distinction between Church and State but his application of the doctrine differed from most. His idea of the relationship between these two entities is best captured in the phrase "Church in State." For Shields the State had to be founded on religious principles, principles to which the Church spoke. It was the Church's prerogative, even its obligation to defend these fundamental principles of truth. It was the Church's role to educate the societal mind set of any age in accordance with the fundamentals of religious truth. The Church he compares to salt and to light so long as it functions in accordance with the Word of God. The vitality of the Church is crucial to any society. "...a really vital Church," maintains Shields, "will make the issues of a nation's life, from which it springs, to partake of the qualities of that righteousness `which exalteth a nation.'" "But," continues Shields, "if the Church be without moral and spiritual authority, if the Word of God be displaced...that which is called a Church becomes but as salt which has lost its savour, and which is "thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to trodden under foot of men."[35]

At the same time Shields maintained the idea of separation of Church and State. While the Church could educate through the power of the press and any other means of public address it could not dictate its will to the government. Herein lay Shields' great struggle with Roman Catholicism which he saw as a political entity as much as a religious one.

Shields' "whole life" view comes to expression in three general areas. Apologetics, the contention for truth against error, becomes all-important because religion must be founded in truth. The second area, the fight for Religious liberty, is linked to the first. In his contention for truth against error, he fights for the right of belief, proclamation and denunciation. The third area arises out of the denunciation of error. Exposure of the sins of society, or a social activism plays a big part in Shields' ministry.

Apologetics
His contention for truth against error is manifested on several fronts. This arises again out of his contention that God's word was supremely authoritative.

"And because that is my conviction," argues Shields, "I must to the end of the chapter describe and identify and denounce every impious usurper who would take the place of a `Thus saith the Lord', whether it be Modernism in McMaster, or Popery in Quebec, or Roman Catholic supremacy in the Canadian House of Commons."[36]

By alternatives to the "Thus saith the Lord" Shields understands any system that provides another way to God than that which he finds in the pages of Scripture. There he sees that there is:

"one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus"; and that His mediatorial ministry consisted -and consists - in this that `once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself;' and that that offering has made all other offerings superfluous; that `Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures.' I believe it is the privilege of every poor sinner of woman born the world around, to come himself directly to God, through Christ alone, to receive forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation `without money and without price.'[37]

He confesses that these truths need no defense but in the same breath he will argue for the fundamental role of apologetics.

We admit the invulnerability and invincibility of Christianity. Its divine Author, in His sovereign act of expiation and reconciliation spoiled principalities, and powers, triumphing over them in it. We have never feared the spoiling of the gospel, nor the destruction of the Bible as the word of God; and we admit that all the world needs is that it should be let loose. Not withstanding, whatever the reason, it must be admitted that the greater part of the New Testament is apologetic. Our Lord setting the example, His apostles without exception defended the truth against error; and the Apostle Paul declared that he was set for the defense and confirmation of the gospel. We are admonished, moreover, to "contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered unto the saints.[38]

The first, and most serious enemy Shields confronts is theological liberalism in his own denomination. The McMaster controversy spilled over into the convention which ultimately fractured upon liberal and conservative lines. Out of the controversy Shields becomes one of the world's leading advocates of theological fundamentalism. His involvement with the Bible Baptist Union and the Des Moines University have already been mentioned. Years later Shields speaks of the importance of the fight against modernism. According to Shields the weakness of England at the outset of the war was a direct result of modernism's "antiauthoritarian philosophy."

But England was not ready. Do you know why she was not ready? Because the modernistic preachers in the pulpits throughout the land-that land and ours-had been preaching the anti-authoritarian philosophy of Modernism, by which I mean the denial of all objective authority, which in the last analysis, is lawlessness and anarchy. Nearly twenty years ago I said from this pulpit that Modernism would prove itself to be the enemy of the Home and of the state; and that it spelled confusion for the whole world, should the nations who were salted by the gospel lose their savour. Not the Great War only, but the pacifism which was the legitimate issue of modernistic antisupernaturalism created a public opinion which compelled disarmament, and left Britain with no surplus strength which would enable her to do more than defend her own interests.[39]

If linking theological liberalism and military disarmament seems a little far fetched, one must remember the "whole life" premise that underlay Shields' thinking. Religion for Shields formulates the mentality that works in a nation. According to that premise if religion is devoid of truth then problems can be expected in that nation's life.

Another example of controversy against error erupted over a related "heresy," the Social Gospel. In many ways this was a whole new gospel, a gospel very different from that which Shields found revealed in scripture. Indeed, a new gospel had been proclaimed; a gospel which offered "a sociological poultice for all the ills that the body politic is heir to."[40] In Social Gospelers such as Walter Rauschenbusch, to take an example, narrowly individualistic ways of thinking were seriously challenged. In so doing, as one contemporary put it, these radical reformers threatened to "commit a Christianity of nineteen centuries to a philosophic theory not yet out of the cradle."[41] Rauschenbusch applies the gospel message not to the individual but the corporate entity. The scriptural promise "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool" is a promise to the nation as a whole. "Religious individualism," he says, "was a triumph of faith under abnormal conditions and not a normal type of religious life."[42] Shields attacks this collectivism in religion as he finds it in the United Church.

Indeed, instead of Christianizing individuals, our friends of the United Church conceive it to be the Church's function to `Christianize the social order'. They no longer evangelize individuals, but `evangelize life' -whatever that means. The gang-plow, the seed-drill, the machine binder, the power threshing-machine, the line production, the chain-store, mass buying, political collectivism-all this in principle is to be employed by the Church in the execution of its mission....Man may seek to devise some other way of improving society, but we are convinced that the only way to `Christianize the social order' is to secure the regeneration of every individual of which the social order is composed. The only way to `Evangelize life' is to evangelize the individual....[43]

Here is an example of something taking the place of a "Thus saith the Lord." Rejection of the authority of God's word in whatever form always drew Shield's scathing denunciations.

Religious liberty
There were few things in life that excited Shields so much as a perceived attack upon his sacred Protestant liberties. His love of Empire arose in large part because he saw it as the "bulwark of all the world's liberties."[44] For this cause he was more than willing to lay down his life. In both wars he fought feverishly for conscription. From his own Church he sent nearly three hundred men to the first world war.

During the Great War this Church gave nearly three hundred men to the colors,-not a conscript among them. On the north wall there is a bronze tablet bearing the names of forty-one who never came back. We have elsewhere in the building the names of the three hundred or almost three hundred, that we may keep them in remembrance.[45]

The fight for conscription brought Shields into direct conflict with Quebec politicians because of their repeated evasions and outright refusals to support the war effort. The Gospel Witness became the tool in his hand to castigate Quebec and a to expose a suspected Roman Catholic alliance with Hitler. Herein he denounced and ridiculed every such evasion. For instance, Shields attacked the law which allowed men to get out of conscription by merely getting a letter from his minister.

Now a new measure has been passed whereby any man who wants to get out of the army, or refrain from joining the forces, has but to get a letter from a minister of religion- no tribunal, no court - and he will be excused. The priests of Quebec will be kept busy. That regulation is for that province. I have written scores of letters of recommendation since the war began, to help secure admission for men to the army: I have not written one to try to secure a man's discharge. If you want to get a letter of that sort from "a minister of religion", go to the priest; do not come to me! But that is the situation we face."[46]

All of this, of course, excited the animosity of the Quebec media and they cried loud and long for public execution. Prime Minister King, caught in the middle of the controversy, commented from the floor of parliament "Speaking here as a member of the Protestant Church, I wish to say that I have the utmost contempt for Dr. Shields and all the utterances he can make!"[47] Shields replied to King's criticisms with open defiance.

...I stand on my rights as a British citizen, and contend that it is an element in the principle of religious freedom that I have a right to believe in and to proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord, and an equal right to denounce the blasphemous presumptions of the Papacy as representative of that "continuous person,' the Antichrist. For that I stand, and shall continue to stand; and I challenge the Premier of Canada, his Minister of Justice, and the Attorney-General or the Province of Ontario, to dare to try to stop me.[48]

Behind all of this lay again Shields' "whole life" philosophy. The State itself, insisted Shields, was a divine institution. It was established for the maintenance of natural rights and freedoms. Pacifism, he concludes, is both philosophically and religiously wrong.

Those of you who regularly worship here know that for several years, directly and indirectly, I have protested against the doctrines of pacifism as being not only wholly unscriptural, but as being philosophically anarchistic. I believe infinite harm has been done since the conclusion of the Great War by the propagation of pacifist views, which I, at least, believe to be without any basis of reason, and are equally devoid of either historical or biblical sanction...The state is a divine institution, and in that state there must be a sword. There can be no orderly society without the principle of compulsion.[49]

For Shields the outcome of the War was not the only threat to his British liberties. Roman Catholic domination in Parliament was seen by Shields as part of a subversive plot to make Canada a Catholic country. The horror of Catholic domination and the resultant loss of religious liberty drove Shields to new heights and the Canadian Protestant league was formed to meet the challenge. Shields was always on the lookout for evidence of such Catholic aspirations. His response to the Sirois Report provides one outstanding example. Shields announced to his Church and, through the press, to the whole country that he alone saw the religious aspect of the report.

I had read not very far before I began to observe things which have not been mentioned in any editorial of any paper in this country. The chairman of the Committee submitting the report is a Professor Sirois with not an Ontario representative on that committee. The financial aspects of it will confer some benefits upon provinces heavily in debt, but in the main this report is a proposal to put a mortgage on the whole Dominion in the interests of the Roman Catholic Church. Hospitals, orphanages, charitable institutions, and the whole Roman Catholic School system, may be helped by Dominion funds, to supply which all of us will be taxed."[50]

Certainly in all of this Shields' impact was felt. "Now, of course," comments Shields, "there is scarcely a paper in the Province of Quebec, either in the English or French language, that is not discussing it, [the religious aspect of the Sirois Report] and blaming me for raising the issue."[51]

Another illustration of this defensiveness is Shields' fight over Catholic Separate Schools. In 1952 Shields stood in the Civic Auditorium in Winnipeg to give his analysis of the Separate School situation in Manitoba. Controversy had arisen out of the Norwood school board's decision to amalgamate with two Roman Catholic Schools. Shields argued that this is but one more example of Catholicism's attempt to make Canada a Catholic dominion. He cautioned that numerous examples prove that "Separate Schools are not absorbed by the Public School, but that the Public School is absorbed by the Separate School." The goal of subverting the province and the dominion, he insisted, was behind all such actions.

When an Anglican, a United Churchman, a Presbyterian, a Baptist, a Salvationist, or a Jew, or anybody else, is elected to public office, he accepts the position as affording an opportunity to render public service. When a Roman Catholic is elected to public office, be it a Public School Board, a High School Board, a City Council, a Provincial Legislature, or the House of Commons, he goes there with full instruction to use his office to further the interests of the Roman Catholic Church.

Because of the loyalty every conscientious Catholic owes to a foreign potentate, Shields concluded that "no `faithful Roman Catholic in any free country in the world, should be entrusted with public office."[52]

Here and elsewhere he alluded to a visit he received from a former Prime Minister, Lord Bennet. He reported the substance of Bennet's remarks on that occasion:

You are doing now, though a thankless task, the most important piece of work being done by any man in the Dominion of Canada, and upon the success of the movement you have inaugurated, whether carried on by yourself or your successors, will depend the continuance of Canada as a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations; for to my certain knowledge there are subversive forces at work in this country which are aiming to alienate Canada from the British Crown and to sever all connections with the Empire, and to make it a separate, independent republic which shall be absolutely dominated by the Roman Catholic Church.[53]

The separate school fight was carried into the political arena where he was credited with helping defeat the Hepburn Government in the bitterly fought East Hastings by-election in 1936.[54]

Social Activism
Throughout his years as Pastor of Jarvis Street Baptist Church, Shields was continually on the prowl for any manifestation of wickedness which might infect the society in which he lived. In 1921 the Church went through serious internal divisions, at least in part, because of Shields continual habit of "knocking." Many members especially those of the business class became tired and alarmed at his continual "knocking" of Catholicism, suspected heresies and questionable social activities. Shields, true to form, refused to capitulate and expelled over 300 members from the Church.

I have been a Pastor for some years-Pastor of this Church for nearly twenty-eight years. There was a time when some of my friends used to say, "Why does Mr. Shields not do this or that?" Because I could not. Why? Because I had a cabinet called Deacons. I recently published a book on it called, "The Plot that Failed", giving the whole story. I could not move. I was once going to give an address on the Roman Catholic situation in Ireland-I delivered it in a certain university, and a committee of ladies asked that it be repeated here. Immediately the good Deacons said, "You must not do that." "Why?" "It would cause a disturbance. Roman Catholics would come in and break up the seats." "Nonsense." A business man said, "It is like this, Pastor. We are business men, and many of our customers are Roman Catholics. We do no want to offend them."... I got rid of those deacons...![55]

One member of Jarvis Street who sat under Shields' ministry for 31 years remembers the time that Shields even went after Toronto's police department.

He got after the police one time about something they had done. And unknown to us on his own he went down and hired Massey Hall, went there by himself and gave a lecture and the place was packed. And Coatsworth was one of the big shots in the police force, he resigned afterwards....apart from the Church he took Massey Hall on on his own - payed for it himself and the place was full.[56]

Another subject of continual agitation for Shields was the Liquor industry. Jarvis Street Baptist Church was surrounded in those days by beer halls and so in a sense Shields was on the front lines. When Hepburn legalized the sale of beer in restaurants and hotels his fury was unmatched. Shields called for letters of protest and over twenty-four thousand responses poured in!

Without any organized effort, but as a result of the call for action from this pulpit we have already received twenty-four thousand signed protests against the Hepburn Beer Parlours, or more than the combined votes received by Mr. Hepburn and his opponent at the recent election....Without waiting for the receipt of our protest-but hearing of it through the press-the Premier of Ontario has already expressed his view that these protests come from "offensive temperance cranks". I am quite willing to accept the designation, and to reply to the Honourable Mitchell F. Hepburn that so far as this "temperance crank" is concerned he is resolved to become more "offensive" still.[57]

Judging by the sweeping condemnations that repeatedly filled the newspapers, in this last resolution, Shields was eminently successful!

If it is a defensiveness that is most often identified in the Battling Baptist perhaps one should see this increasing sensitivity in the context of the social and cultural venue in which he was living. Shields very clearly was a product of another era, an era in which a "whole life" view could find acceptance and in which a Protestant consensus reigned. With the atheism of the returning soldiers from the first world war, the onslaught of German higher criticism and the decay in the moral and religious scene, that consensus was doomed to vanish. Most would argue that it had long since disappeared. In this sense then Shields fought courageously in a loosing battle. If he is seen as being embittered or overly controversial it surely had to do with the growing sense of the hopelessness of his mission. The secularization of Ontario had advanced beyond even his abilities to stand before it. The tide had turned and with it religion as a defining force in Ontario Society was finally washed away. But though the floods raged about him he was never overwhelmed and he courageously clung to the rock that was higher than He. Though the battle for Ontario's protestant heritage might have been lost, few can question the lasting impact of the man. Protestant churches pioneered by his students now flourish in Quebec. The conservative character of his fundamentalism will long live on in the denominations he has touched worldwide. His seminary still sends pastors around the world. His magazine still carries the gospel to the four corners of the earth. And in his Church his aura ever lingers and his influence rules on.

Dr. Shields passed out of this world on April 4, 1955. A verse from one of his own poems might well stand for the life he lived.

I must fight on: I have in conscience drawn the sword.
...I have seen a Warrior take the field alone,
Unsheathe His sword against infernal foes,
And with undaunted soul, cut through the serried ranks
And, though forsaken of the men He came to save,
Pour out His blood to win for them the victor's crown.
That Warrior is the Captain of my soul,
And I, though I should stand alone, like Him, -
I must fight on.

 
..........




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