Baillie Answers The Half-Men
The Sense of the Presence of God, The Gifford Lectures, 1961–62, by John Baillie (Scribner’s, 1962, 269 pp., $3.95), is reviewed by Paul K. Jewett, professor of systematic theology, Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena, California.
Before laying down his pen for the last time, Dr. Baillie, principal emeritus of New College and dean of the Faculty of Divinity at Edinburgh University, meticulously revised the manuscript for his Gifford Lectures. Though never delivered, they have been given full status by the Gifford Committee in recognition of their intrinsic merit, and published without further editing under the title The Sense of the Presence of God. Though there is no direct evidence that Dr. Baillie wrote under a sense of impending death, his work has about it the aura which often surrounds the last words of a learned and good man.
The primary purpose of his work is to submit to a critical analysis our knowledge of God and the certainty which attaches to that knowledge. Dr. Baillie’s thesis is that we can know God only by his self-revelation, but since it is we who know him, there is always the human element to be reckoned with in any judgment about what God has revealed. This diffraction of revealed truth by human thought, this finite reflection on the infinite, means there will always be antinomies in our theological statements which complement one another. (The author cites his brother Donald’s illustration of the two types of maps in an atlas, Circular and Mercator’s projection, on page 11.) Dr. Baillie does not seek, therefore, to ground the Christian view of God and the world on any arguments that would compel the theoretical reason to assent. The certainty which “pulsates through all our ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more