Christian Themes

(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

To the liberal, the conservative’s desire to preserve the forms of the past buries the spirit of belief in the dead letter of dogma. To the conservative, the liberal’s desire to tell the truth by making it new is an open invitation to self-delusion and revisionism. In theology, as in politics and elsewhere in culture, this struggle is constantly replayed. In his attempt to occupy the middle ground, Baillie touches on many traditional Christian themes.

There are, for example, discussions of the doctrine of the Trinity, the “fatherhood” of God, miracles, the good news of the Incarnation, the humility and humiliation of Christ, the priority of the personality of Christ to that of human beings, and the central importance of the Gospel narratives. He examines the incomprehensibility of God, the impossibility of “demythologizing,” the priority of our knowledge of divine perfection to our knowledge of finite creatures, the nature of God’s kingdom, and the fear of the Lord. Baillie also discusses the naturally Christian soul, the nature of faith and works, salvation, trust, the overcoming of personal doubt, providence, the importance of gratitude, and the unity of humankind. Other topics include the relevance of the categories of Greek metaphysics to Christian thought, the connection between doctrine and heresy, the inadequacy of natural theology, the comparison of science and faith, the priority of value to science, and the “existential” significance of Christianity.

Of special interest, given Baillie’s mediating approach, is his discussion of the conflict of different faiths. While he firmly rejects the idea that religions other than Christianity contain no truth, he also insists that our ability to distinguish their elements of God-given truth from humanly inspired error is possible only on the basis of the essential Christian revelation. However, he believes that the encounter with other religions can help clarify what that essential revelation—in contrast with accidental historical and cultural accretions—really is, thereby returning faith to its foundation in experience.