For my morning devotions in January I have been reading the book “Invitation to Pilgrimage” by John Baillie. John Baillie wrote a wonderful book of prayers that I read frequently, so I was excited to read this small book. A noted English theologian and Christian apologist, Dr. Baillie delivered a series of lectures on Christianity at Princeton Theological School in 1941 and subsequently published the lectures in this book.
“Invitation to Pilgrimage” is a defense of Christianity at a time when it seemed that evil was winning the battle against good. In a world where Hitler, Hito and Mussolini were advancing uncontested, Dr. Baillie tries to answer the question “where is God?” Dr. Baillie spends some time developing his thesis that God is in Christian community, imperfect as it is, and we are not only called to individual salvation but to a communal salvation that is the best hope for the world.
An idea that I found particularly striking was his chapter on the human management of self. When humans hit the Renaissance and “the age of reason,” they believed that people would continue to evolve to the place where evil, sin, and disease would be things of the past. We could “reason” our way to a better world. But Dr. Baillie says this has not happened and is not likely to happen. He writes, “Reason may be defined as the ability to recognize truth when it is presented to us, and it is an ability which we show no great sign of possessing or at least of using.” (pg 34).
The problem, according to Baillie, is that we behave as if we are the center of our world. We take management of our lives into our own hands instead of allowing ourselves to be managed by God. But all we manage to do is to muddle the relationship we should have with God. Any efforts on our part to set the world to rights is bound to fail because it is the efforts we have made already that have messed it up in the first place. Only God can set us right. And God can only do this when we are part of a Christian community because it is only in community that we see the effects of sin in the suffering of others.
I really enjoyed this book. Dr. Baillie made me think about what it means to live a Christian life and be a part of the world. He reminded me that it is impossible to love God without loving one another and living in community.