Thursday, December 21, 2017

John Baillie on Atheism

"No matter how far back I go, no matter by what effort of memory I attempt to reach the virgin soil of childish innocence, I cannot get back to an atheistic mentality. As little can I reach a day when I was conscious of myself but not of God as can I reach a day when I was conscious of myself but not of other human beings. My earliest memories have a definitely religious atmosphere. They are already heavy with 'the numinous.' They contain as part of their substance a recognition, as vague and inarticulate as you will, yet quite unmistakable for anything else, of what I have now learned to call the divine as a factor in my environment. I cannot remember a time when I did not feel, in some dim way, that I was 'not my own.' (John Baillie, Our Knowledge of God [Oxford University Press, 1964], 4 quoted in Richard Longenecker, Romans [Eerdmans, 2016], 227).

"John Baillie's own religious experience, as he spoke about it quite freely in lectures and private conversation, included at one time a profession of atheism--particularly during the heady willfulness of his university days. But in recalling that period of 'atheism' in his life, he always added:
'I never was, however, really an atheist. In fact, there were a number of things that I wanted to hear from God. And I wondered why he did not speak more plainly. But there were also a number of other things that I did not want to hear from God. And my deafness in the one area extended over into the other area, and so I proclaimed that I was an atheist' 
(as remembered almost verbatim from Baillie's lectures and private conversations)." - Longenecker, Romans 228.

HT: Mark Reasoner's RBL review of Richard Longenecker's Romans commentary.

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