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John Baillie (1886-1960)

Scottish theologian and Church of Scotland minister.

John Baillie
© National Portrait Gallery, London

John Baillie was born in Gairloch in 1886, the son of Rev John Baillie, Free Church minister at Gairloch, Ross & Cromarty in the north-west of Scotland, and his wife Annie Macpherson. John (senior) was a graduate of both the University of Edinburgh and Free Church College, Edinburgh

Church and war

Following the death of his father in 1891, the family home was at Inverness and John (junior) was educated at Inverness Royal Academy and the University of Edinburgh. More study was undertaken at both the universities of Jena and Marburg, while he also held assistant positions at the University of Edinburgh before entering the church.

The First World War saw Baillie playing an active role in both the YMCA and the British Expeditionary Force. He subsquently married Florence Jewel Fowler and began his academic career.

He held a number of chairs at the Auburn and Union Theological Seminaries, New York, and at Emmanuel College, Toronto, but he eventually returned to Edinburgh to become Professor of Divinity at New College in 1934. The advent of the Second World War saw Baillie use the influential North American links he had maintained to help persuade US entry into the conflict.


Baillie was elected as Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland and became Dean of the Faculty of Divinity at Edinburgh in 1950, holding this position until retiral six years later. As part of the ecumenical movement, John Baillie was member of both the British Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches, and became a President of the latter.

Devotional classic

Baillie wrote 'A Diary of Private Prayer' (1936), regarded as a devotional classic. But his most important contribution to theology was an exploration of the relationship between the knowledge of God to spiritual and moral experience, a subject that dominated the series of Gifford Lectures he had prepared for the 1961-2 academic. However, Baillie died in 1960 and the lectures were read by the then-Chair of Divinity John McIntyre and T. F. Torrance, and subsequently published by Oxford University Press.

Baillie is buried with his wife Florence Jewel Baillie in Grange Cemetery in Edinburgh near the southeast corner of the original cemetery close to the Usher memorial. The grave is marked by a pale pink granite cross.

I thank Thee, O Lord, that Thou hast so set eternity within my heart that no earthly thing can ever satisfy me wholly.

John Bailliefrom 'A Diary of Private Prayer' (1936)

Related links

Papers of John Baillie in the University Archives

School of Divinity