Dorothy Sayers on Dogma and Creed

The English writer Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957) is best known for her Lord Peter Whimsy mysteries, with her proto-feminist sleuth Harriet Vane. Sayers was also a scholar, poet, and translator (she translated Dante’s Commedia) She wrote a series of feminist essays entitled Are Women Human? She also wrote theology, and good theology at that. Her The Mind of The Maker, 1941, has some intriguing ideas about the Holy Trinity.

I was reminded of her lately while reading several right-minded but wrongheaded appeals to rethink the Christian story and re-imagine the Christian God to get away from all those troublesome dogmas and creeds.

Sayers would be having none of that. She once said, “The proper question to be asked of any creed is not, ‘Is it pleasant?’ but, ‘Is it true?’” She believed that the failure of Christianity is not that it has too much dogma, but that it has either neglected or watered down what it does have. She decried the sentimental Jesus of popular piety: “We cannot blink the fact that gentle Jesus, meek and mild, was so stiff in His opinions and so inflammatory in His language, that He was thrown out of church, stoned, hunted from place to place, and finally gibbetted as a firebrand and a public danger.” “. . . We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah,” turning Jesus “into a household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.”

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