Why the substance of faith matters

Dorothy Sayers
In an age of skepticism, cynicism, and false “freedoms,” Dorothy Sayers (1893-1957) was a passionate and occasionally scathing voice of reason. Like her friends C.S. Lewis, T.S. Eliot, and Charles Williams, Sayers was a brilliant Christian thinker, an Anglo-Catholic who took doctrine seriously and bristled at the growth of “fads, schisms, heresies, and anti-Christ” within the Church of England (Carl Olson).

In Creed or Chaos? she wrote:

Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as bad press. We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine - dull dogma as people call it. The fact is quite the opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man - and the dogma is the drama.

Christ, in His divine innocence, said to the Woman of Samaria, ‘Ye worship ye know not what’ - being apparently under the impression that it might be desirable, on the whole, to know what one was worshiping. He thus showed Himself sadly out of touch with the twentieth-century mind, for the cry today is: ‘Away with the tedious complexities of dogma - let us have the simple spirit of worship; just worship, no matter of what!’

The only drawback to this demand for a generalized and undirected worship is the practical difficulty of arousing any sort of enthusiasm for the worship of nothing in particular (19).

Let us, in Heaven's name, drag out the Divine Drama from under the dreadful accumulation of slipshod thinking and trashy sentiment heaped upon it, and set it on an open stage to startle the world into some sort of vigorous reaction. If the pious are the first to be shocked, so much the worse for the pious — others will enter the Kingdom of Heaven before them. If all men are offended because of Christ, let them be offended; but where is the sense of their being offended at something that is not Christ and is nothing like Him? We do Him singularly little honor by watering down till it could not offend a fly. Surely it is not the business of the Church to adapt Christ to men, but to adapt men to Christ. (24-25).

It is the dogma that is the drama, not beautiful phrases, nor comforting sentiments, nor vague aspirations to loving kindness and uplift, nor the promise of something nice after death — but the terrifying assertion that the same God who made the world lived in the world and passed through the grave and gate of death. Show that to a heathen, and they may not believe it; but at least they may realize that here is something that a man might be glad to believe. (25).

Dorothy Sayers, Creed or Chaos?

HT: CultureWatch