Tag Archives: Dorothy L Sayers

C S Lewis on the Incarnation: Theosis, “coming down and drawing up,” the Great Dance, and statues coming to life


Iconnativity

In this third post from the final chapter of my Medieval Wisdom: An Exploration with C S Lewis, I delve deeper into Lewis’s Incarnational theology and spirituality:

The Incarnation ennobles us, draws us up into God, and thus makes us our “best selves”

As well as pointing up our moral nature and demanding that we choose well, the Incarnation, for Lewis, performs an astounding work of drawing us up into the divine presence. Lewis launches into his key apologetic work Mere Christianity with this observation: “At the beginning I said there were Personalities in God. Well, I’ll go further now. There are no real personalities anywhere else. Until you have given up your self to Him you will not have a real self.”[1] This is a version of the classical Christian teaching of theosis, formulated by Athanasius, who said that “God became man so that we can become gods.” That startling language does not mean that we become what God is in his essence, but rather that we are re-attached to the divine life, which overcomes the death at work in us because of the Fall. He came to earth, to flesh, in order to lift us back up with him.

“Lewis has a couple of unique ways of describing the Incarnation. In Letters to Malcolm, he suggests that the Incarnation can be described as Heaven drawing Earth up into it. He asserts that when God the Son took on the human body and soul of Jesus, he took on with it the whole environment of nature—locality, limitation, sleep, sweat, aching feet, frustration, pain, doubt and death. Continue reading

C S Lewis on the Incarnation and human choice


choice-roads2

In this brief series of posts, we are looking at C S Lewis on the centrality of the Incarnation. Among other things, Lewis understands the Incarnation as a lens through which to see the importance of our own human choices:

Importance of human choice and human culture

Part of understanding and affirming the wonder of who we are as human beings, affirmed by the fact of the Incarnation, is being clear about ourselves as creatures capable of choice, who are responsible for the choices we make. Free will is a crucial part of Lewis’s anthropology and his case for hewing to the morality of the Old Western (Christian) tradition. Our wills are as essential, ordinary, and marvelous as our bodies. The choices we make on earth have transcendent, cosmic, divine (or infernal) consequences. Lewis loved Dante’s Comedia and appreciated Sayers’s take on that great poem. Sayers called it “the drama of the soul’s choice.” Drama. Acted out by humans in all their earthy but exalted embodiedness. Full of color, life, substance.

It may be fair to say that Lewis was a “Christian humanist” in this respect: our arts, sciences, cultural activities, and personal choices all contribute to heaven or hell on earth, and to our own salvation; many are “preparatio evangelii”–they lead us to God’s doorstep. In his essay “Christianity and Culture,” Lewis reflected: “[C]ulture is a storehouse of the best (sub-Christian) values. These values are in themselves of the soul, not the spirit. But God created the soul. Its values may be expected, therefore, to contain some reflection or antepast of the spiritual values.” Continue reading

Word and World together – the lost synthesis of the medieval scholastics (from which science, capitalism, and Western culture were born)


Michelangelo-creationMoving to the Creation chapter, I find the themes of the nascent theology chapter “leaking over” into this topic. I am thus moving the “science and religion” and “Word and world” material from the latter to the former. Here is the bucket where I have currently put evidence from Lewis, Dante, Aquinas, Abelard, and others for the ways medieval thinkers brought together Word and World, Faith and Science. It still needs reorganizing and revising, but I like how this is shaping up:

Word and world

Scholasticism also offered a broadening of horizons and a deepening of relationship between man and God, because it not only engaged the inner faculty of reason in the study of God, but also sought to comprehend the whole sweep of human experience in a single system. This was, I believe, what Lewis meant when he observed, “Marcus Aurelius wished that men would love the universe as a man can love his own city. I believe that something like this was really possible in the [Middle Ages].”[1a]

Before Lewis (and influencing him), G. K. Chesterton picked up the scholastic torch as he spent his career insisting that Christianity was, far from an obscurantist opiate of the masses, actually the Most Reasonable Thing (a constant theme in his “Father Brown” stories, for instance). Lewis’s friend Dorothy Sayers carried this onward, explaining the medieval (Thomist) synthesis of knowledge through essays and her brilliant notes on Dante’s Comedy describing the ruling “images” operative in every book and canto of that poem.

As we have seen, scholasticism was clearly a response to a new, naturalistic worldview that was becoming dominant in their culture. “Recognizing as we must the imperfections and the unfinished business of the medieval achievement, we should also acknowledge that it [Scholasticism] was the most daring constructive attempt in the Church’s history to think of grace and nature, faith and reason, Christianity and culture, God and his creation, in terms that would neither separate nor confuse them [note the direct parallel to the language of the Chalcedonian Definition!], neither strip God of his sovereignty nor do violence to the integrity of his creatures. In other words, scholastic theology and philosophy are, at the very least, a noble effort to face the abiding problems raised by the correlation of Christian faith in God, Creator and Redeemer, with man’s knowledge of himself and his world.”[1b] Continue reading

Steve Garber on Dorothy Sayers’s prescient call to reassess our society’s attitudes toward work


I appreciate a man who not only is a fan of Dorothy Sayers’s essays on work, but also read all the Lord Peter Wimsey novels with his wife during their first year of marriage. This is Steve Garber, of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture, blogging on the institute’s website:

As we talked, my friend the businessman-become-farmer asked me if I had ever read Why Work? by Dorothy Sayers. I have, and think it is as a good a statement about work as anyone has written. And I smiled, telling him that Meg and I had read aloud all her Lord Peter Wimsey novels the first year we were married. She is a favorite for many reasons.

The following is a short bit from her work on work, Continue reading

Let’s get medieval on our education


IN WESTBOURNE AVENUE -  HULL

Image by summonedbyfells via Flickr

Speaking of Dorothy Sayers, thanks to friend Marc Cortez over at Scientia et Sapientia for this reminder of a piece of Sayers’s writing that has become more read in recent years than perhaps anything else she wrote besides her Lord Peter Wimsey mystery stories:

Today marks Dorothy Sayers‘ 118th birthday (June 13, 1893). Writer, theologian, poet, essayist, and playwright, Sayers did it all. And, she did it amazingly well.

To commemorate her birthday, here are some excerpts from her essay on The Lost Tools of Learning. Regardless of whether you agree with her argument that we need to return to medieval models of education (and the way this argument has been used by the classical and home schooling movements), her comments on the importance of learning to think are outstanding:

“Have you ever, in listening to a debate among adult and presumably responsible people, been fretted by the extraordinary inability of the average debater to speak to the question, or to meet and refute the arguments of speakers on the other side? Or have you ever pondered upon the extremely high incidence of irrelevant matter which crops up at committee meetings, and upon the very great rarity of persons capable of acting as chairmen of committees? And when you think of this, and think that most of our public affairs are settled by debates and committees, have you ever felt a certain sinking of the heart?”

For the rest of the quotations, see here.

Dorothy Sayers on “the contemplative vocation of the artist”


Shout out to my all-time favorite female apologist (that is, a person who is female and a Christian apologist)–Dorothy L. Sayers. A neat article today by a smart young fellow I once met at the Marion Wade Center at Wheaton, named Cole Matson. Cole presents one of Sayers’s most powerful ideas: the spiritual as well as intellectual integrity of the artist/writer/dramatist:

For Sayers, the artist is a person who is called to a contemplative vocation, and who delights in sharing the fruits of that contemplation with others through the creation of artworks. Artistic creation is a necessary part of the vocation; a contemplative who is not also a craftsman is not an artist. But contrary to Lewis’ focus on an artwork’s potential value for edification, Sayers focuses on the artist’s inner delight in making as the raison d’être of artistic creation. ‘The only rule I can find,’ Sayers writes, ‘is to write what you feel impelled to write, and let God do what He likes with the stuff’[7].

[SAYERS:] Do you think that love of creation is sufficient reason to justify making art? Or do you think an artist must also consider whether or not his art will edify? If you are an artist, how do you keep yourself open to hear the words or images you may be given?

You can read the whole article here.

“Novel” theology: Bestsellers as rich theological source


The Glory of St. Thomas Aquinas, detail. Paris...

Aquinas with his favorite novel? (The Glory of St. Thomas Aquinas, detail. Paris, Musée du Louvre.)

A nifty post by “Theology PhD Mom” on novels and theology, including a run-down of some of the theological themes in Nick Hornby‘s About A Boy (which later became a movie starring Hugh Grant). Some snippets:

“My PhD advisor has often suggested that fiction is good for theologians to read.  Until I met him, I had generally thought that my reading mystery novels when I was supposed to be reading Barth IV.2 or, heavens, the Summa Theologica, was a big vice. But who am I to argue with my Doktorvater?”

Excellent start. And then quickly, a list of a few theologians (and one medievalist) who also wrote mystery novels:

“G.K. Chesterton (Father Brown), Dorothy Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey), Ralph McInerny (Father Dowling – and I used to love the tv show, shot in my very own beloved Denver), to name a few. Continue reading