Lent, 1938: Dorothy L Sayers becomes a public theologian


How Dorothy L. Sayers became a public theologian and an apologist to rival C. S. Lewis (clip from my Patron Saints for Postmoderns):

During the season of Lent in 1938, Sayers wrote an article for the
[London] Times in Chestertonian mode: “Official Christianity . . . has been having
what is known as a bad press. We are constantly assured that the
churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine.
. . . The fact is the precise opposite. . . . The Christian faith is the most
exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man . . . and the
dogma is the drama.” From then on, she became something of a public
theologian, writing essays with titles such as “What Do We Believe?”
“The Other Six Deadly Sins” and “The Triumph of Easter.” Her opinions
were increasingly sought not just on detective fiction, but on matters
religious, and she found in this arena of activity something between a
vocation and a distraction. She wanted to awaken a sleeping church and
insist that it reclaim for its own the doctrines of the historic creeds—
strict in form, hallowed by usage and communicating powerful realities
that had been lost under layer upon layer of well-meaning but stuffy
“clergy jargon,” putting the congregations to sleep. But she frequently
protested that if the clergy had been doing their jobs, a layperson such
as herself would not have had to speak on such matters. Their failure to
proclaim the gospel clearly had left the people “in a nightmare of muddle
out of which [they] have to be hauled by passing detective novelists
in a hurry and with no proper tackle.”

Haul them out she did, though, both by writing her theological essays
and by answering the hundreds of letters laypeople wrote to her with
their spiritual questions. But she insisted that all this “theological writing”
was not her proper business. She was a storyteller who had happened
to have written a play or two representing a coherent, orthodox
view of the faith, and it was storytelling that was her true art and
vocation.

For more on Dorothy L Sayers as public theologian, see my Patron Saints for Postmoderns or, even better, the fascinating book by George Fox University professor Laura Simmons, Creed without Chaos: Exploring Theology in the Writings of Dorothy L. Sayers.

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