“The Incarnation is the most dramatic thing that ever entered into the mind of man; but if you tell people so, they stare at you in bewilderment.” Dorothy Sayers


Cover of

An excellent book on the theology of Dorothy Sayers–indeed the only such book that I know of–is George Fox University professor Laura K. Simmons’s Creed Without Chaos (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005). Simmons goes methodically through Sayers’s theological thought, stopping at one point to examine the writer’s handling of the Incarnation:

77: “The dogma of the Incarnation is the most dramatic thing about Christianity,” Dorothy L. Sayers wrote in October 1937, “and indeed, the most dramatic thing that ever entered into the mind of man; but if you tell people so, they stare at you in bewilderment.”One of the doctrines on which Sayers reflected perhaps more than any other was the incarnation. A proper understanding of Christ’s essence, character, and mission on earth was “the difference between pseudo-Christianity and Christianity,” she wrote in June of 1945. The relationship between the God who created the world and God’s Son, Jesus, who walked in it, was a crucial part of her theology.

78: “The writer of realistic Gospel plays . . . has to display the words and actions of actual people engaged  in living through a piece of recorded history. He cannot, like the writer of purely liturgical or symbolic religious drama, confine himself to the abstract and universal aspect of the life of Christ. He is brought up face to face with the ‘scandal of particularity.’”

81 (From Sayers’ letter to the editor of Church Times, May 6, 1941): “Similarly, a ‘humanist’ brand of Christology which has largely succeeded (as far as the ordinary man is concerned) in setting up a distinction between the man Jesus and the Divine Logos, has helped to drive the controlling intellect out of religion and thus out of the world of practical affairs. Both these heresies have played straight into the hands of those whose vested interest is to flatter the ‘average man’ into uncritical acceptance of a debased and commercial valuation of life. Once acquiescent, the average man is an equally easy prey for Totalitarian barbarism, which cannot afford the criticism of the free intellect and the uncorrupt artist, but could not so readily have silenced it if intellect and imagination had not already been discredited in the eye of the people.”

81 [Heretics as people who make things too simple; quoting a letter from Sayers to Fr. J. P. Valentin]: “Forgive the unconscionable length of this letter. I don’t want anybody to think I’m indulging in random heresies . . . but it is extraordinarily difficult to explain one’s self briefly without giving people to understand far more or less than one means. If one distinguishes too abruptly between the divine and human knowledge, somebody leaps up crying, “Nestorian!” and if one correlates them too much, a hideous voice hisses “Monophysite!”; and whenever one tries to make anything intelligible in common speech there rises up before one an awful array of the Men Who Made Things Too Simple—Arius, Apollinarius, Eutychus, Sabellius, Ebionites, Adoptionists, Patripassians, Theopaschites, Monothelites, Marcionites, Manichees, and the enthusiastic but misguided people who offered cakes to Our Lady and whose name escapes me for the moment, all saying in warning accents: ‘Here, my girl—you leave it alone—we started trying to explain things and LOOK WHAT HAPPENED TO US!’”

85: “Sayers was happy to shock people because she believed the gospel should be shocking.”

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One response to ““The Incarnation is the most dramatic thing that ever entered into the mind of man; but if you tell people so, they stare at you in bewilderment.” Dorothy Sayers

  1. Thanks, Chris, for the favorable “press”! :)

    Glad you (and your students and the readers of your blog) are continuing to benefit from the book.

    Laura

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