I've read a few (though not nearly enough) of Dorothy Sayers' mystery novels with the famous and beloved detective, Lord Peter Wimsey. And I had always known that Sayers was, at least for a brief bit of time, involved in the legendary literary league known as the Inklings. Recently, however, I've begun reading her Letters to a Diminished Church. It's a collection of essays and letters similar in theological tone and prowess to The Mind of the Maker (another unsung gem). It's also my hope to share some of her keen intellect and showcase particularly insightful quotations on this blog as I read through the book (with more or less commentary depending on day, time, and schedule).
One of the most striking and refreshing aspects of Sayers theological writing (and it is theological...in fact, even her detective books are theological in a manner of speaking) is her thesis that in Christianity the dogma is the drama. More on the dramatic characteristics of dogma later. But for now, in the context of her essay titled, The Dogma is the Drama, I came across this extended quotation underscoring the importance and requisite of doctrine in the Church. In this regard she is somewhat of a prophetess. She could have written these very words in today's . The Church, as she says, is not dull because of too much doctrine, but for the lack of it. It is the absence, not the presence, of clear Christian doctrine that slowly (or rapidly depending on circumstances) exhausts and chokes the life of the Church from within. What our churches need is not a watered down Jesus, but the Jesus of the Creeds and the Gospels. It's as if Sayers is telling us to simply, "let Christ be Christ."
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 pass into 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 his personality 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.
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 the gate of death. Show that to the 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.
Dorothy Sayers, The Dogma is the Drama. Letters to a Diminished Church, p. 20-21. Nelson Publishers, 2004.