Books I’m Reading
“Creed or Chaos”
By Dorothy Sayers
One article about Dorothy Sayers described her as a “Lady with a Sword.” She was a playwright, author of murder mysteries, poet, and Christian apologist. Her broadcast about the life of Christ, The Man Born to Be King, entered two million British living rooms between Christmas 1941 and October 1942 and was published in book form in 1943.
She was born in 1893, and her father as an Anglican rector. Although she became an advertising copywriter early on, she published her first novel in 1923, the first in a series of detective stories featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. However, her theological works also have become well-known, and her publication Creed or Chaos is worth a few comments.
This book reveals to some extent why she was dubbed a lady with a sword. She wields her ideas with incisive wit and sometimes biting humor. Make no mistake, however, more often than not her insights challenge us to a more vibrant, muscular, and confident Christian faith.
The Meek and Mild Dangerous Firebrand
For example, she challenges us to reevaluate the notion that Jesus was simply the meek and mild lover of humanity. Though he applies that appellation to himself, Sayers reminds us that he was also a dangerous firebrand. To name just a few things, she notes that “he insulted respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites. . . and referred to King Herod as ‘that fox.’” Furthermore, he went to parties with disreputable company and showed no proper deference for wealth or social position. We are left to wonder why would society put to death someone who was only “meek and mild?”
I’ll never forget an interview conducted by the late Mike Wallace. He was questioning two men who publicly challenged a number of immoral practices. Their big mistake in Wallace’ view was that they challenged this immorality in the name of Jesus. Wallace seemed shocked by the notion that Jesus was concerned about such things; he questioned the validity of their criticisms because in his mind Jesus was only about helping the poor. He was nonplussed to entertain any thoughts about the Jesus who insisted we follow his moral instructions.
Just Be Nice
Another of Sayers’ challenges comes at the expense of Christians who don’t want to bother with doctrine, those who want only a “nice religion.” Although she understands the weariness of arguing about minor points of doctrine, she insists that the teaching of God becoming man must be not only vigorously maintained but loudly proclaimed. The incarnation represents the divine drama at its most provocative. If Jesus is who he and his apostles claimed, every leader of every other religion can’t match up to God in the flesh: powerful stuff this doctrine.
She also challenges those who want a faith with no offense. She states that Christianity is “. . . first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe,” and it is a “hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and uncompromising realism.” In a society where many want to create their own reality, Christ stands as a bulwark against such idolatry.
You will find even more challenging ideas in Creed or Chaos, and although you might not agree with all she says, you will come away with a much greater understanding about how dynamic Christian doctrine is. If you want affirmation about your own faith, you won’t regret reading Creed or Chaos.