July 5, 2009

"If you tell them, they cannot believe you"

Dorothy Sayers, from Creed Or Chaos, published in 1947
...It would not perhaps be altogether surprising if, in this nominally Christian country, where the creeds are daily recited, there were a number of people who knew all about Christian doctrine, and disliked it. It is more startling to discover how many people there are who heartily dislike and despise Christianity without having the faintest notion what it is. If you tell them, they cannot believe you. I do not mean that the cannot believe the doctrine: that would be understandable enough, since it takes some believing. I mean that they simply cannot believe that anything so interesting, so exciting, and so dramatic can be the orthodox Creed of the Church.

That this is really the case was made plain to me by the questions asked me, mostly by young men, about my Canterbury play, The Zeal of Thy House. The action of the play involves a dramatic presentation of a few fundamental Christian dogmas—in particular, the application to human affairs of the doctrine of the Incarnation. That the Church believed Christ to be in any real sense God, or that the Eternal Word was supposed to be associated in any way with the work of creation; that Christ was held to be at the same time Man in any real sense of the word; that the doctrine of the Trinity could be considered to have any relation to fact or any bearing on psychological truth; the the Church considered Pride to be sinful, or indeed took notice of any sin beyond the more disreputable sins of the flesh:—all these things were looked upon as astonishing and revolutionary novelties, imported into the faith by the feverish imagination of a playwright.

I protested in vain against this flattering tribute to my powers of invention, referring my inquirers to the Creeds, to the Gospels and to the offices of the Church; I insisted that if my play was dramatic it was so, not in spite of the dogma but because of it—that, in short, the dogma was the drama. The explanations, however, not well received; it was felt that if there was anything attractive in Christian philosophy I must have put it there myself...

Posted by John Weidner at July 5, 2009 5:00 AM
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