Friday, December 22, 2006

Dorothy L. Sayers on doctrinal ignorance

In a review of a book about Dorothy L. Sayers' writings about Christianity and Christian doctrine: Creed without Chaos: Exploring Theology in the Writings of Dorothy L. Sayers, Fred Sanders summarizes her view that most theologians were "lousy communicators" and that their potential audience was also a problem:
But even if every working theologian were suddenly granted the gift of eloquence, the second problem identified by Sayers would still stand in the way of communicating the Christian faith: the average person has a boundless ignorance of Christianity, rooted in their laziness and thoughtlessness. "Nine people out of ten in this country are ignorant heathens," she said in 1939. "I do not so much mind the heathendom, but the ignorance is really alarming." And a few years later, when a broadcaster asked her to write a short letter explaining Christianity for the average person, Sayers spat back:
"The only letter I ever want to address to 'average people' is one that says - I do not care whether you believe in Christianity or not, but I do resent your being so ignorant, lazy, and unintelligent. Why don't you take the trouble to find out what is Christianity and what isn't? Why, when you can bestir yourself to mug up technical terms about electricity, won't you do as much for theology before you begin to argue about it? ... You would be ashamed to know as little about internal combustion as you do about the Nicene Creed."
Sayers was unsparing in her criticism of modern people who let themselves fall into such abysmal ignorance of Christian doctrine.
Americans in 2006 suffer from doctrinal ignorance at least as serious - and that includes a great many who consider themselves Christians. Dorothy Sayers' essays and plays (e.g. Creed or Chaos? Why Christians Must Choose Either Dogma or Disaster) clearly explain orthodox Christian doctrine and can help anyone who wishes to become more doctrinally literate.

Middlebrow: Dorothy Sayers Advertises the Faith
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