Who wrote those marvelous words, and when? Okay, I know it’s a tough question, so I’ll make it easier. Guess a decade in which you think these words were written (they’re all from the same essay).
Here’s a picture of the author: I’ll tell you more about her on the next page.
“Theologically, this country is at present in a state of utter chaos, established in the name of religious toleration, and rapidly degenerating into the flight from reason and the death of hope. We are not happy in this condition, and there are signs of a very great eagerness, especially among the younger people, to find a creed to which they can give wholehearted adherence. This is the Church’s opportunity, if she chooses to take it.”
Those words, which perfectly describe the situation today, were penned in 1949 by the brilliant Dorothy Sayers, friend of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. She was part of a group of friends called the Inklings, which included Lewis, Tolkien, and other writers.
I find her essay, “Creed and Chaos” to be a desperately needed corrective in today’s church. It is an especially needed antidote to much of the anti-theological stance that I find in some (not all, but some ) emerging church leaders… who seem to disdain theology in favor of “just loving Jesus.” An impossibility apart from theology.
Here are some highlights in Sayers’ beautiful argument for the absolute need of doctrine and theology.
“It is fatal to imagine that everybody knows quite well what Christianity is and needs only a little encouragement to practice it. The brutal fact is that in this Christian country not one person in a hundred has the faintest notion of what the Church teaches about God or man or society or the person of Jesus Christ.”
How can you practice a faith you don’t know?
“It is worse than useless for Christians to talk about the importance of Christian morality unless they are prepared to take their stand upon the fundamentals of Christian theology.”
“It is a lie to say that doctrine does not matter; it matters enormously. It is fatal to let poeple suppose that Christianity is only a mode of feeling; it is vitally necessary to insist that it is first and foremost a rational explanation of the universe.”
“It is hopeless to offer Christianity as a vaguely idealist aspiration of a simple and consoling kind; it is, on the contrary, a hard, tough, exacting, and complex doctrine, steeped in a drastic and uncompromising realism.”
“If the average person is to be interested in Christ at all, it is the doctrine that will provide the interest. The trouble is that, in nine cases out of ten, he or she has never been offered the doctrine. What has been offered is a set of technical theological terms that nobody has taken the trouble to translate into language relevant to ordinary life.”
Amen. Dorothy’s title says it all: “Creed or Chaos”