Tag Archives: Dorothy L Sayers

“Novel” theology: Bestsellers as rich theological source


The Glory of St. Thomas Aquinas, detail. Paris...

Aquinas with his favorite novel? (The Glory of St. Thomas Aquinas, detail. Paris, Musée du Louvre.)

A nifty post by “Theology PhD Mom” on novels and theology, including a run-down of some of the theological themes in Nick Hornby‘s About A Boy (which later became a movie starring Hugh Grant). Some snippets:

“My PhD advisor has often suggested that fiction is good for theologians to read.  Until I met him, I had generally thought that my reading mystery novels when I was supposed to be reading Barth IV.2 or, heavens, the Summa Theologica, was a big vice. But who am I to argue with my Doktorvater?”

Excellent start. And then quickly, a list of a few theologians (and one medievalist) who also wrote mystery novels:

“G.K. Chesterton (Father Brown), Dorothy Sayers (Lord Peter Wimsey), Ralph McInerny (Father Dowling – and I used to love the tv show, shot in my very own beloved Denver), to name a few. Continue reading

MORE words in the King James Version that now mean something else


The first page of the Book of Genesis from the...

The first page of the Book of Genesis from the original 1611 printing of the King James Bible

Since my first list of such words has generated so much interest, here is a second:

furniture saddle, Gen 31:34. Pity the poor horse whose rider gets this one confused!

gin contraption, snare, Job 18:9; Pss 140:5; 141:9; Isa 8:44; Amos 3:5. Perhaps the reason we get “cotton gin” for “a machine used in harvesting cotton”?

halt lame Matt 18:8; Mark 9:45; Luke 14:21; John 5:3. halt(eth) (ed) (1) is (was) lame, Mic 4:6,7; Zeph 3:19. (2) limped, Gen 32:31. One can at least see the connection here . . .

harness armor, 1 Kgs 20:11; 22:34; 2 Chr 9:24; 18:33. harnessed armed, Exod 13:18. Pity the poor knight whose groom got this one confused! Continue reading

Anagrams of the Saints


Wordle: Patron Saints for PostmodernsA couple of years back, when I was in the thick of writing Patron Saints for Postmoderns, I started doodling with anagrams for my “saints'” names. This is what I came up with:

Margery Kempe = “Kerygma per me”

That’s a Greek/Latin hybrid, meaning, “the Gospel proclamation for me.” So much of what Margery did was in response to her deeply personal sense of what the Gospel proclamation meant–for her and for all people.

Continue reading

“The Incarnation is the most dramatic thing that ever entered into the mind of man; but if you tell people so, they stare at you in bewilderment.” Dorothy Sayers


Cover of

An excellent book on the theology of Dorothy Sayers–indeed the only such book that I know of–is George Fox University professor Laura K. Simmons’s Creed Without Chaos (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005). Simmons goes methodically through Sayers’s theological thought, stopping at one point to examine the writer’s handling of the Incarnation:

77: “The dogma of the Incarnation is the most dramatic thing about Christianity,” Dorothy L. Sayers wrote in October 1937, “and indeed, the most dramatic thing that ever entered into the mind of man; but if you tell people so, they stare at you in bewilderment.”One of the doctrines on which Sayers reflected perhaps more than any other was the incarnation. A proper understanding of Christ’s essence, character, and mission on earth was “the difference between pseudo-Christianity and Christianity,” she wrote in June of 1945. The relationship between the God who created the world and God’s Son, Jesus, who walked in it, was a crucial part of her theology. Continue reading

Would we fail this exam on what the church believes? Dorothy Sayers at her best


Into her famous mid-20th century essay “The Dogma Is the Drama,” mystery writer, religious playwright, and Dante translator Dorothy L. Sayers inserts the following scathing and humorous assessment of what many unchurched people think the church believes. Sadly, this portrait may still not be far off. And as they were then, these sorts of mistakes are still largely the fault of the church itself.

Q.:          What does the Church think of God the Father?
A.:          He is omnipotent and holy. He created the world and imposed on man conditions impossible of fulfillment. He is very angry if these are not carried out. He sometimes interferers by means of arbitrary judgments and miracles, distributed with a good deal of favoritism. He . . . is always ready to pound on anybody who trips up over a difficulty in the Law, or is having a bit of fun. He is rather like a dictator, only larger and more arbitrary. Continue reading

The intuitive medievalism of C S Lewis–a paper proposal for Kalamazoo 2011


Just submitted a paper proposal to the International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, 2011, for a session sponsored by the Purdue C S Lewis Society. Whether or not it includes me, this session will be a historic event: as long as I or the convener can remember, Kzoo has done without even a single C S Lewis paper.

This is quite odd, given that, in the words of Norman Cantor, “Of all the medievalists of the twentieth century, Lewis and Tolkien have gained incomparably the greatest audience.” I’ve seen lots of Tolkien sessions at Kzoo, but nary a Lewis session.

Wish me luck . . .

ABSTRACT: The Intuitive Medievalism of C S Lewis

Lewis did not set out to be a medievalist, but from early in his life—before his conversion—medieval thinking and values drew him inexorably, eventually forming his deepest commitments. Continue reading

Beyond C S Lewis: Glimpses of 20th-century British literary Christians from biographer Joseph Pearce


Cover of "Literary Converts: Spiritual In...

A Christian literary feast

One of the more fascinating books I’ve read in the last 10 years is a sort of group biography by the prolific Catholic writer Joseph Pearce. Called Literary Converts (San Francisco: Ignatius, 2000), this sprawling account leads us through a surprisingly large and varied network of 20th-century British literary Christians. Here are G. K. Chesterton, Hilaire Belloc, Evelyn Waugh, C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, Ronald Knox, T. S. Eliot, Dorothy L. Sayers, and many more. They all play their part in the spread of Christianity in English literary culture after the spiritual doldrums of the 1910s and 20s.

Pearce weaves themes and connections that will grip any fan of those writers who shares their faith. His keen eye for the telling detail, the revealing vignette, and the colorful anecdote make this book both a rich resource and a pleasure to read, if you can forgive the Roman Catholic triumphalism that emerges here and there along the way. Continue reading