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Creed or Chaos?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 26, 2001

    Conservative But Smart

    Dorothy Sayers was not only a famous mystery-novel writer, she was also a career university medievalist and a gifted theologian with a decidedly traditional bent. She takes the modern world to task in this 1950 work. We've got to have dogma, she says--not partial dogma or silly dogma or nondogma masquerading as freethinking or tolerance. She lampoons the silliness of her own fellow Anglicans' beliefs in a kind of parody catechism. The section on Atonement begins, 'God wanted to damn everybody, but His vindictive sadism was sated by the crucifixion of his own son . . .' She notes (quite accurately, I think) that it is nonbelievers who fear death the most, not staunch Christians, whereas a common-sense interpretation might lead one to think exactly the opposite. Like many radical conservatives (Ayn Rand comes to mind), Sayers is best on the attack. Another way of saying this is that she was better at diagnosing the problem than coming to workable solutions. She plumps for the dignity of individual labor in pre-mechanical settings so strongly that I suspected she had in mind the medieval past she knew so well. All well and good, but this would imply that the Catholic church would wind up with considerable political and economic power and we must ask ourselves: whatever standard of living results, do we really want to return to the social and political conditions of the middle ages? None of this is to imply that 'Creed or Chaos' is a blast from the past. It is well worth reading today because the issues it raises are still with us today. On the whole this book is witty, forceful and a pleasure to read. I couldn't quite give this book a '5' because I thought Sayers bit off a bit more material than she could chew, but this is a good read nonetheless.

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