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Creed or Chaos? Paperback – 1995

4.3 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Dorothy Sayers is an apologist for the Christian Faith worthy to stand beside C. S. Lewis. -- Chicago Tribune

Not a dull sentence in it! -- Hartford Courant

Sayers defends Christianity as a religion for adult minds. -- The Saturday Review

About the Author

Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957), best known for her "Lord Peter Wimsey" detective novels, was also an acclaimed essayist who argued passionately for the relevance of orthodox Christian doctrine to living the Christian life.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 116 pages
  • Publisher: Sophia Institute Press (1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 091847731X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0918477316
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #152,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957) was a playwright, scholar, and acclaimed author of mysteries, best known for her books starring the gentleman sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey.

Born in Oxford, England, Sayers, whose father was a reverend, grew up in the Bluntisham rectory and won a scholarship to Oxford University where she studied modern languages and worked at the publishing house Blackwell's, which published her first book of poetry in 1916.

Years later, working as an advertising copywriter, Sayers began work on Whose Body?, a mystery novel featuring dapper detective Lord Peter Wimsey. Over the next two decades, Sayers published ten more Wimsey novels and several short stories, crafting a character whose complexity was unusual for the mystery novels of the time.

In 1936, Sayers brought Lord Peter Wimsey to the stage in a production of Busman's Honeymoon, a story which she would publish as a novel the following year. The play was so successful that she gave up mystery writing to focus on the stage, producing a series of religious works culminating in The Man Born to Be King (1941) a radio drama about the life of Jesus.

She also wrote theological essays and criticism during and after World War II, and in 1949 published the first volume of a translation of Dante's Divine Comedy (which she considered to be her best work).

Dorothy Sayers died of a heart attack in 1957.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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It may come as a surprise to many readers that mystery-suspense author Dorothy Sayers ("Murder Must Advertise"; "Gaudy Night") was a first-rate theological writer as well. Although published nearly fifty years ago, to Miss Sayers' mind the world was going to hell in a handbasket (almost literally!) and it's a wonder we have survived for so long.
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. Sayers believes the Apostles' and Nicene Creeds must be taken literally--now, lots of people do but you will rarely encounter someone who argues the case so intelligently.
Stylistically and theologically, Sayers was so Anglo-Catholic as to be Catholic. As the preface to this book warns, Sayers occasionally uses "catholic" to mean the Christian church universal, sometimes "Catholic" to mean the Church of England (Anglican Church) and sometimes the Roman Catholic Church. It's easy to figure out what she means from context, though.
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.
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Dorothy L. Sayers is the best christian apologist I have read next to C.S. Lewis. These two contemporaries both defend orthodoxy in the christian faith in a way that is enjoyable to read (in terms of scathing wit and very appropriate humor) and disturbing for its clear presentation of the failings of both modern christianity and modern society.
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Dorothy Sayers, best known as the author of typically wonderful British mysteries, was also known in her lifetime as an engaging public speaker, and one of the topics she would speak about is the life of the church. A staunch and solid Anglican of Anglo-Catholic persuasion (read here, 'more Catholic than the Pope', in many respects), she in some ways shared a spotlight (and variously competed for the spotlight) with other such luminaries as C.S. Lewis.

This particular book, 'Creed or Chaos?' is a particular favourite of mine. Written in the 1940s, it is actually a compilation of pamphlets (or, perhaps more appropriately, tracts) that were issued along with her speaking engagements. This is a book of lectures, but these are no mere lectures. Sayers is a woman of wit and wisdom in addition to being a scathing and no-holds-barred critic of those things she finds deserving of critique.

There are seven essays in total, which deal with issues of art and culture, church and state, public and private morality, virtue, and more. The title of the collection comes from the fifth essay, 'Creed or Chaos?' in which Sayers argues for the necessity of strong dogma in the face of declining stability in the world. Watching the unfolding of events at the beginning of the second world war, after having lived through the aftermath of the first (which included the collapse of the old order in Russia), she lays part of the blame on the kind of touchy-feely Christianity that had come into vogue that was more concerned with feelings than with understanding and order. 'The thing I am here to say to you is this: that 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.
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This collection of essays and speeches covers more ground than the title suggests. The first portion, on the importance of dogma in an authentically religious life, is passionate, persuasive, and predicts the coming battle between Christianity and paganism in Western culture. Interesting as this is, I found the second part of the book more intriguing still, when Sayers turns her attention to the significance of work and then to the Seven Deadly Sins. She draws a crucial distinction between work as an end in itself and work as a means to an end. Instead of treating our work as our gift to God, are we merely looking for a paycheck so we can get more stuff? Sayers exposes the social ills wrought by excessive materialism and insufficient attention to our moral responsibilities, and carries this theme further in her discussion of the deadly sins. This final chapter makes for an excellent examination of conscience as well as an embarrassing commentary on the crass materialism that pervades our culture, almost invisible in the absence of moral reflection. And above all, this book exhorts us to moral reflection. With remarkable power and insight, Sayers encourages us to ask, "What am I doing, and why am I doing it?"
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