SAYERS ON THE DRAMA OF DOGMA
Official Christianity, of late years, has been having what is known as “a bad press.” We are constantly assured that the churches are empty because preachers insist too much upon doctrine – “dull dogma,” as people call it. The fact is the precise opposite. It is the neglect of dogma that makes for dullness. The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man—and the dogma is the drama.Dorothy Sayers, “The Greatest Drama Ever Staged,” Creed or Chaos? (Harcourt, Brace:1949/ 1974 ed. Sophia Institute Press), pp. 1-9
…Possibly we might prefer not to take this tale too seriously—there are disquieting points about it. Here we had a man of Divine character walking and talking among us—and what did we find to do with Him? The common people, indeed, “heard Him gladly,” but our leading authorities in Church and State considered that He talked too much and uttered too many disconcerting truths. So we bribed one of His friends to hand Him over quietly to the police, and we tried Him on a rather vague charge of creating a disturbance, and had Him publicly flogged and hanged on the common gallows, “thanking God we were rid of a knave.” (Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing)
…So that is the outline of the official story—the talk of the time when God was the underdog and got beaten, when He submitted to the conditions He had laid down and became a man like the men He had made, and the men He had made broke Him and killed Him. This is the dogma we find so dull—this terrifying drama of which God the victim and hero.
If this is dull, then what, in heaven’s name, is worthy to be called exciting? The people who hanged Christ never, to do them justice, accused Him of being a bore; on the contrary, they thought Him too dynamic to be safe. It has been left for later generations to muffle up that shattering personality and surround Him with an atmosphere of tedium. We have very efficiently pared the claws of the Lion of Judah, certified Him “meek and mild,” and recommended Him as a fitting household pet for pale curates and pious old ladies.
…He was emphatically not a dull man in His human lifetime, and if He was God, there can be nothing dull about God either. But He had a “daily beauty in His life that made us ugly,” (Shakespeare, Othello) and officialdom felt that the established order of things would be more secure without Him. So they did away with God in the name of peace and quietness.
“And the third day He rose again”; what are we to make of that? One thing is certain: if He was God and nothing else, His immortality means nothing to us; if He was man and no more, His death is no more important than yours or mine. But if He really was both God and man, then when the man Jesus died, God died too, and when the God Jesus rose from the dead, man rose too, because they were one and the same person.
…Now, we may call that doctrine exhilarating or we may call it devastating, we may call it Revelation or we may call it rubbish; but if we call it dull, then words have no meaning at all. That God should play the tyrant over man is a dismal story of unrelieved oppression; that man should play the tyrant over man is the usual dreary record of human futility; but that man should play the tyrant over God and Him a better man that himself is an astonishing drama indeed. Any journalist, hearing of it for the firs time, would recognize it as News; those who did hear it for the first time actually called it News, and good news at that; though we are apt to forget that the word Gospel ever meant anything so sensational.