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In this book originally titled Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World, Sayers explores the underlying spirit and the direction of Western civilization as she considers topics ranging from popular theology and ethics to aesthetics, the meaning of creativity, and theories on communication.


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In this book originally titled Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World, Sayers explores the underlying spirit and the direction of Western civilization as she considers topics ranging from popular theology and ethics to aesthetics, the meaning of creativity, and theories on communication.

30 review for The Whimsical Christian: 18 Essays

  1. 4 out of 5

    Douglas Wilson

    Great.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Tony

    I'm finding that all my seemingly original curmudgeonly opinions have already been held, for example, that bad art is a sin. I'm adding Sayers to the pantheon of prickly dead women on whom I have crushes.

  3. 4 out of 5

    John

    You're reading this collection of essays from 1940s and 1950s England and thinking how dated it is, then you come across this: "And do we -- this is important -- when we blame the mess that the economical world has got into, do we always lay the blame on wicked financiers, wicked profiteers, wicked capitalists, wicked employers, wicked bankers -- or do we sometimes ask ourselves how far we have contributed to make the mess?" Hmmmm. But much of "Christian Letters" does seem dated and, worse, tedious You're reading this collection of essays from 1940s and 1950s England and thinking how dated it is, then you come across this: "And do we -- this is important -- when we blame the mess that the economical world has got into, do we always lay the blame on wicked financiers, wicked profiteers, wicked capitalists, wicked employers, wicked bankers -- or do we sometimes ask ourselves how far we have contributed to make the mess?" Hmmmm. But much of "Christian Letters" does seem dated and, worse, tedious. I had a hard time getting through some of the essays and didn't quite make it through some of the others. I thought some were very good. The best section was a set of essays the compiler titled: "The Shattering Dogmas of the Christian Tradition." A better title, I think, would be: "Dogmas Matter." Better yet: "Doctrine Matters." To the Jesus People of the 1960s who said, "Don't give me doctrines, just give me Jesus," Sayers would have answered (had she still been alive): No. It matters what you believe about Jesus. In "The Greatest Drama Ever Staged," she argues with those who say they are bored by recitations of various creeds in church. These people, she writes, must not be paying any attention to what those creeds say: "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 in 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. To those who knew Him, however, He in no way suggested a milk-and-water person; they objected to Him as a dangerous firebrand. True, He was tender to the unfortunate, patient with honest inquirers, and humble before Heaven; but He insulted respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites; He referred to King Herod as 'that fox'; He went to parties in disreputable company and was looked upon as a 'gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners'; He assaulted indignant tradesmen and threw them and their belongings out of the Temple; He drove a coach-and-horses through a number of sacrosanct and hoary regulations; He cured diseases by any means that came handy, with a shocking casualness in the matter of other people's pigs and property; He showed no proper deference for wealth or social position; when confronted with neat dialectical traps, He displayed a paradoxical humour that affronted serious-minded people, and He retorted by asking disagreeably searching questions that could not be answered by rule of thumb. He was emphatically not a dull man in His human lifetime, and if He was God, there can be nothing dull about God either." I think that is a marvelous passage. I wish the rest of the book rose to its level.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mike Szczepanik

    Dorothy Sayers isn't everyone's cup of tea. Her prose is more complex than C.S. Lewis's, so she's harder to read and comprehend. But it's worth the extra effort. There's a sharp intellect at work there with much to say that's still very relevant decades later.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mrs. C.

    This book was originally titled *Christian Letters to a Post-Christian World*, which I think is a better indicator of its contents. Fabulous stuff!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    Very thought-provoking and well-written, for people who like clever and beautifully-crafted language. The essay "Problem Picture" is brilliant--I find myself going back to it again and again.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Luke Paulsen

    Two of my favorite writers ever, period, are J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. In search of ever more excellent content from them, I've delved into their essays and academic writings well past the point of diminishing returns. Even the best thinkers eventually wear thin and run dry. Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered the existence of Dorothy Sayers. She's a contemporary, indeed a kindred spirit, to Lewis and Tolkien, and just as excellent in almost every way. Masterful, genre-defining work Two of my favorite writers ever, period, are J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis. In search of ever more excellent content from them, I've delved into their essays and academic writings well past the point of diminishing returns. Even the best thinkers eventually wear thin and run dry. Imagine my delight, then, when I discovered the existence of Dorothy Sayers. She's a contemporary, indeed a kindred spirit, to Lewis and Tolkien, and just as excellent in almost every way. Masterful, genre-defining works of fiction; brilliantly written, sharply reasoned, unapologetically Christian nonfiction; serious literary scholarship and a clearly articulated theory of artistic value-- and that's just the beginning. What's more, Sayers also has the distinction of being one of the first women to attend Oxford. Yet she isn't nearly as well known as Tolkien or Lewis, though she absolutely deserves to be. The Whimsical Christian isn't Sayers's single best work, but it makes an excellent introduction to her nonfiction writing and scholarship. The first portion of the book reflects Sayers's strong interest in Christian creeds, theology, and dogma, and her conviction that they're not only accurate but also relevant and exciting, especially to creative artists. (Sayers covers the subject more fully in The Mind of the Maker, re-using some of the material found here.) Also included are several essays on the Church in modern society that I can only describe as "convicting". I'm usually reluctant to use that term in its Christian-subculture sense, but Sayers is so convincing and relentless that no other word will do. The collection wraps up with several works of literary criticism. These focus mostly on Dante-- Sayers's specialty-- but are fascinatingly wide-ranging in their arguments and sources. This collection isn't perfect. Sayers's writing is tightly reasoned, but a bit minimalist. Her theological arguments in particular can run ahead of what she's able to effectively convey with words. And those who don't agree with her already will find plenty of opportunities to remain unconvinced. There's quite a bit of variation in pace and style, from the serious scholarship at the end to a couple of wild satirical pieces at the beginning. So the work is uneven-- but it's also very, very good. Highly recommended.

  8. 5 out of 5

    John Martindale

    Dorothy Sayers seemed to me at times, a bit verbose and her prose were not always easy going, but still it was worthwhile reading her essays. I seen her quoted many of times by the likes of Philip Yancey and I knew she was a contemporary of C.S Lewis, so I wanted to read something by her. Below are some sections I underlined, I went ahead a copied them below From Creed of Chaos? "But if Christian dogma is irrelevant to life, to what, in Heaven's name, is it relevant?--since religious dogma is in f Dorothy Sayers seemed to me at times, a bit verbose and her prose were not always easy going, but still it was worthwhile reading her essays. I seen her quoted many of times by the likes of Philip Yancey and I knew she was a contemporary of C.S Lewis, so I wanted to read something by her. Below are some sections I underlined, I went ahead a copied them below From Creed of Chaos? "But if Christian dogma is irrelevant to life, to what, in Heaven's name, is it relevant?--since religious dogma is in fact nothing but a statement of doctrines concerning the nature of life and the universe. If Christian ministers really believe it is only an intellectual game for theologians and has no bearing upon human life, it is no wonder that their congregations are ignorant, bored, and bewildered." "The final tendency of modern philosophy--hailed in their day as a release from the burden of sinfulness--has been to bind man hard and fast in the chains of an iron determinism. The influence of heredity and environment...the control exercised by the unconscious, of economic necessity and the mechanics of biological development, have all be invoked to reassure man that he is not responsible for his misfortunes and therefore not to be held guilty. Evil has been represented as something imposed upon him from without, not made by him from within. The dreadful conclusion follows inevitably, that as he is not responsible for evil, he cannot alter it; even though evolution and progress may offer some alleviation in the future, there is no hope for you and me, here and now... Today if we could really be persuaded that we are miserable sinners--that the trouble is not outside us but inside us, and that therefore, by the grace of God, we can do something to put it right--we should receive that message as the most hopeful and heartening things that can be imagined." "The fallacy is that work is not the expression of man's creative energy in the service of society, but only something he does in order to obtain money and leisure. A Very able surgeon put it to me like this: "What is happening" he said, "Is that nobody works for the sake of getting the thing done. The result of the work is a by-product; the aim of the work is to make money to do something else" From "The other six deadly sins" "The difficulty about dealing with envy is precisely that it is the sin of the have-nots, and that, on that account, it can always fin support among those who are just and generous minded." "the years between the wars saw the most ruthless campaign of debunking ever undertaken by nominally civilized nations. Great artist were debunk by disclosures of their private weaknesses; great statesmen, by attribution to them mercenary and petty motives, or by alleging that all their work was meaningless, or done for them by other people. Religion was debunk, leaning and art were debunked, love was debunked, and with it family affection and the virtues of obedience, veneration, and solidarity. Age was debunked by youth, and youth by age. Psychologist stripped bare the pretensions of reason and conscience and self-control, saying that these were only the respectable disguises of unmentionable unconscious impulses. Honor was debunked with peculiar virulence, and good faith, and unselfishness. Everything that could possible be held to constitute an essential superiority had the garments of honor torn from its back and was cast out into the darkness of derision. Civilization was finally debunked till it had not a rag left to cover its nakedness" "Envy... tears down the whole fabric to get at the parasitic growths. Its enemy, in fact, is the virtues themselves, envy cannot bear to admire or respect, it cannot beat to be grateful. But it is very plausible; it always announces that it works in the name of truth and equality. Sometimes it may be a good thing to debunk envy a little." From "Toward A Christian Esthetic" "For occasional relaxation this is all right, but it can be carried to the point where...the whole universe of phenomena becomes a screen on which we see the magnified projection of our unreal selves as the object of equally unreal emotions...When things come to this pass, we have a civilization that lives for amusement, a civilization without guts, without experience, and out of touch with reality" From "Creative Mind" "To measure the length of anything, he required a yardstick; and his task will not be an easy one if the yardstick, instead of remaining rigid and uniform, develops a nasty trick of expanding, shrinking, bulging, curling about, or throwing out offshoots in different directions. But this is precisely the way in which language behaves. Words alter their meanings in course of time and in various context" "Theology, for example, is a science with a highly technical vocabulary of its own;; and when (for example) a biologist ventures (as he frequently does) into criticism of other people's theology, he is likely to tumble into errors quite as grotesque as those made by popular preachers who adorn their sermons with misapplied scraps of biology" From "the image of God" "The "image" of God was modeled, we find only the single assertion, "God created", the characteristic common to God and man is apparently that: the desire and ability to make things" "To complain that man measures God by his own experience is a waste of time; man measures everything by his own experience; he has no other yardstick." From The greatest Drama Ever Staged" "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" "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. To those who knew him, however, he in no way suggest a milk and water person; they objected to him as a dangerous firebrand. True, he was tender to the unfortunate, patient with honest inquirers, and humble before heaven; but he insulted respectable clergymen by calling them hypocrites. He referred to King Herod as "that fox"; he went to parties in disreputable company..."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Courtney

    Loved this collection of essays. They reminded me a great deal of those contained the posthumous Flannery O'Connor collection Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose. What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to be an artist? Most importantly, what does it mean to be a Christian artist, and what obligations does such a person bear to both her faith and her art? Sayers tackles all of these questions with erudition and incisive wit. Her "The Writing and Reading of Allegory" serves as a Loved this collection of essays. They reminded me a great deal of those contained the posthumous Flannery O'Connor collection Mystery and Manners: Occasional Prose. What does it mean to be a Christian? What does it mean to be an artist? Most importantly, what does it mean to be a Christian artist, and what obligations does such a person bear to both her faith and her art? Sayers tackles all of these questions with erudition and incisive wit. Her "The Writing and Reading of Allegory" serves as a defense, on behalf of her friend C.S. Lewis, of allegory as a literary form (surprisingly, it seems that criticism of his Space trilogy was what prompted her response, rather than attacks on the Narnia books), and is an interesting 3rd party contribution to the debate between him and fellow Inkling J.R.R. Tolkien. And her "The Faust Legend and the Idea of the Devil" contains some interesting musings on the danger of sympathy inherent in trying to write a dramatically convincing Lucifer, and would bear re-reading following a perusal of The Screwtape Letters.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Stephanie McCarthy

    I'm a Sayers fanatic and having exhausted her mystery novels moved on to her theological musings. I'm very impressed, particularly by her views on the importance of the creative process in Christianity. I agree that humans seem programmed to create, but disagree that the process of creation necessarily brings us in sync with our religious selves. Creation can be both a key and a chain. Nonetheless, it was a refreshing approach to an intellectual defense of faith.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Erik

    Recommended by James Schall in Another Sort of Learning, Chapter 2, as one of five books addressed to the heart of things. Recommended by James Schall in Another Sort of Learning, Intro to Part Three, as one of Schall's Unlikely List of Books to Keep Sane By---Selected for Those to Whom Making Sense Is a Prior Consideration, but a Minority Opinion.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Marlise

    I really wanted to give this a higher rating as 3 of the essays are inspiring and emotionally stimulating and just plain awesome. But so many of the rest were just ramble that I had to work hard to stay afloat with. So, I’m mixed about this compilation but I’m still glad I read it.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rae

    I loved this book of religious essays by the mystery writer Sayers. I wish more of her religious material was available in print. She's awesome.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This was a collection of essays by Dorothy Sayers. Some were faith based; others around literature. Overall, I enjoyed the essays.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Alliee +

    One of those right book at the right time moments.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Dawn Stahl

  17. 5 out of 5

    Addison

  18. 4 out of 5

    Stacey Douglas

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carrie

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    interesting slant on christianity...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan Lovelace

  22. 4 out of 5

    Katie

  23. 5 out of 5

    Barbara Prescott

  24. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth

  25. 5 out of 5

    Misty

  26. 4 out of 5

    Josh

  27. 4 out of 5

    Carole Vanderhoof

  28. 5 out of 5

    Charity

  29. 4 out of 5

    Steve Perkins

  30. 4 out of 5

    Steve Penner

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