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The Greatest Drama Ever Staged is the Official Creed of Christendom

  • DOROTHY SAYERS

... The Christian faith is the most exciting drama that ever staggered the imagination of man — and the dogma is the drama.


sayers5That drama is summarised quite clearly in the creeds of the Church, and if we think it dull it is because we either have never really read those amazing documents, or have recited them so often and so mechanically as to have lost all sense of their meaning.  The plot pivots upon a single character, and the whole action is the answer to a single central problem: What think ye of Christ?

The Church's answer is categorical and uncompromising, and it is this: That Jesus Bar-Joseph, the carpenter of Nazareth, was in fact and in truth, and in the most exact and literal sense of the words, the God "by Whom all things were made."  His body and brain were those of a common man; His personality was the personality of God, so far as that personality could be expressed in human terms.  He was not a kind of dæmon or fairy pretending to be human; He was in every respect a genuine living man.  He was not merely a man so good as to be "like God" — He was God…This is the dogma we find so dull — this terrifying drama of which God is 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.  To those who knew Him, however, He in no way suggested a milk-and-water person; they objected to Him as a dangerous firebrand. 

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.

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....

'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.… There is the essential doctrine, of which the whole elaborate structure of Christian faith and morals is only the logical consequence.  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.

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Acknowledgement

sayers Dorothy Sayers excerpt from "The Greatest Drama Ever Staged is the Official Creed of Christendom." The Sunday Times (2 April, 1938). 

This essay is in the public domain.

The Author

sayerssayers1 Dorothy Sayers (1893–1957) was an English crime writer, poet, playwright, essayist, translator, and passionate Christian humanist and apologist. She was among the first female graduates of Oxford University. Among her many books are: Creed or Chaos?: Why Christians Must Choose Either Dogma or Disaster (Or, Why It Really Does Matter What You Believe), Letters to a Diminished Church: Passionate Arguments for the Relevance of Christian Doctrine, The Mind of the Maker, The Letters of Dorothy L. Sayers, and The Nine Tailors.

Copyright © 1938 Public Domain
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