In a recent post by Dr. Fred Sanders at Middlebrow, he examines Dorothy Sayers’ project to get the Christian message out. She sure didn’t spare words for those who displayed intellectual laziness and apathy:
(Sanders): “…The average person has a boundless ignorance of Christianity, rooted in their laziness and thoughtlessness. ‘Nine people out of ten in this country are ignorant heathens,’ [Sayers] said in 1939. “I do not so much mind the heathendom, but the ignorance is really alarming.” And a few years later, when a broadcaster asked her to write a short letter explaining Christianity for the average person, Sayers spat back:

“The only letter I ever want to address to ‘average people’ is one that says — I do not care whether you believe in Christianity or not, but I do resent your being so ignorant, lazy, and unintelligent. Why don’t you take the trouble to find out what is Christianity and what isn’t? Why, when you can bestir yourself to mug up technical terms about electricity, won’t you do as much for theology before you begin to argue about it? … You would be ashamed to know as little about internal combustion as you do about the Nicene Creed.”

Ouch. I think I’ll go brush up on the Nicene Creed now. Seriously. I think this challenge hits where it hurts for American evangelicals. Theology is important and we don’t know it. Off to my Creed book

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Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.


  1. While I certainly agree with Sayers’ general point, we can hardly say that she is a Lady. In fact, she is one of the most unladylike Christian women I can think of.

    Perhaps with a bit of Christ-like compassion along with her righteous anger, she could have persuaded more people to examine the Nicene Creed.

    That said, I still think Mind of the Maker is a brilliant piece of pop theology, I think the Man Born to be King series is excellent, and when the narrator isn’t being pompous, I even like the mystery novels.


  2. And they say knowledge doesn’t puff up …


  3. We have no idea whether or not Sayers’ arrogance has anything to do with her knowledge. There is a temptation to infer from “She is smart and conceited,” to “She is conceited because she is smart.” But obviously this is a bad argument, because a conjunction (a and b) is not logically equivalent to a conditional (a implies b).

    I hope my comment didn’t strike anyone as anti-intellectual. I think it’s really good to know the creed! Thanks for directing readers to Sanders’ book review, Andrew McKnight!


  4. …still shuddering from the thought of “pop” theology. I don’t think we need to speculate about how Athansius would respond.

    Peregrine, your point seems to be that ‘two things together do not logically imply a cause’. Well, yes. I can find studies showing a conjunction between aesbestos and lung cancer. And so we believe, “If you work with aesbestos, you will probably get lung cancer” even though it isn’t logically necessary.

    You are also correct when you say, “We have no idea”. What we have is revelation. Revelation tells us that knowledge puffs up. It is also revelation that tells us, “Whoever says, `You fool,’ shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell”. Before we praise someone for calling a lot of people, “ignorant, lazy, and unintelligent” and “resent”ing them for it, we should remember Christ’s words.

    I support knowing the creed, but the wise man puts the words of Christ into practice.


  5. Revelation tells us that knowledge puffs up.

    Necessarily? That is hard to believe. That would mean the chests of St. Paul and St. John the Evangelist would just about fill the universe…


  6. Well, you know Selby, Lewis did prize men with chests. And he was particularly drawn to Dante’s metaphor of the Apostles in Paradise as mountains. I think we’re on to something!


  7. In the worldly sense of the word we could call Paul “knowledgeable”, and when he defends himself (“as a fool”) he lists the credibilities of his worldly knowledge.

    But don’t forget how he told the Corinthians: “I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” Paul calls this “knowledge” foolishness to the Greeks. If you are suggesting this is a special case where knowledge does not necessarily puff up, but sobers and prepares in seriousness one’s essential task in love before God, then I agree that knowledge does not necessarily puff up.

    But let us not forget that Paul under divine inspiration contrasts the effects of knowledge with the effects of love, lest we find ourselves the opponents of the Word of God.


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