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Letters to a Diminished Church: Passionate Arguments for the Relevance of Christian Doctrine

4.26  ·  Rating details ·  253 Ratings  ·  48 Reviews
What must a person believe to be a Christian? Dorothy Sayers lays out age-old doctrines without prettying-up or watering-down. She brings them vividly to life by showing how the Bible, history, literature, and modern science fit together to make religion not only possible but necessary in our time.

So whether you are reading the great works of Western literature, thinking a
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Paperback, 288 pages
Published September 6th 2004 by Thomas Nelson
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sharon
An intelligent and incisive set of essays from one of the great minds of the 20th century. As the subtitle for this edition says, this volume is a passionate argument for the continuing relevance of Christian doctrine and, as such, is just as important now as it was 50 years ago. I particularly appreciated Sayers' thoughts on vocation and her critique of late capitalism, and find C.S. Lewis's praise of his own late wife to be the best way to describe Sayers: "[she] was a splendid thing; a soul s ...more
Kellen O'Grady
Oct 24, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is life-changing. Sayers is as relevant today as she was when this was written and is in many ways prophetic. She has changed how I view Christianity and how I aim to progress in the spiritual life. She has a unique and fresh voice which ought to be heard well.
J. Alfred
Oct 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
You may be familiar with Dorothy Sayers as the author of some unexcellent detective novels. You may have heard of her as an orbital figure in CS Lewis's circles. You may be aware that she wrote "The Lost Tools of Learning," an essay which, by its cleverness, got a bunch of Classical Christian schools stuck in what she herself calls the 'poll parrot stage' of development.
You probably have not read her essays. But they are worth reading.
She is a snappy strong writer and she makes unexpected conn
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Kay Mckean
Feb 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
Reading "Letters To A Diminished Church" was an intense exercise for my brain cells! I had a startling realization of my feeble grasp on classic literature, sadly forgotten since my college humanities classes. But the purpose of this book is not just an intellectual one. The author explains basic Christian doctrines in a way that are both simple and profound. I was amazed that she was writing over 70 years ago in the middle of a war. Her insights seem so contemporary to me. It was an effort to g ...more
Amanda
Great collection of essays. There is a lot of discussion on God as Creator and how we are creators which is a fundamental part of how we bear God’s image.
Joan
Jun 16, 2008 added it
First, understand that when Sayers says “Church", she is referring to the Anglican communion, with an occasional nod towards Rome. Here is her basic tenet: that Christian dogma matters. It not only matters, but it is a thundering good story. This may seem obvious, but her point is that the modern (mid-twentieth century) church has, as she puts it, "run away from theology", and that, as a result, many, if not most, nominal Christians have very little idea about what it is that the Church really t ...more
Ellen
Apr 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
There were certainly sections of this book that I disagreed with (and a few places where I'm sure it was just my own intellectual feebleness, but I had no idea what she was talking about), but wow -- what a thought-provoking book. This one is definitely going to get a re-read. My favorite sections were the chapters called "The Dogma is the Drama", "Creed or Chaos?", and "Why Work?" (that last one especially clearing up a great deal of confusion that I've been trying to sort out lately). I loved ...more
Jlnpeacock Peacock
Jun 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
One would think Dorothy Sayers was writing to the American church of 2011. Excellent material written in an engaging and thought provoking manner. More Christians should be reading and thinking about the things she presents.
Ruth
Feb 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Really just so fantastic. Sayers lays all would-be equivocation bare with the sheer clarity and force of her explanations, leaving readers no place to hide from Truth. Very highly recommended, especially for Christians who are both analytical and creative.
Chad
Mar 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Dorothy Sayers, detective novelist.

I was absolutely ecstatic when Goodreads pulled this recommendation out of its hat! Dorothy Sayers is another close acquaintance of C. S. Lewis. I first became familiar with her from the letters of C. S. Lewis in which he writes to her and about her quite frequently. I first tried to find some of her works right after finishing Lewis's letters, but my search must not have been thorough, because I quickly gave up. A quick Goodreads search though shows that many
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Philip Tadros
This was my intro to Dorothy Sayers. I was not disappointed. A great collection of her writings on subjects ranging from doctrine, culture, church, vocation, economics, and the arts.
Shaela Woody
"Somehow or other, and with the best intentions, we have shown the world the typical Christian in the likeness of a crashing and rather ill-natured bore--and this in the Name of One who assuredly never bored a soul in those thirty-three years during which He passed through this world like a flame.

Let us, in Heaven's name, drag out the Divine Drama from under the dreadful accumulation of slipshod thinking and trashy sentiment heaped upon it, and set it on an open stage to startle the world into s
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John
Sep 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is truly a magnificent collection of essays. I fully expect to return to this book time and again as the years go by. The essays cover all manner of subjects, though their themes often tie the works together into a cohesive whole. Sayers cares deeply for the dogma of the Christian church, and makes significant and well-reasoned arguments for its essential presence in any church that claims to be Christian.

Beyond that though, her essays "Why Work?" and "Toward a Christian Esthetic" offer a v
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Barry Davis
Apr 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
subtitled “passionate arguments for the relevance of christian doctrine”, this is collection of WWII essays on the waning influence of the church. Sayers contends that the reason for this is the dearth of real doctrine, not the result of too much! she argues very persuasively that “the dogma is the drama” (one of her essays). this collection is very challenging and insightful, focusing on what she believes most people believe are the christian tenets, as well as discussing the devil in literatur ...more
Lady Jaye
I thought Ms. Sayers' essays were a fantastic read overall which left me oodles of respect for the author and lots of thinking and self-examination is my own ideologies, which is always a good thing.

Particularly fascinating and well-written were the chapters concerning Christian dogma and doctrine. I loved them. She wrote with insight and defended her positions very well.

I was also very intrigued by the chapter about "work." I thought that her exposition was made even more interesting by her e
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Conrad
Dec 29, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This truly is an excellent book - a forgotten treasure that should be read and popularized once more. No sloppy 'feel-good' theology here. Dorothy Sayers gets right to the heart of what is really important. This is one of the most thought-provoking discussions of Christian doctrine that I've read.
She starts off with the Creeds then jumps right into the seven deadly sins and if you think they are not relevant today - think again - and read this book. While she is writing in the context of World W
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Sally Ewan
Feb 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Wow, this was a fun read. Thought-provoking and delightful, as Sayers uses words like a master. This book is a collection of essays on religion. Here's an example of her wit, part of what she speculates would be the populace's answers to an examination on religious questions:

What was Jesus Christ like in real life?
He was a good man--so good as to be called the Son of God. He is to be identified in some way with God the Son. He was meek and mild and preached a simple religion of love and pacifism
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Joy Schultz
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This books is so charged with truth that I laid aside my pencil instead of underlining the entirety of every essay. The earlier chapters - "What Do We Believe?," "The Dogma is the Drama," "Creed or Chaos?" - are at once illuminating, unifying, and satisfying to one who is convinced that doctrine does, in fact, matter.

Later chapters - which among other things analyze a Christian attitude toward work, the nature of art, the presentation of the Devil in literature, the unity of Biblical stories an
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Elizabeth Rose
Mar 30, 2013 rated it really liked it
This book brings together some of the best offshoots of Dorothy Sayers' pen. She argues for the relevancy of Christian doctrine to all aspects of life, bringing vivacity, wit, and true insight to the more nitty gritty parts of Christian living and calling into question the issues that have gone undisputed for too long. In Sayers' own words, "Our worst trouble today is our feeble hold on creation. To sit down and let ourself be spoon-fed with the ready-made is to lose our grip on our only true li ...more
Emily Schatz
Apr 01, 2014 rated it liked it
This book is Sayers' effort to enliven her readers' appreciation for the truth and drama of historic Christianity, about which she thought deeply and was very passionate, and her formulations of Christian doctrine are imaginative and vivid. Her thoughts on creativity, the relevance of dogma, and the "other six deadly sins" are extremely rich and provocative, and the book is worth reading for those chapters alone.

The book's main weakness is that Sayers often makes emphatic statements whose specif
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Tripleguess
Sep 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is a terrific book. I loved it, even if I don't agree with everything in it. (I'm one of those crazy people who believes that God is perfectly capable of creating the universe in seven days.)

However, the particular edition I read (ISBN 978-0-8499-4526-7) is RIDDLED with typos. "...offic[i]aldom stands aghast..." & so on. The text slants weirdly in places, as though the images for printing were taken from plates not laid quite flat. Whoever proofread this did a terrible job and I do not
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Rachel Lundwall
May 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
5 stars means "it was amazing." Well--it was amazing. Even when I fundamentally disagreed with what Sayers wrote, though that didn't happen very often.

The topics varied and so kept my interest--work, creativity, literature--and though sometimes Sayers can be difficult to understand, her illustrative examples are well chosen and clear. Her "letters" are short but dense, thought-provoking, meticulously and passionately argued, and occasionally incisively funny--or just incisive.

I will certainly
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John
Apr 26, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: catholic, british
Her essay on work was tremendous. "Work is not, primarily, a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or it should be, the full expression of the worker's faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction, and the medium in which he offers himself to God." I wish I had a fraction of that insight when I was young.

And her writing on the creed and dogma were great. This really hit home: "it is more startling to discover how many people there are
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Lynn Richter
Sep 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
If I could give it ten stars, I would.
Jack
Dec 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Sayers is more well-known for her Lord Peter Whimsey series, but her contributions to Christian theology are significant. She was embraced by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Charles Williams, and this collection of essays shows one why her voice was so captivating. Sayers had the rare gift of delivering the orthodox faith with keen insight and humor. She wrote in war-time Britain, but her voice is just as fresh today. I suspect her contributions may even be more pertinent in years to come.
David Shane
Feb 28, 2011 rated it liked it
Having read this collection of essays certainly gives me an appreciation of how often Sayers is quoted in Christian circles. I found the quality of the essays to be rather variable, though. Sayers is at her best when she is talking about the importance of dogma and applying it to our personal lives. When she tries to delve into more social, and especially economic, matters, she is much less strong, and delivers a lot of pleasant-sounding nonsense and false dichotomies. (Oh, she's going to give m ...more
Matt Root
Mar 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is a truly remarkable collection of essays. What stuck out to me most was how at home Sayers' thought feels in the 21st century. Whereas her younger contemporary CS Lewis' Christian writings often carry a musty Victorian smugness, Sayers feels fully a part of our world. It is as though when they sat together, the entire twentieth century lie between them.
Lori
Jul 20, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2015, faith
The essays about the Faust Legend and allegory were dry. I didn't even finish the latter.

The other essays brought a lot of thoughts to the surface to me and made me consider some of the ways I've looked at dogma, work, art, problems, and life in general. Lots of good stuff in the other essays makes this book definitely worth the read.
Diane
Dec 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This collection of essays focuses on Christian doctrine, and how it has been corrupted in the mid-20th century. The author explains various facets of doctrine in witty and interesting ways, and argues for its relevance to modern society. She also discusses the relationship between Christian doctrine and the world of vocation and the arts.
Ruth
Jul 27, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a series of essays that Sayers delivered over some period of time around World War II. The quality, in my opinion, is hit-or-miss, but the good chapters (like "What Do We Believe?", "The Dogma is the Drama," and "Why Work?") are really good. Some of the others I found too specific (directed to WWII England) or too oddly opinionated to be very useful.
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1,601 followers
Dorothy Leigh Sayers was a renowned British author, translator, student of classical and modern languages, and Christian humanist.

Dorothy L. Sayers is best known for her mysteries, a series of novels and short stories set between World War I and World War II that feature English aristocrat and amateur sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey. However, Sayers herself considered her translation of Dante's Divina Co
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“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 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.” 22 likes
“Perhaps we are not following Christ all the way or in the right spirit. We are likely, for example, to be a little sparing of the palms and hosannas. We are chary of wielding the scourge of small cords, lest we should offend somebody or interfere with trade. We do not furnish up our wits to disentangle knotty questions about Sunday observance and tribute money, nor hasten to sit at the feet of the doctors, both hearing them and asking them questions. We pass hastily over disquieting jests about making friends with the mammon of unrighteousness and alarming observations about bringing not peace but a sword; nor do we distinguish ourselves by the graciousness by which we sit at meat with publicans and sinners. Somehow or other, and with the best intentions, we have shown the world the typical Christian in the likeness of a crashing and rather ill-natured bore---and this in the name of the one who assuredly never bored a soul in those thirty-three years during which he passed through the world like a flame. Let us, in heaven's name, drag out the divine drama from under the dreadful accumulation of slipshod thinking and trashy sentiment heaped upon it, and set it on an open stage to startle the world into some sort of vigorous reaction. If the pious are the first to be shocked, so much worse for the pious---others will pass into the kingdom of heaven before them. If all men are offended because of Christ, let them be offended; but where is the sense of their being offended at something that is not Christ and is nothing like him? We do him singularly little honor by watering down his personality till it could not offend a fly. Surely it is not the business of the Church to adapt Christ to men, but to adapt men to Christ.” 12 likes
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