Heroes of the Faith

August 2018: Dorothy Sayers

Like C.S. Lewis, Dorothy L. Sayers was an outspoken and uncompromising apologist for the Christian faith. Peter Adam reflects on the robust contributions to public life of a great, if flawed and eccentric, Christian writer and communicator who vigorously argued for the fundamentals of the historic Christian faith.

By Peter Adam

August 5 2018It is remarkable that two of the most able public communicators of Christianity in the United Kingdom in the 20th century were Anglican lay people, Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957), and C.S. Lewis (1898-1963).

Dorothy came from a vicarage family, studied at Oxford, and gained a first class degree. She worked as a teacher, and then in advertising. She was intellectually very bright, had deep theological insight, and a wonderful facility with words. She also wrote detective stories, the most notable featuring Lord Peter Wimsey. Her radio play The Man Born to be King was very popular. She wrote a play on the Emperor Constantine. Her remarkable book The Mind of the Maker is a powerful and moving comparison between the work of the Triune Creator God and the work of human artistic creation.

She was the first woman to be offered a Lambeth Doctorate (by Archbishop William Temple), but refused it.

She was an eccentric in opinions and behaviour. She refused to set up a gravestone when her parents died. She had a brief affair, and gave birth to a son. Such a child was called a “love-child” in the coy language of that time, but Dorothy did not love her son, and gave him to a cousin to raise. She then married unhappily. She was well described at the time as “such a strange lady”.

Her great gift was to present robust and unapologetic Christianity to the public, thoughtfully, creatively and effectively. She was presenting the historic Christian faith, and her perceptions of that faith were clarified and enriched by her reading of Augustine and Aquinas. She stated the Christianity of the Bible and the creeds, commending it with all her energy.

Canon Dr Peter Adam OAM is Vicar Emeritus, St Jude’s Carlton.

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