Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Dorothy Sayers on Common Double Standards of Scientists Concerning Theology

This is a fabulous piece by a great Anglican writer and sometimes apologist, replying to a scientist who asked her to explain and defend her faith (presumably from reason; i.e., apologetics). In all likelihood (judging by her response) he had been intellectually condescending towards Christianity in his query, which would not be uncommon among academics at all; though scientists are less hostile to God than often supposed (psychologists and sociologists and journalists are far more likely to have a radically secular mindset).

At the very least he was irrationally demanding and exercising a double standard: treating Christianity fundamentally differently than he would other fields of study. The reply zeroes right in on this patronizing assumption that Christians are particularly "ignorant" and unscientific (a false stereotype that I have opposed vigorously for 25 years now).

I have often pondered the thought and puzzlement that she discusses (and have written about it myself here and there), but I've never seen it so brilliantly, eloquently expressed. Many thanks to "CPA", on whose blog I found this.

Dorothy L. Sayers (1893-1957)

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Why do you want a letter from me? Why don't you take the trouble to find out for yourselves what Christianity is? You take time to learn technical terms about electricity. Why don't you do as much for theology? Why do you never read the great writings on the subject, but take your information from the secular 'experts' who have picked it up as inaccurately as you? Why don't you learn the facts in this field as honestly as your own field? Why do you accept mildewed old heresies as the language of the church, when any handbook on church history will tell you where they came from?

Why do you balk at the doctrine of the Trinity - God the three in One - yet meekly acquiesce when Einstein tells you E=mc2? What makes you suppose that the expression "God ordains" is narrow and bigoted, while your own expression, "Science demands" is taken as an objective statement of fact?

You would be ashamed to know as much about internal combustion as you know about Christian beliefs.

I admit, you can practice Christianity without knowing much theology, just as you can drive a car without knowing much about internal combustion. But when something breaks down in the car, you go humbly to the man who understands the works; whereas if something goes wrong with religion, you merely throw the works away and tell the theologian he is a liar.

Why do you want a letter from me telling you about God? You will never bother to check on it or find out whether I'm giving you personal opinions or Christian doctrines. Don't bother. Go away and do some work and let me get on with mine.

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