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Archive for July, 2011

For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps. .  . In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands . . .(I Peter 2:21; 3:1)

In some ways, one aspect of life that is easier for women than for men is in knowing their calling. As a married woman, my calling is to be a good wife. Peter and Paul both instruct wives to be submissive to their husbands (I Pet. 3:1; Eph. 5:22). God has blessed me with children and my calling extends to nurturing them. This is my first and highest duty.

This does not mean that God may not call married women or mothers to tasks that are to be fulfilled in addition to wifely obedience and mothering. Many young women know that they have the gift of teaching, for example, and may be able to use their gift in service to their church by teaching Sunday School. Others have extraordinary gifts of hospitality and giving and open their homes to needy friends or relatives or visiting strangers. As long as her husband’s and children’s needs are being met, women with any energy left over may be able to do any number of things. But their primary calling – family – is definitely made known in Scripture.

Many single women stay unmarried because they have had a special call. Our daughter, for example, is on the mission field. She has had a definite call since she was five years old to dedicate her life to spreading the Gospel. It was easy for her to know God’s will for her life, but many women do not get this definite call. How do they know what God wants them to do?

And, what about women who are widows or empty nesters? They have faithfully fulfilled their Biblical calling; now what?

I believe that our gracious God has given us the way to know His will for us in the Bible. It is always right to follow this recipe for godly living; this is everyone’s call (IIPet. 1:5-7). In these verses, God has told us what we need to know for a life of faith and service to Him. This is always His will for us. We should be faithful in practicing these virtues until or unless we get a more specific call.

First, we must be careful that we have real faith, not just belief in doctrines (IIPet. 1:5). Are we simply and entirely depending on Christ and Christ alone as women, whether single or married? Are we studying God’s Word, praying, and meditating on His goodness?

Next, we must be courageous in our daily living. The entire purpose of this blog site is to encourage women during the difficult times in which we find ourselves. It’s not easy to stand up for Christ in a world that hates Him. We must be willing to go forth boldly into every activity with a consciousness of right. If we are unafraid in our service to God now, He will trust us with more responsibility in the future.

If we are studying the Scriptures well, we will add knowledge to moral excellence. While we are doing this we must be careful to maintain self-control. We should be temperate on the outside – taking care of our bodies. Eat well, exercise, and get plenty of rest. We should also be temperate on the inside, guarding our hearts, letting no malicious or unkind words out of our mouths, keeping our thoughts pure, and living a life that we know would be pleasing to the Lord Jesus.

Add to this perseverance or patience. We can pray that the Holy Spirit will help us through all difficult times. Often as women, we have routine, daily tasks. But no problem is too small to take to the Father. If we are suffering affliction, we can be assured that if we come through, patiently waiting on God and what He has to teach us, we will come forth as gold. Pray for the strength to keep from murmuring or being depressed. The woman who can endure without complaining is the one who matures during trials.

As God gives us this grace, we can look forward to godliness. By this, is not meant more “religious” or more “spiritual”. True godliness is living in God’s sight, enjoying fellowship with Him, seeking to please Him and give Him the glory in all that we do.

Reflecting our Lord Jesus’ command to love God and our neighbor, Peter tells us that next we must add brotherly kindness and brotherly love (IIPet. 1:7). We must have a care for the souls of those around us. If we are living in a godly fashion, encouraging others to come to Christ will be easy because our very lives will be an example of faith. If we practice genuine religion, others will be attracted to us, wanting the peace and joy that we have.

We must also love all of our Christian brothers and sisters. We must be ever ready to help any who are in need if we are able. The apostle John tells us that if we don’t love our Christian brothers and sisters, it may be a sign that we are not even one of God’s chosen (I John 2:11). There are “difficult” brethren in our lives; we must be diligent to love them anyway. Loving even those who are unlovely is a sign of the maturity that we are striving after.

If we do all of these things, we will have the assurance of being in God’s will. The more we practice these virtues, the closer we abide in fellowship with the Father. He will lead us into lives of useful service to Him.

Along the way, the gifts that the Holy Spirit has given you will become evident. Have you been diligent in opening your home to those who need a helping hand? You probably have the experience you need to open a Bed & Breakfast or enter some other hospitality occupation. Have you been volunteering at your local hospital? Perhaps you are being called to work in a Hospice. Have you been teaching Sunday School classes all the while your children were growing up? Perhaps you are now being called to a leadership position in your church in the education department. What about going back to school to finish getting a teaching degree? Thousands of women are going back to college after the age of forty. Do you enjoy reading and meditating? Try writing down the things that the Lord has taught you over the years. Send your thoughts to the publisher of your church’s newsletter, or if you’re braver, to the publisher of your denomination’s magazine. You may be called to be a writer. Why not try your hand at some much needed children’s stories that are fun and imaginative, yet contain the Christian virtues for children? As a mature Christian woman with a Biblical worldview, wherever God leads you, you will be able to glorify Him.

If you have been diligent in practicing your faith with moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, patience, godliness, kindness, and love, you will succeed in knowing God’s calling for you. You will have already practiced all of the things that are necessary to fit you for the purpose for which God made you. The things that you enjoy doing will be the same as the things that you are gifted for and do well. Your service to God will be fruitful, and your life will be full. You will have joy and peace as you know with assurance that you are in God’s will and you give God the glory for His many blessings to you.

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There are probably as many interpretations of the life of the Maid of Orleans as there are historians. Joan of Arc has not always been portrayed as a heroine. Artists and writers have depicted her as vicious, a strumpet, ugly, bloodthirsty, or psychologically unbalanced. Others have seen her as a nature lover, a revolutionist, a proto-feminist, or misguided religious mystic. The reason for the disparity in the accounts of Joan of Arc’s life is that there was little written evidence of the events of her time. The records of her trial were neglected for over four hundred years.

Along with the paucity of evidence was the fact that many did not know how to interpret the claims made by Joan that she heard “voices”. Was she really visited by St. Catherine, St. Margaret, and Michael the Archangel? Was she a sincere, devout follower of Christ, who really believed she heard voices? Or was she delusional?

All agree that she was a courageous French peasant girl who led an army to victory to save her country during the reign of a weak king. She was captured by the enemy and put on trial. She defended herself brilliantly in spite of the fact that all of the charges and evidence were rigged against her. She was barely nineteen years old when she was burned at the stake as a witch and a heretic. Twenty years later, she would be exonerated. It would be another 470 years before the church would declare her to be a saint.

The background to this story is the sad history of France during this time. For nearly three and a half centuries, from around 1000 AD until the mid 1300’s, France had grown from a collection of small fiefdoms to the mightiest monarchy in medieval Europe. Then began a rapid downfall.

Many believe that it all began with a curse. The last Grand Master of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay, was burned to death by the French king Philip IV, (also known as Philip the Fair). Philip was hoping to confiscate the wealth of the Templars, by destroying the last of their order. As the flames and smoke encircled Jacques de Molay, he screamed out a curse against Philip IV, Philip’s descendants, Pope Clement V, and finally all of France. Within two years Philip, his sons and the pope were dead. Within twelve years all of Philip’s descendants, who could have claimed the throne, were dead. A great famine began in France, lasting seven years and killing millions. The Black Death struck in the 1340’s, wiping out a large part of the population.

Within a few more years, the Hundred Years’ War began. There was a dispute over the crown of France by Philip’s nephew, a French nobleman, and Philip’s grandson, Edward III, who was the king of England. Each of these men was certain that he should be the king of France. The English and French began the war that was still going on when Joan of Arc entered the scene.

In 1429, the English had the ascendancy in France. They had won many battles and held much territory. The French dauphin, Charles, was a small, weak, and fearful man. He also had a fatalistic outlook on life. He attended mass and took communion every day. He believed a prophecy which had been going around that stated that France had been ruined by a woman (a reference to his mother probably) and would be saved by a woman.

It was while he was in this frame of mind that he was approached by a seventeen year-old girl, Jeanne d’Arc (Joan of Arc in English). She told him that voices had spoken to her, telling her to free the French from the English and to see to it that the dauphin was crowned king. Charles wasn’t sure what to think of her. The story of how he disguised himself in order to test her is very famous. She not only recognized him, but she told him things that only he and God could know. Charles invited her to stay at the castle and undergo an examination by his counselors. It was poetic justice that the room she stayed in was the very same tower where Jacques de Molay had been incarcerated 115 years before. Joan was fully examined by ecclesiastics, and declared to be sound.

She was given a horse and some armor including a helmet. The Duke of Alencon helped her practice some military skills. Soon Joan was ready to lead the French army against the English.

The most strategic spot in France was Orleans. If this city fell, the way was open for the English to push southward and finish conquering all of France. The English had set up a siege against Orleans. How surprised they must have been in the spring of 1429 to see the French army coming at them from behind, led by a small figure carrying only a battle-ax and riding on a black horse.

Then an amazing thing happened. The English lined up as if to attack Orleans, but just marched away instead. Orleans had been freed! Later this retreat would be acclaimed a miracle by the French. A victorious Joan entered the city of Orleans to loud proclamations of praise and thanksgiving. The English however would blame the fact of their loss on witchcraft. The English commander told his king, “A great mischief” had befallen his soldiers, caused by “that limb of Satan, named the Pucelle, who made use against them of false enchantments and sorcery.” These accusations of witchcraft would be relied on heavily later at Joan’s trial.

After this victory, Joan went to Chinon to get the dauphin to take him to Rheims to be crowned king in order to fulfill the second command given to her by the voices. Charles was reluctant, but finally went with her to Rheims for his coronation. Along the way they defeated some more English troops, causing the French nobles to pledge their full allegiance to Charles. He was crowned at Rheims on July 12 as Charles VII.

But Joan had been given a third objective by the voices – to free Paris. Joan and the French army arrived at Paris on September 8. The city was assaulted for twelve hours. Joan received a wound in her thigh. The next day, Charles ordered a retreat, thereby thwarting Joan’s third and final task.

The following spring, Charles ordered Joan to go to Compiegne to protect it from an English threat. It was during a battle there that Joan was captured and taken to Rouen to face trial. Charles made no attempt to rescue her or even to ransom her, a procedure that was very common in those days. It has been said that he was jealous of her victories and her fame.

The English were reluctant to put Joan to death because they did not want to create a martyr around which the French might rally. So the commander, Bedford, released her to the French for an ecclesiastical trial for heresy. The trial, which took place between March and May, 1441, was a total fraud.

To understand how dastardly this was, one must understand the politics in the church. The faculty at the University of Paris considered itself to be the premier center for theological and ecclesiastical thought. The Papal schism, which had lasted for over forty years, had finally been resolved. An Anglo-French monarchy would allow the Paris school great preeminence among European colleges. They would lose this prestige if France became united. Joan was in favor of a united France. So the Parisian theologians decided that Joan must die.

Detailed accounts of Joan’s trial can be found in many books. It is fascinating reading. The main emphasis here is about her courage. No matter what lies were told about her, no matter how she was threatened, Joan refused to recant her faith. She had one weak moment when shown the stake at which she was to be burned. Later, however, she repented of that.

On May 30, 1431, Joan’s head was shaved and she was forced to wear a paper hat on which were written, “Heretic, Relapsed, Apostate, Idolater.” She was taken to the main square in Rouen where a large crowd had gathered. After she was lashed to the pole and the fagots were lit, she called out, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus . . .” Then Joan, the Maid of Orleans, died at age nineteen.

Many believe that her brave death was a turning point in the life of Charles VII. The heretofore timid, cowardly king suddenly became confident and led his people to win many battles. He actually is known in history today as “Charles the Victorious”. The French went on the push the English out of their country for the most part; only the port of Calais remained in English hands. Truly it was Joan who had turned the tide for the French, eventually ending the curse of Jacques de Molay.

What are we as Christian women to make of Joan? Was she truly a believer who now enjoys eternal life with Christ? Was she a misguided religious dreamer? Will we be able to talk to her when we get to Heaven? I don’t know but I hope so.

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If ever there had been a time for someone to speak out for church and government reform, it was during the fourteenth century. The church was immersed in corruption and facing a great schism that would last for decades.

The background for this was the decision of the popes to move their seat to Avignon, France in the early thirteen hundreds. Many called this “The Babylonian Captivity”. Most of the faithful believed that the right place for the papacy was in Rome, where the church had reportedly been founded by Saint Peter. But because of the influence of the powerful French kings, the popes had lived in Avignon since 1305.

During this time, there seemed to be no monstrous activity on the part of the church leaders that was too low. Factions were all out to gain whatever power they could for themselves. And what’s more, there didn’t seem to be any men speaking out against the immorality and corruption during this time  – only two women – Catherine of Siena and Birgitta of Sweden. Catherine, a very godly woman who would later be sainted, wrote volumes of denunciations against the church. She died, worn out, at age thirty-three in 1380. She did not get to witness any reforms in her day.

The other female reformer at the time was Birgitta of Sweden. She bravely made her presence felt by the popes and political rulers with her sharp tongue and forceful, influential writing. Birgitta did not succeed in causing any reforms in the church either, but that did not stop her from hurling insults at the popes.

Birgitta began her work of reform later in life after her husband died. First, God blessed her with a family and a somewhat normal life.

Birgitta Birgersdotter was born to an aristocratic family related to the kings of Sweden and therefore had some influence at court. Birgitta was married to Ulf Gudmarsson. She had eight children and served at court for several years. When the King of Sweden, Magnus Eriksson married Blanche of Namur, he asked his kinswoman, Birgitta to come and be Lady-in Waiting and to teach the young queen the language and customs of her new country.

In 1341, Birgitta and her husband retired from public life, and they apparently discussed plans for both to enter monasteries. However, after Ulf died in about 1344, Birgitta decided to found her own religious order, called the “Order of the Holy Savior”, but more popularly known as the Brigittines. She went to Rome around 1350 to spread the word of God and to obtain approval for her order. She was now a middle-aged widow.

While in Rome she wasted no time denouncing the corruption around her. She believed that a prerequisite for the reform of the church was for the pope to remain in the Italian capital. When Pope Urban announced that he wanted to live in Avignon, she compared him to the devil saying the pope was “appointed pastor and minister of Christ’s sheep.” But now, “the pope scatters them and lacerates them. He is worse than Lucifer, more unjust than Pilate, more cruel than Judas.” Pope Urban left for Avignon anyway with her prophetic words burning his ears. “Longing for ease and comfort,” she predicted, “he will be called to account to God.” In fact, he died after a few weeks, frail and sick, at the papal palace in Avignon.

She later wrote to Pope Gregory telling him, “In thy curia arrogant pride rules, insatiable cupidity and execrable luxury. It is the very deepest gulf of horrible simony. Thou seizest and tearest from the Lord innumerable sheep.” She didn’t mince any words! She reminded him that God denounced the sins of pride, avarice, and concupiscence. Unfortunately, her words fell on deaf ears.

For the most part, Birgitta failed in her mission of reform. Her order was approved in 1370, but not according to the Rule she had written. The papacy did not return to Rome during her lifetime. There was no noticeable improvement in the lives of the leaders to whom she wrote. They were bent on continuing in their corrupt ways.

But among the people of Rome and the clergy in that city, she was seen as a “friend of God”. She lived in relative poverty, caring for the poor in a practical way with her own hands. Even those whom she castigated never questioned her sincerity. Her assistance of the poor and homeless became legendary in the city and earned her the title of “The Angel of Rome.”

Today, Birgitta is remembered for her work among the poor and her many religious writings. Her works are mostly made up of prophetic visions. Her writings are gathered in eight books where she calls for Christians to repent and reform. She believed that the church had strayed far away from the Biblical precepts of Christ and the apostles. Only through confession and obedience could Christians hope to receive God’s blessings. In the collection referred to as Revelations, she foreshadowed many of the grievances that Martin Luther would be concerned with 150 years later during the era of the Reformation.

There has been a resurgence of interest in her writings. Many of her prayers and songs had been translated and copied throughout the 1400’s. They are still readily available today.

Among her lasting accomplishments is the creation of the monastic order that still bears her name. The Society of St. Birgitta in Sweden is a laypersons’ organization that works among the poor after her example.

Birgitta had much influence in her day. She was a Swedish noblewoman with many friends in high places. Her words could not be lightly ignored. Though remaining a resident of Rome in her later life, she traveled widely, and many rulers, both on the throne of the church and the thrones of kingdoms, felt the impact of her words. God raised her up during a time of need to be a voice in the wilderness. She did not shirk her task.

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Dorothy Sayers is one of the greatest English writers who ever lived. Women today should rediscover her theological essays. She is a joy to read. Her thoughts are clearly stated with insightfulness and wit.

 

Of course, all of the Lord Peter Wimsey mystery novels are superb entertainment. They are all still in print and very popular. Here is a list of them, easily obtained from Amazon.com or other booksellers, in chronological order:

Whose Body?,  1923
Clouds of Witness,  1926
Unnatural Death,  1927
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club,  1928
Lord Peter Views the Body,  1928 (A collection of early short stories)
The Documents in the Case,  1930
Strong Poison,  1930
The Five Red Herrings,  1931
Have His Carcase,  1932
Murder Must Advertise,  1933 (My favorite. Especially witty.)
Hangman’s Holiday, 1933
The Nine Tailors,  1934
Gaudy Night,  1935  (Especially interesting for her views on women.)
Busman’s Honeymoon, 1937  (Originally a play.)
In the Teeth of the Evidence,  1939  (A collection of short stories.)
There are other books that Miss Sayers contributed short stories to and these are easily found at major booksellers.

About the time that she finished most of her mystery novels, 1939, Dorothy Sayers began to turn to writing on more serious subjects. She was concerned that the Faith was being watered down in her day. She wrote many essays and lectured many times on the importance of having a sound theology which pays attention to the doctrines and creeds that the Church has kept for many years. A naïve religion is dangerous; it does not tell the whole truth about Christ or His teachings.  And the fact of the matter is – the story of Christ is the most exciting story in the world.
It is still true today that people are looking for a religion that is easy to swallow.

Miss Sayers was able to convey in a captivating way just why we need to get serious about the essentials of the Faith. I believe that she has chided us in a gentle and humorous way that would be inoffensive to anybody, unless they have just made up their minds to throw the whole of our comprehensive faith out of the window. There is nothing that would convince that person. But if you, or a friend, would like to understand why the church should rediscover the creeds and confessions and teach them, check out the following books.

Begin Here,  1940  –  This is subtitled, “A Statement of Faith”. Dorothy Sayers wrote this book when World Was II was in its early stages. She meant it specifically for the people of Great Britain, but we can all learn from the principles that she puts forth. How will we ever have peace in this world? In her preface she says, “This book does not pretend to offer any formula for constructing an Earthly Paradise: no such formula is possible. It suggests only that there is at present something incomplete about the average human being’s conception of himself and society, and that the first step towards constructing the kind of world he wants is to decide the kind of person he is, and ought to be.” In other words, we must be right individually in our hearts first. We cannot impose freedom from the outside.

The Mind of the Maker,  1941  — In this book, Sayers reminds us that we are made in the image of God and that one of the main ways that we reflect God’s image is in our creativity. A review by Doug Thorpe summarizes the book well, “Beginning with some stingingly humorous words for the education process (which has produced, she says, “a generation of mental slatterns”) she then explores the Trinitarian nature of creativity. Here she identifies the Christian concept of the Holy Trinity–God, Son, Holy Spirit–with three elements of creation. First, the Idea: “passionless, timeless, beholding the whole work complete at once, the end in the beginning”; then the Creative Energy: “begotten of that idea, working in time from the beginning to end,” manifesting the Idea in matter; and finally the Creative Power: “the meaning of the work and its response in the lively soul”–in essence, what she calls “the indwelling Spirit.”

In a plain, matter-of-fact style that readers will recognize from her mysteries, she reflects on the question of free will and miracle, evil, and, ultimately, “the worth of the work.” It is especially here, I think, in this final chapter that the book remains both timeless and profoundly timely. The artist stands for the true worker, she writes, who, while requiring payment for his work, as an artist “retains so much of the image of God that he is in love with his creation for its own sake.” So too, ultimately, should it be for all human work: “That the eyes of all workers should behold the integrity of the work is the sole means to make that work good in itself and so good for mankind. This is only another way of saying that the work must be measured by the standard of eternity.”

In a day when work is only a means to obtain money, we need to recapture this vision of work. Because we have lost the correct emphasis on the value of work, it is hardly surprising that workmanship is shoddy, products we purchase break or don’t fulfill expectations, and people have just turned into consumers.

Unpopular Opinions,  1946  —  There are twenty-one essays in this book, seven are theological – “Christian Morality”, “Forgiveness”, “What do We Believe?”, “Divine Comedy”, “A Vote of Thanks to Cyrus”, “Towards a Christian Aesthetic”, and “Creative Mind”. In her essay on the “Christian Aesthetic” Miss Sayers again shows how “Art Proper” is based on the Trinitarian doctrine of the nature of the mind of the Creator. Her insights are as intellectually cogent as any that have been written.  The remaining essays are on political topics and literary criticism.

Creed or Chaos?,  1949 – The title of this book is self-explanatory. The essays included show that the greatest, most exciting story ever told is the Incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. Dorothy had written a play called, “The Zeal of Thy House”, about the burning and rebuilding of a church “choir” during the twelfth century. In it she explored the theological implications of work, integrity, and the human heart. Students asked her about the dogmas which were presented, particularly the doctrine of the Incarnation. She was amazed at the lack of understanding on the part of Christians about the creeds. Her response is that the church needs to learn again that there is nothing so “interesting, so exciting, and so dramatic” as the “orthodox Creed of the Church.” One might think that the topic is dry and stuffy, but I guarantee you that you won’t find Dorothy Sayers’ treatment of it boring!

The Emperor Constantine,  1951  — In this great theological work, Dorothy presents in dramatic fashion, the life of the Emperor Constantine. She is particularly interested in one of the central doctrines of the Christian Faith – the nature of Christ. At the famous council of Nicaea, held during the time of Constantine, the official doctrine concerning the deity and humanity of Christ was adopted and has remained a central truth for Christians ever since. The fact that Christ is totally divine and totally human at the same time is a mystery, but one that is accepted by all orthodox Christians.

The other issue addressed in the play is about Church and State. How much power does either one wield over the other? What is the place created by God for each? This question has been debated for nearly seventeen centuries since Constantine made Christianity the state religion. This is one of the most exciting historical subjects ever for students of religion.

There are many good anthologies published containing Dorothy Sayers’ essays.

Are Women Human?, (Wm. B. Eerdmans, Publisher, 1971). This book contains two wonderful essays on Dorothy Sayers’ thoughts on the role of women in society. See my previous blog posting for more on this.

The Whimsical Christian.  Edited by William Griffin, 1978.  This book is subtitled, “Reflections on God and Man by the Creator of Lord Peter Wimsey”. This contains some of her deepest  and most insightful works including, “Strong Meat”, “The Other Six Deadly Sins”, and various other readings.

A more recent publication is “Letters to a Diminished Church”, published by Thomas Nelson Publishing Group in 2004. This also contains many of the same essays as well as the important “Why Work?”.

It is about time to put Dorothy Sayers’ works on our shelves next to other theological books. There are very few writers who talk about the important things in life in such a dynamic and incisive way with so much lucidity and wit. The things that she has to tell us are timeless. In our day of “easy believe-ism” we need her admonitions more than ever.

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 the 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 some sort of vigorous reaction.
(From Dorothy L. Sayers, “The Dogma is the Drama”)

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Most of us, when we hear the term “feminist” think of aggressive females demanding their rights to be equal with men. The stereotype is one of women who think that to be equal with men, they must act like men, meaning authoritative, if not brash.

It is too bad that this is the image that comes to mind when we speak of feminism. It is too bad because the best men I have known are not loud-mouthed and tyrannical. Real men imitate the Lord Jesus Christ who was strong and authoritative, but not brash or pushy. Real women would do well to also look to Jesus for their example. Dorothy Sayers said it well, in her essay, “Are Women Human?” –

Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man … A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized … who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female … Nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything [inferior] about woman’s nature.

The real problem is not in the differences between men and women; the real problem is that we wrongly categorize people, and then expect them to live in the box that we have created for them. Women calling themselves “feminists” today have decided that they want to be more as what they imagine men are like, and to them this must mean essentially different. This also means, as if by default, that men are somehow better. Feminists have determined that based on their “class” as men, men must necessarily act in certain ways. To be like men, women must copy them. This is one of the main objections of Dorothy L. Sayers to feminism – Men and women are not essentially different; they are merely fitted, in most cases, to be doing different work.

Dorothy Sayers moved around in a world of men. She was among the first women to be given an advanced degree by Oxford University. She counted other well-known male authors as her friends, among them C. S. Lewis. Most people remember Miss Sayers as the author of the delightful Lord Peter Wimsey series of mysteries. She was also a scholar, theologian, playwright, lecturer, and essayist. She was well respected and is still admired by many for her insightful works on theology. She was witty and intelligent and could get her point across in a friendly, straightforward way without being abrasive.

Dorothy was comfortable with her life in a male world, because she believed that “male” and “female” are adjectives that qualify the noun “human being”, and that all human beings are equal in their personhood. It is important to be a good and kind human being. She did not need to try and behave as the feminists of her day behaved, who tried to gain their points with battering rams instead of pens.

Dorothy Sayers lived the life that she was called to without apology. She practiced what she preached. She worked hard and she was well respected for that, not based on her gender, but on her ability. This is a point that she would make in her essays on feminism – men and women are not inherently different. She was respected as an author who happened to be a woman, not the other way around. This is an important point that the feminists, and chauvinists, miss.

Because she spoke out against the unfair treatment of women, Dorothy Sayers has been seen as a feminist by many. Actually, she did not espouse the cause of the liberation movement because she believed that aggressive feminism would do more harm than good. She explained why she thought this in an address given to a Women’s Society meeting in 1938 entitled, “Are Women Human?”

The question of ‘sex-equality’ is, like all questions affecting human relationships, delicate and complicated. It cannot be settled by loud slogans or hard-and fast assertions like ‘a woman is as good as a man’ – or ‘woman’s place is the home’ – or ‘women ought not to take men’s jobs.’ The minute one makes such assertions, one finds one has to qualify them. ‘A woman is as good as a man’ is as meaningless as to say, ‘a Kaffir is as good as a Frenchman’ or ‘a poet is as good as an engineer’ or ‘ an elephant is as good as a racehorse’ – it means nothing whatever until you add: ‘at doing what?” In a religious sense, no doubt, the Kaffir is as valuable in the eyes of God as a Frenchman – but the average Kaffir is probably less skilled in literary criticism than the average Frenchman, and the average Frenchman less skilled than the average Kaffir in tracing the spoor of big game.

And the point is, not that every woman is, in virtue of her sex, as strong, clever, artistic, level-headed, industrious and so forth as any man that can be mentioned; but, that a woman is just as much an ordinary human being as a man, with the same individual preferences, and with just as much right to the tastes and preferences of an individual. What is repugnant to every human being is to be reckoned always as a member of a class and not as an individual person.

In other words, it is wrong to assume that an individual’s tastes and preferences are determined by the class to which one belongs. This is the error into which many, including well-meaning people in our churches, are inclined to fall. And because of this mistake, the antagonism between the sexes is exacerbated. We must learn to see, as Dorothy Sayers did, that men and women are the same in their fundamental being, but designed by God for different tasks. In our day, most so-called feminists reject God our Creator. They will not accept that we are creatures made in the image of God for a special purpose. This is another reason why we may not lump Dorothy Sayers into the liberal feminist group. She believed very much in a Creator and that we are created for a purpose. In her work, The Mind of the Maker, she explains that we as human beings reflect the image of God best when we are being creative as God was creative. This creativity is not just for “artists,” but for everyone. When we are creative in our work, whether as builders, managers, teachers, homemakers, or whatever, we most closely resemble our Creator.

This brings me to my next point – Dorothy Sayers’ position on women is based on a strong, coherent world view. In all of her writings her beliefs about mankind, the world, and God are clearly evident.  Men and women are created to perform their special functions in the world. There is mystery involved in how God created humankind “male and female.” Nevertheless, we are all equal in our creature-hood. We have different functions, or work, to perform. We all, male or female, must find out what God has fitted us for and be faithful to our tasks. In God’s eyes no one’s work makes him or her a superior human being to other people. We will all stand before Him alone and give an account of our lives to Him.

I am thankful that Dorothy Sayers was faithful to her calling. She has left us a legacy of wonderful works. Whether reading the popular Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, or the religious plays, theological works, or essays on life, one can appreciate her wit and penetrating interpretation of life. There is depth in her writing on the treatment of women which far surpasses most feminist authors. We need this today. Her essays are non-offensive, even humorous, and I highly recommend them.

“Are Women Human?”
“The Human-Not-Quite-Human”

See also:
“Why Work?”
“The Other Six Deadly Sins” in Creed or Chaos?
The Mind of the Maker

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