(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

In her preface, Dorothy Sayers clearly states what The Mind of the Maker is not. She argues that contemporary knowledge of Christian theology is appallingly limited and that true literacy among the supposedly literate is often absent; consequently, statements of fact are frequently confused with statements of belief. The Mind of the Maker is neither an articulation of Sayers’s beliefs nor an apology for the beliefs of others. Rather, it is an explanation of the Catholic Church’s statements about the nature of God. More specifically, she intends to explicate the doctrine of the Triune God as it has been stated in the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed.

In dealing with the divine mystery of the Trinity, Sayers approaches mystery in a different sense than that for which she is usually known. She addresses the differences between the mysteries of detective fiction and the mysteries of life at the end of the work.

In an introductory chapter, Sayers distinguishes between fact and opinion, argues that the Christian creeds purport to be statements of fact about the world and its creator, and indicates that she intends to explain these facts, then she turns to her subject in earnest.

Genesis begins by showing God as a maker. It then says he made man and woman in his image. Therefore, Sayers argues, one part of the image in which human beings were made is creativity: We are able to make things. Our understanding of God usually comes from the analogy of God as father, which does not tax the imagination too much. We imagine an ideal human father and compare his characteristics with God’s. When we want to understand God’s fatherly nature, we turn to fathers. However, when we want to understand his creative nature, we must turn to creative artists. By doing so, we gain the additional benefit of understanding more about the Trinity because the writer (the kind of creative artist that Sayers understands best, though the principles apply equally to other artists) is a trinity that reflects the creator of all things.

The Athanasian Creed states that there are three persons in the godhead—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—but only one godhead. The three persons are eternally co-equal; they are distinguishable but indivisible. No one of them can (or does) exist without the other two, yet there are not three gods but one God.

This trinity exists in the writer as well. In the ideal writer, the...

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(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

Sources for Further Study

Downing, Crystal. Writing Performances: The Stages of Dorothy L. Sayers. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004. Chapter 4, “Minding the Performance,” compares Sayers and Bakhtin on the incarnational theory of literary criticism and on their statements about the hero’s autonomous nature.

Kennedy, Catherine. The Remarkable Case of Dorothy L. Sayers. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1990. Contains a chapter devoted to The Mind of the Maker. Kennedy provides analyses of Sayers’s work and of her contributions to the many fields with which she was associated.

Reynolds, Barbara. Dorothy L. Sayers: Her Life and Soul. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 1993. A more authoritative and scholarly biography than earlier ones, the work provides overview, detail, and analysis of Sayers’ life and work in almost equal measure.

Simmons, Laura K. Creed Without Chaos: Exploring Theology in the Writings of Dorothy L. Sayers. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2005. A book that, in its approach to The Mind of the Maker, focuses on its views of work and of the incarnational nature of creativity.

Webster, Richard T. “The Mind of the Maker: Logical Construction, Creative Choice, and the Trinity.” In As Her Whimsey Took Her: Critical Essays on the Work of Dorothy L. Sayers, edited by Margaret P. Hannay. Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1979. An analysis of the philosophical strategies used in the work. Examines Sayers’s approach to metaphysics. Compares the view of Sayers with that of Saint Augustine.