A little over a year ago, I read a blog post, “What Churches Can Learn From Jane Austen“, that began:
Don’t worry – it’s not soteriology or anything. There is no evidence that Jane Austen possessed saving faith, so taking theological tips from her doesn’t make sense.
I was disturbed by the statement “there is no evidence that Jane Austen possessed saving faith.” It seemed a harsh assessment. Of course, it’s impossible for us to know for certain the status of anyone else’s faith, but there are usually indications, or fruit, if someone is saved.
As a fan of Austen’s work, I was disappointed that her faith would be dismissed so quickly. While her books aren’t theological treatises, I’ve always believed that Austen’s faith in God and her trust in Christ as her Savior were evident in her writing. Along those lines, I was pleased to see a review of a new book, Eight Women of Faith, on Tim Challies’ blog last week. The book, by Michael Haykin, explores the faith of eight women who are known historical figures. These include Lady Jane Grey, Anne Steele, and Jane Austen.
In his introduction, Haykin writes:
and, finally, there is a chapter on Jane Austen, far and away the most famous of all the women in this book, who was also a serious Christian, though this is not often remembered.
In a second blog post, Challies shares a prayer written by Jane Austen that Haykin includes in his book. In it she writes:
Above all other blessings Oh! God, for ourselves, and our fellow-creatures, we implore thee to quicken our sense of thy mercy in the redemption of the world, of the value of that holy religion in which we have been brought up, that we may not, by our own neglect, throw away the salvation thou hast given us, nor be Christians only in name. Hear us Almighty God, for his sake who has redeemed us, and taught us thus to pray.
I haven’t yet read Haykin’s book, but I’m hoping to soon. And while this is not an endorsement of the book as a whole, I’m thankful for Haykin’s work to shed light on Jane Austen’s faith. I hope those who have judged her harshly will reconsider.