Jane Austen’s Faith

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 Faithon 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.

2 thoughts on “Jane Austen’s Faith

  1. Jill says:

    I came at British Enlightenment studies because of Jane Austen. I wanted to know the world that inspired and created the person she was. Although I’m not a professional scholar, I have studied this era, along with Jane Austen, more than the average person. Because of that, I have to ask, “No evidence, according to whom?” Have they read Mansfield Park — her most morally didactic work? Do they understand that Austen was the daughter and sister of clergyman? Do they know she was active in the lives of her local parishioners? Did she have to preach or write sermons in order for her to have faith, or could her faith have been intrinsic to who she was and inherent to the morality in her stories? We are not God; we can’t know whether she had “saving” faith, but the evidence of her faith is there for those who want to find it.

  2. Jay says:

    The Haykin piece is very interesting because it acknowledges that there was a point in her life and career that she was distinctly opposed to the evangelical wing of the Anglican church, but that somewhere along the way that changed, because she not only became more favorable to that position but positively promoted it and the gospel that the evangelical wing proclaimed. At first, a simple moralist, but ultimately a repenting and faithful believer in the Lord Jesus.

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