Just a moment ago I posted this on Facebook (slightly edited here):
Folks who’ve read and enjoyed A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle: Help me out here. Reading right now seems a chore. The “uncanny child” thing is already wearing on me, the “Mrs.” characters a bit too forced-whimsical, and protagonist Meg is passive and uninteresting. Does it get better? Or is all this actually such literary genius that I simply haven’t recognized yet?
Instantly afterward, an email arrived from Fred Warren. He let me know that his final installment of his Legend of Intaglio comedy novella series will be (alas!) delayed.
This less-amusing replacement results from Becky’s May 28 question, Which [Christian Speculative Books] Are Required Reading? and my May 30 followup Define ‘Christian Speculative Story.’ Because, it turns out, not only is L’Engle’s debut yet beloved classic fantasy boring to me (at least four chapters in), but the author had questionable beliefs.
In starting this discussion, I will assume at least two presuppositions, as follows:
- A “Christian speculative novel” must be written by a professing Christian. (This does not rule out other authors who work according to Christian worldview tenets, but it does seek to distinguish specific-Christian stories from general-redemptive stories.)
- “Christian” is defined according to Scripture, simplified into the historic creeds and confessions that reflect Biblical truths. (Our faith statement borrows from these.)
Now, I want to recognize that historically, Christians have been sadly loose with the truth when it comes to fantasy novels and authors. Some Christians seem to flatly lie about, say, J.K. Rowling and the themes and content of the Harry Potter series. Others have wrongly concluded that C.S. Lewis was a universalist — that is, that Lewis believed Hell would only be temporary, if it exists at all, and that God is too “loving” to show His holiness for eternity.
So I may be wrong about this. Maybe Madeleine L’Engle was one of those folks who, say, are simply confused about one belief and somehow — perhaps out of ignorance — this does not infect their otherwise-orthodox faith. Maybe L’Engle recanted later. Still, there is this:
All will be redeemed in God’s fullness of time, all, not just the small portion of the population who have been given the grace to know and accept Christ. All the strayed and stolen sheep. All the little lost ones.
L’Engle, Madeleine (1974). The Summer of the Great-grandmother. Farrar, Straus & Giroux. pp. 164.
With this statement, L’Engle would not be permitted to join Speculative Faith’s writing team. Far worse, it would mean that she could not rightly join a visible local church, part of the invisible Church, that seeks to teach and live out the Epic Story of Scripture, the Gospel.
Space doesn’t permit a full criticism, but here is why: Universalism is a well-intended but false belief, that tries to “liberate” Christianity from the concept of Hell by implying or claiming outright that eventually all people will be drawn into Heaven. What it does, though, is reject at least three truths:
- The clarity, sufficiency, and truthfulness of God’s Word.
- The nature of God Himself, by saying that He not only disregards justice but His own love (for being so rude as to be unclear in His Word about our eternal fates).
- Man’s meaningful choice, by saying it doesn’t really matter what you believe about God or His Story in this world. God doesn’t care about your free will. So even if you hate Him and want nothing to do with Him, ever, He’ll make you like Him someday.
So with that in mind, am I wrong to believe that L’Engle was a lifelong universalist?
Would it be wrong to read her books?
I’ll go ahead and answer: no, not if I recognize her possibly wrong beliefs and practice discernment as I read.
Perhaps the most significant question: should we carry her books in the Speculative Faith Library of Christian speculative fiction? Especially when we already have books by authors whose personal theologies could be flawed (e.g., Catholicism, end-times-ism, etc.?).
Just so you know, no books will be “officially” removed or critiqued by the whole Spec-Faith team. This is merely my personal exploration.