Spiritual Insights in Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe

Spiritual Insights in Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe

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Crusoe’s Spiritual Insights

 

Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe is considered to be the first novel of incident. Before I read the novel I knew something about poor Robinson Crusoe--shipwrecked on a desert island, lived on the island for a lot of years, and acquired a friend by the name of Friday. As I began to read, I had the preconceived notion that Robinson Crusoe was just an adventure book. However, I read no more than a few pages before my mind was greatly enlightened. Robinson Crusoe does not suffer just one shipwreck, but two of them. He is captured by Moorish pirates, escapes, and goes to Brazil to become a planter. After his second shipwreck, Crusoe gives details about his techniques for survival. Also, the ending of the novel is quite surprising with a setting that is quite a contrast to the desert island. Arguably, one of the funniest scenes in all of literature is recorded in the final chapters.

    If the book is not holding the reader's attention because of the suspense, then it is held by the profound spiritual insight that Defoe includes within the pages of his work. This was the biggest surprise to me of all. For example, in chapter 12, Robinson Crusoe states: "From this moment I began to conclude in my mind that it is possible for me to be more happy in this forsaken solitary condition, that it was probable I should ever have been in any other particular state in the world, and with this thought I was going to give thanks to God for bringing me to this place." Crusoe was convinced that the reason for all of his calamities was the result of his disobeying the counsel of his father. The theological discussions with Friday are wonderful. Indeed, every Christian can relate to Crusoe's wrestling with faith and fear. I finished the book with the conclusion that this book should be standard reading for every Christian, particularly preachers. Preachers will find a wealth of sermon illustrations in Robinson Crusoe.

    So, why is Robinson Crusoe so sadly neglected among Christians when it is obvious that the book is a Christian classic?  No doubt, abridged versions of the novel removes the incentive for readers to read the actual work. Many people have read a children's version of the novel or worst yet, they "have seen the movie.

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" When talking to parents at curriculum fairs, I often have a parent tell me that her ninth-grade student had already read "that one." When I ask when did the student read the book, usually it was in the third or fourth grade. I doubt that a fourth-grade student could understand the meaning of half of the words in the unabridged version; so undoubtedly, the student had read a children's version. At a local bookstore, I found a children's version of the novel. I skimmed the pages and found all religious references missing. Also, the ending chapters were missing. Secular publishers are not the only ones who print unacceptable versions to this book. One Christian textbook publisher includes a version of Robinson Crusoe in one of its anthologies. But, so many good chapters (including the last three chapters with its surprise ending) are eliminated in that I doubt a student can truthfully say that "he has read Robinson Crusoe."

    Perhaps another reason for the neglect of Robinson Crusoe among Christian teenagers and adults is the misconception that this book is a "kid's book." That is exactly what I thought. And apparently thousands of others think this as well. However, Daniel Defoe did not write this book for children. But, of course, how were we to know since we never read the book or at best we read some abridged version. After all, once we got older, we did not want to waste our time with childish pastimes. The book is hardly childish. Robinson Crusoe confronts the consequences of disobedience and glorifies God for His grace and providence.

    Robinson Crusoe should be rediscovered by the Christian community. If you vaguely recall something about the work when you read it as a child, then you should read the unabridged novel. I occasionally hear a sermon with some allusions to The Pilgrim's Progress. But I've yet to hear a single illustration from Robinson Crusoe. Preachers especially should read this book. I guarantee that you will receive a blessing. I believe that you will be just as surprise as I was when I perused this neglected book, only to discover a wealth of material for meditation and reflection for the mind and heart.
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