In Daniel Defoe's novel Robinson Crusoe, the titular character rescues a man from captivity and, since they initially can't communicate, decides to call him "Friday" because that was the day of the week he rescued him.

He eventually teaches Friday about Christianity and finds that although he readily accepts Crusoe's explanations of God and Jesus, he finds the devil to be more difficult to accept. He also asks a question that Crusoe finds very surprising (emphasis mine):

After this I had been telling him how the devil was God’s enemy in the hearts of men, and used all his malice and skill to defeat the good designs of Providence, and to ruin the kingdom of Christ in the world, and the like. “Well,” says Friday, “but you say God is so strong, so great; is He not much strong, much might as the devil?” “Yes, yes,” says I, “Friday; God is stronger than the devil—God is above the devil, and therefore we pray to God to tread him down under our feet, and enable us to resist his temptations and quench his fiery darts.” “But,” says he again, “if God much stronger, much might as the wicked devil, why God no kill the devil, so make him no more do wicked?” I was strangely surprised at this question

After pretending at first not to hear him in order to buy time, and reflecting on the fact that he isn't really qualified to answer such deep religious questions, Crusoe comes to this explanation (emphasis mine):

By this time I had recovered myself a little, and I said, “God will at last punish him severely; he is reserved for the judgment, and is to be cast into the bottomless pit, to dwell with everlasting fire.” This did not satisfy Friday; but he returns upon me, repeating my words, “‘Reserve at last!’ me no understand—but why not kill the devil now; not kill great ago?” “You may as well ask me,” said I, “why God does not kill you or me, when we do wicked things here that offend Him—we are preserved to repent and be pardoned.” He mused some time on this. “Well, well,” says he, mighty affectionately, “that well—so you, I, devil, all wicked, all preserve, repent, God pardon all.” Here I was run down again by him to the last degree

His final frustration seems to be over the fact that the devil isn't expected to repent and be pardoned, unlike they are, and decides to change the subject.

Assuming that Robinson Crusoe is Anglican*, is his response in line with Anglican theology (either at the novel's publication in 1719 or today)?

* Elsewhere in the novel, Crusoe mentions that Friday became a Protestant. Since Crusoe is from England, I'm going to assume that both Crusoe and Friday are more specifically Anglicans. Note that author Daniel Defoe was born to Presbyterian dissenters and he himself attended a Unitarian church, but given that there was persecution of non-Anglicans at the time that the fictional Crusoe doesn't face in this novel or the sequels when he returns to England, I'm just going to simplify this and assume he is Anglican.

  • Note that there have been similar questions, like this one, that were closed for being too broad. I'm hoping that this question will be more acceptable then they were because it not only specifies a specific Christian group, but also asks if a specific response is in line with that group's theology. Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 4:46
  • The main question seems to me to be on topic here. It asks for the view point of a specific denomination, which is a valid question even if that's not the perspective of the author or characters in question. However, the final add-on question pushes it into "too broad" and "primarily opinion-based"--so I will edit that out after I'm finished with the review queue. Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 17:36
  • I have now edited out the add-on question that in my view made this question primarily opinion based. I think this question is now on-topic here. Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 17:39
  • That assumption is neither necessary nor sufficient. It would be worthwhile to actually dig into a literary SE or research to see if Defoe had ever comments on which kind of Christian Crusoe was supposed to be. Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 18:32
  • @KorbinStarmast It's really not all that important which branch of Christianity Crusoe was, I just figured I'd pick one and see if his response is in line with it. Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 22:42

1 Answer 1


Your presumption that Defoe's character Robinson Crusoe was an Anglican appears to be a matter of highly speculative opinion. The Wikipedia page detailing DeFoe's biography states that his parents were Presbyterian dissenters, and that his education was in Presbyterian and Unitarian institutions, and that he was associated with Unitarianism. Under these circumstances, it would seem that there is little theological basis that is specifically Anglican in Robinson Crusoe. Further, as I recall from past reading, for several hudred years between th Accession of Elizabeth I following the death of Queen Mary, and the resulting restoration of the English Reformation, the Church of England styled itself as the Catholic Church, not the Anglican church. Under English law it was illegal for an adherent of the Roman church to use the term "catholic". So when Defoe writing "Robinson Crusoe" uses the term "protestant", it is juxtaposed against the situation that what we now know as the Church of England was legally the "Catholic" church, and in that context, "protestant" would likely have meant non-conforming disdenters.

Having written that, it should be noted that during DeFoe's lifetime, the Church of England had a much more Calvinist component to it's theology than the catholic influences that would enter with the Oxford Movement about a century after DeFoe's death.

  • I was guessing for Crusoe, not Defoe. I can change the question (I think this should have been a comment, btw). Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 15:30
  • There, clarified the question to better explain my reasoning for assuming Crusoe is Anglican, and that we are not talking about Defoe. Commented Dec 21, 2016 at 15:37
  • FWIW, I've done some writing. Writers tend to write what they know ... but that isn't a hard and fast rule, else there'd be no speculative fiction. Commented Dec 24, 2016 at 1:51

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .