A Wrinkle In Time: A Point of Contention

Published in Christian Educators’ Journal, Volume 33, No.1  (October, 1993)

I lost my battle.  Having enthusiastically taught A Wrinkle in Time twice,  I was dismayed when the Education Committee and Board of my school removed this novel from the curriculum because of concerns expressed by parents over its alleged New Age content.  Hurt and angry, especially because this book had been my preferred choice and had been approved only two years earlier, I tried to fight back.  I marshalled my literary and theological defenses.  The result was a mere skirmish.  After a polite hearing, it was over.

I began to doubt myself.  Had I been the victim of a New Age hoax?  Could I no longer competently judge literature?  Having ruminated over this event for a number of years, I have concluded two things.  I remain convinced that A Wrinkle in Time is a story rich in Christian themes which deserves a careful reading.  But if it becomes a casualty of conflict between Christians, we extinguish the very flame of meaning this novel bears so brilliantly aloft.

The novel revolves around Meg, a likable but insecure girl, who grows to appreciate the value of individuality, not in the secular guise we see propounded in our society, but as the inherent worth of each person created in the image of God.  Meg dislikes herself because of her hair., her braces, her clumsiness, and her difllculties in school. Early in the novel she grouches, “I wish I were a different person . . . I hate mysell” (53).

Meg eventually gains a healthy self-respect because of a number of factors. She is loved by her family, a blessing that her friend Calvin envies. Meg, in turn, loves her family, and  especially her gifted brothcr Charles Wallace.  She grows to care for Calvin, too, who has unusual empathic abilities.  In accepting and loving these two individuals, who are both “different” in some sense, Meg learns to prize her own special qualities.

Meg’ s visit to the planet Ixchel, through the scientific discovery of “tessering,” shows her that its inhabitants are valuable, too, in spite of their initially repulsive appearance.  Their mercy and spiritual insight soon overshadow their external characteristics.  When Meg visits the troubled planet of Camazotz, where the people are programmed to be identical, she admits to herself.  “Maybe I don’ t want to be like everybody else either” (129).

The three witches, who are sent to help Meg, are instrumental in explaining to Meg that some of the very qualities she despises in herself can be used for good.  It is her stubbornncss that hclps her resist the evil of lT.  Mrs. Whatsit points out that whatever particular gifts we may have, they are not ours to glory in, but are there for the service of others.  Regarding her own inclusion in this mission to Earth, Mrs. Whatsit acknowledges, “It’s just because of my verbalizing and materializing so well, you know.  But of course we can’t take any credit for our own talents.  It’ s how we use them that counts” (80).  Here Paul’s instructions about the use of the Spirit’ s gifts for the common good in 1 Corinthians 12 are exemplified. 

Accepting oneself as a person brings the concomitant responsibility of making one’ s own choiccs. Someone else cannot make those important decisions for us. The result would be the situation of Camatotz, where the citizens are mere automatons.  Nor can a loved one stand in our place of decision such as Meg’ s father wishes to do when he says,   “But I wanted to do it for you. . .That’ s what every parent wants” (180).  I stressed to my students how this epitomizes our relationship with Jesus Christ.  Neither our parents,  nor our church,  nor anyone else can make a decision to accept him as Savior on our behalf.   It has to be a personal commitment.

A Wrinkle in Time does not, however, project the idea that community is insignificant.  The loving and stable family to which Meg belongs is held up as a formative strength.  Additionally, the novel provides a tender picture of how the body of believers can function.

 After her encounter with the Black Thing, Meg experiences a symbolic death and rebirth.  Her frozen paralysis and subsequent healing is a metaphor for the dying to one’s old nature and  being reborn, of which the Bible speaks.  Aunt Beast, a creature from Ixchel,  is a catalyst  in Meg’s recovery.  In  this manner, Aunt Beast functions much as  the church does in leading the believer on the road to thankful service for Christ.

Aunt Beast points out the effect of evil: “The BlackThing burns unless itis counteracted properly” (162).  Meg falls asleep “like a very small child” (163), and then, when she awakens, is ministered to by Aunt Beast: “We will have a fur garment for you in a moment, . . . and then we will feed you. . . . You must be as an infant again” (163).  Aunt Beast surrounds Meg with “warmth and peace” 166) and dresses and feeds her like a baby.  There are echoes here of 1 Peter 2:2  where Peter urges: “Like newborn babies, crave spiritual milk so that by it you may grow up in your salvation. . . .” as well as a number of other New Testament passages. 

Aunt Beast and her companions function like the church in that they not only are a nurturing body,  but they have a mission as welL  They assure Meg that they are concerned about the “lost” Charles Wallace:  “We would never leave him behind the shadow” (166).  They are resolved in every way to fight against evil.

If much of A Wrinkle in Time is encased in Christian imagery and biblically based themes, as I have tried to demonstrate in this admittedly brief fashion, what is it about this novel that creates so much controversy?  The majority of criticisms are concerned with New Age ideas.  The basic misconception experienced by well-meaning parents who object to this book is that they simply lose sight of the fact that it is fiction.  The aventures in it are imaginary.  This is a piece of art that must be judged on the basis of literary criteria; it is not a New Age handbook, nor is it a handbook on Christianity for that matter, either.

If a novel such as A Wrinkle in Time can be removed so readily from our Christian schools, then are we beginning unfortunate process of removing fantasy and imagination from the curriculum?  How will we be able to jutify retaining classics such as The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe; Peter Pan, The Wizard of Oz; A Christmas Carol; and dozens of other favorites that also contain ghosts, witches, centaurs, and magic?

The most profound criticism I dealt with is that in A Wrinkle in Time L’Engle appears to equate Jesus with other notable man warriors against evil.  By implication, this seems to be a denial of divinity.  However, a careful reading of the text leads to a completely orthodox presentation of Christ’ s role in the defeat evil.  It is noteworthy that Jesus is mentioned first in the list of those who fight against the darkness.  He is “the light that shineth in the darkness” (84).  The great artists and scientists and humanitarians that are listed are “lights us to see by” (85).  In this subtle way L’Engle acknowledges that God’ s grace and light can be found and appreciated in human accomplishments of many people and cultures.  Nonetheless, the tiny article the clearly differentiates Jesus’ light from that of the others.

In her book Walking on Water, L’ Engle speaks to criticism of this passage when she emphatically asserts, “To be truly Christian means to see Christ everywhere, to know him as all in all.  I don’t mean to water down my Christianity into a vague kind of universalism, with Buddha and Mohammed all being more or less equal to Jesus-not at all!  But neither do I want to tell God (or my friends) where he can and cannot be seen!” (32).  “Well,” protests the objecting parent, “why not make this distinction a little more obvious in A Wrinkle in Time?”  The response to this again relates to literature as an art form.

One of the ongoing dilemmas English teachers encounter is to demonstrate to their students that the study of literature is an academic discipline, like any other subject, which operates within certain prescribed boundaries.  Just because something is in print does not qualify it to be deemed “art.” Similarly, just because one is able to read, it does not follow that one has the necessary tools of knowledge, analysis, or imagination to assess a work criticallv.  Literature is an aesthetic activIty grounded in symbol and suggestion.  To ask that L’Engle stop at a climactic moment in her novel and delineate precisely what her doctrinal beliefs are regarding the saving grace of Jesus Christ and common grace as expressed in the lives of people like Shakespeare, Buddha, or Pasteur is to ask her to forsake the artistic intent of her novel and to engage in writing that is then expository or catechetical.  When a novel exhibits a message so blatantly overt, it ceases to be a novel and becomes, in fact, propaganda.

It is worthwhile, in this regard, to note that L’Engle writes for a general readership, not one that is predominantly Christian.  A Wrinkle in Time embodies her spiritual beliefs but is not intended to spell them out in detail.  In the same way, an artist might painstakingly render a portrait of Jesus on the cross, capturing a realistic image of his human agony and suffering.  Would we then criticize this artist for not including evidence of the resurrection?  That would not be fair; the whole story of redemption was not his purpose for that canvas.  L’Engle does not deny the divinity of Christ in this passage.  For the disceming reader the line between Jesus and the mortal heroes has been drawn.

Another objection to A Wrinkle in Time that continues in much the same vein is the perception that Meg conquers the evil IT in her own strength.  This is seen as an example of the New Age idea that salvation comes from within one self.  By implication, this idea denies our need for a savior and promotes the idea of the perfectibility of humankind.

In the novel evil is recognized as an entity that must be resisted.  Mrs. Which, one of witches reprimands the Happy Medium because she doesn’t wish to face evil:  “Therre will nno llonggerrr bee sso manyy pplleasanntt thnggss too llookk att ifff rressponssible ppeoplle ddo nnott ddo ssomethingg abboutt thee unnppleaassanntt oness” (82).  Mr.Murry,  while confessing his fallibility, also affirms that the great task is to war against evil, and he quotes Scripture:  “We were sent here for something.  And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose”(157).   Aunt Beast fights the Black Thing but, again, not in her own strength.  Concerning the battle waged against evil, she tells Meg: “ln doing that we can never relax.  W e are the called according to His purpose, and whom He calls, them He also justifies” (157).  To the reader who can make the deduction, the conclusion is clear that it is none other than God himself who empowers his servants to work against evil.

As the story unfolds, Meg lears that the most effective weapon again evil is love.  Charles Wallace is rescued from the control of IT because of her love for him.  She is enabled to do this in part because she remembers that Mrs. Whatsit loves her.  The final chapter of the novel makes abundantly clear that this capacity to love another individual comes from God.  The chapter is titled “The Foolish and the Weak,” another reference to Scripture.  As Meg is faced with the frightening task of rescuing Charles Wallace, Mrs. Whatsit reminds her that she may not attempt the task without  “grace or understanding” (176).  Mrs. Who gives Meg some understanding, a gift, which will aid her.  This gift is I Corinthians 1 :25-29:

The foo]ishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God stronger than men.  For ye see your calling brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called, but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.  And base things of the world and things which are despised, hath God chosen. . . . May the right prevail (182).

It is God who works his will, even through frail and sinful creatures.  As Meg confronts her test, she confesses her  “weakness and foolishness and baseness,” but, equipped by none other than God himself, she is capable of  saving Charles Wallace.  The idea that Meg in her own strength completes this task can only arise from a misreading of the text.  That my interpretation is the correct one is substantiated in Walking on Water  where L’Engle writes:  “In a very real sense not one of us is qualified, but it seems that God continually chooses the most unqualified to his work, to bear his glory. If we are forced to accept our own evident lack of qualification, then there’ s no danger that we will confuse God’ s work with our own” (62).

The inclusion of witches in A Wrinkle in Time is another aspect of the novel that arouses suspicion in the eyes of some readers.  The witches have been compared to New Age spirit guides. But clearly the witches are images of angels.  On the planet Uriel Calvin attempts to bow down and worship Mrs. Whatsit as he transforms her physical appearance.  She warns, “Not to me Calvin. Never to me.   Stand up” (63).  As they traverse the planet, Mrs. Whatsit and others sing a psalm of praise to God. Calvin eventually figures it out:  “Angels! . . .Guardian angels! . . . Messengers of God” (173).  In Walking on Water L’Engle affirms her belief in the biblical depiction of angels.  She states, “l believe in angels. . . . If we read the Bible, and if what we read has anything to do with what we believe, then we have no choice but to take angels seriously. . .” (21).  The stumbling block is naturally the fact that the angels in this story are clothed with the imagery of witches, and this is perceived as dangerous and misleading to the reader.

Charles Wallace knows instantly that the three ladies aren’t witches at all.  When he and Meg visit the haunted house, they see an old black crow, a  grey  rat, and a door opening of its own volition. Charles Wallace says, “They get a lot of fun out of using all the typical props.. .” (38).  When the travelers arrive on the planet Uriel, Mrs. Which appears in the traditional garb of a witch as a joke in response to Mrs. Who’ s quotation about witches from Macbeth.  The ladies share a hearty laugh. When Charles Wallace is moved to scold them, Mrs. Which replies, “Anndd wee mussttn’tt looose ourr sensses of hummorr. . . .Thee onnlly wway tto ccope withh ssometthingg ddeadly sseriouss iss tto ttry ttoo trreat itt allittile lligghtly” (60).  Meg informs the “possessed” Charles Wallace that Mrs. Whatsit is not a witch, and Calvin agrees: “You know she’s not.  You know that’ s just their game, their way, maybe of laughing in the dark” {130).

Why use these these images?  Aren’t they invitations to misunderstanding?  For our answer we must turn once again to literary convention.   Irony occurs when a statement says one thing but means another or when a situation develops contrary to expectation.  As has been mentioned previously ,    L’ Engle is highly opposed to Christians being judgmental about how and through whom God extends his grace, something Meg must learn, too.  The beasts, whose outer appearance is revolting, are actually good and kind.  The witches are really angels.  Much as we would like matters to be black and white, they are not always so in this fallen world, as Jesus himself points out when he leads his disciples to see that the widow’s mite is a worthier contribution than the hefty donation of the rich man.

The function of the Happy Medium, another character of concern to those worried about New Age influence, fits into this pattern of irony.  Meg’ s mother wonders, “A happy medium is something l wonder if you’ll ever learn” {18,19).  When we ask someone to use a happy medium, we want that person to strive for a balanced viewpoint or a sense of moderation.  The character of the Happy Medium is a play upon this idea.  Ironically, and somewhat comically, she doesn’ t want to view any scenes of evil.  She only wishes to see happy events, for which Mrs. Which scolds her.  But Mrs. Which also scolds Charles Wallace when he lacks a sense of humor and concentrates only on the negative.  When Sandy remarks, “Use a happy medium, Meg, for heaven’s sake” (29), the reader should recognize that it is precisely heaven’s perspective that is desired, a true picture that acknowledges the presence of evil, but at the same time foresees the ultimate triumph of good (see Psalm 2:4).

Writers use irony to startle the reader into an insight.   Similarly, C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters has the devils refer to Satan as “our Father” and to God as “our Enemy” in their correspondence.  Thus irony jogs the intellect into reflecting upon appearance and reality. 

Concerns about animism and reincarnation in A Wrinkle in Time arise from the same misunderstanding of how literature operates.  In the imaginative world of this novel, stars are reborn after self-sacrifice.  There is absolutely no suggestion that L’Engle thus believes that stars are genuinely animate beings.  This phenomenon is simply a symbolic rendering of that very biblical concept of dying to one’s old nature and being made new in Christ.  The confusion of what is symbolic and imaginative with what is real will drag the Christian educator into murky waters. 

My son came home from school with a story he had written, in which he imagined himself to be a river and described what he saw on his way to the ocean.  Could this story be construed as an example of the New Age doctrine of  “oneness’“?   Was he participating in aIl adulation of  “Mother Earth”? I found my son’s assignment to be a clever way of leading a student to a fresh appreciation of God’ s creation. The creative writing teacher may outline an exercise in which the student must imagine himself or herself to be an eraser and speak about the classroom activities from that perspective.  Is the teacher then encouraging a belief in animism? 

The same difficulty occurs with symbols such as rainbows or centaurs, which are also used in New Age thinking.  That in no way precludes L’Engle from using them as she sees fit in her art.  Certainly Christians recognize that the rainbow is God’s own chosen symbol of his eternal protection.  Will Christians avoid using this time-honored symbol of hope merely because New Agers use it as well? There are groups who call themselves Christian with whom I have no identification at all and whose activities I find abhorent, but I do not then cease to call myself a Christian. 

The exploration of telepathy in the novel causes some to believe that L’ Engle is advocating the idea that humans are evolving to a higher plane ofl ife.  It seems to me that the reality of failed communication in human life can lead quite legitimately to the question “What if we could communicate directly?”  Is this “what if” more dangerous or wrong than stories in which animals and human beings speak to one another or animals speak to other animals?  Children accept the ideas of telepathy and “tessering” because they understand the novel to be fantasy just as they accept animals leading human lives such as do Frog and Toad in The Wind in the Willows

Ideas about time travel and telepathy may be deserving of  more serious consideration by Christians. We know that our physical bodies have changed over the past few hundred years.  Widely publicized research has shown that children today are experiencing puberty approximately two years earlier in life than did their grandparents.  Athletes have achieved phenomenal successes, attributable not only to drugs, but also to better training, nutrition, and advancements in the knowledge of kinesthetics.  If, through God’s grace, our budies are capable of improvement, is it so improbable that our brains may develop in ways that we cannot yet fathom?  Searching the Bible with respect to these questions, L’Engle raises a number of thought-provoking facts.

In Walking on Water she states, “God is always calling on us to do the impossible. It helps me to remember that anything Jesus did during his life here on earth is something we should be able to do, too”(l9).  We confess that Jesus was fully human.  He walked on water, and so did Peter.  In his glorified body, after his resurrection, Jesus came and went without regard for walls.   Philip disappeared from the sight of the Ethiopian.  These truths must cause us to ponder “What does it mean to be wholly human?”

 Should we be upset with L’ Engle for exploring these ideas?  Today’s heart transplant would have been incomprehensible to any sincere Christian five hundred years ago.  If it could have been imagined, would it not have been condemned as presumptuously entering upon God’ s domain?  If the Lord should tarry another fifty or one hundred years or longer before his return, what advances might future Christians be thankful for which we at this point can only conceive of as evil? 

In her slim but profound book The Liberty of Obedience, Elisabeth Elliot gives an example of how Christians in any time period can be convinced that they have the total picture and no new developments will be forthcoming:

“I am in earnest about forsaking ‘the world’ and following Christ.  But I am puzzled about worldly things.  What is it I must forsake?” a young man asks.  “Colored clothes, for one thing.  Get rid of everything in your wardrobe that is not white.  Stop sleeping on a soft pillow.  Sell all your musical instruments and don’t eat any more white bread.  You cannot, if you are sincere about obeying Christ, take warm baths or shave your beard.  To shave is a lie against Him who created us, to attempt to improve on His work.”  This is the teaching of a celebrated Christian institution in the second century (Elliot 45-46).

Always assuming that God is the Creator and Giver of all good gifts and that he is bringing about his perfect plan for his world, I don’t think we ought to ban all imagining or exploring ideas about telepathy or time travel as sinful.  Let us not delude ourselves into thinking that we in the twentieth century now possess all available insight into what it means to be a Christian any more than did the monk in the second century who forbade shaving. 

The freedom to imagine is at stake in our Christian schools.  I maintain that an author has the creative license to imagine a beast to be like an aunt, a witch to be good, a lion to be gentle, or an eraser to think.  While it is true that Scripture prohibits believers from engaging in occult practices, how this admonition relates to the realm of the imagination appears to me to be a different matter entirely.  If I as a Christian author invent a story in which one character murders another, am I then guilty of murder myself?  Fantasy and fairy tale,  fable and myth constitute a major influence in world literature.  As they engage in serious aesthetic work, Christian writers and readers have the freedom in Christ to explore the archetypes of good and eviI our human civilization has produced.

There were more charges against A Wrinkle in Time than I have shared here, and further rebuttals.  The sad part was that increasingly I began to dislike people whom I had respected, and they began to resent me, too. The friction built up to a point where I seriously debated quitting my job.  Finally, I knew that I had to let it go.  A personal campaign to save this book was fruitless. 

Though I remained unhappy about what I feIt were unwise parameters on the imagination, it was time for some seIf-sacrifice of my own.  The Lord was teaching me some hard lessons about putting the needs of the community ahead of my own need to be vindicated.  And for this lesson in love, I’ll give Madeleine L’ Engle some of the credit, too.


Elliot, Elisabeth. 1968.  The Liberty of Obedience. Nashville: Abingdon.

L’Engle, Madeleine. 1963, 1990.  A Wrinkle In Time.  Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications.

L’Engle, Madeleine. 1980. Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art.  Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers.

29 thoughts on “A Wrinkle In Time: A Point of Contention

  1. I just discovered your blog and have enjoyed reading your thoughtful and scholary works—this one especially. In the same era–the early ’90’s—I was engaged in a similar brouha re the works of Madeleine L’Engle, who I had met at an NCTE convention, whose poetry and essays I had read, whose fiction I was acquainted with via my wife, an avid YAL reader. So heated did the controversy get, our local classis of the CRC assigned an ad hoc committee to determine L’Engle’s orthodoxy. No, they didn’t bother to invite her to her own trial.

    The end of the affair centered more around a “turf war” between “concerned members” and church- and school-librarians, than it did of worthy literature. Librarians with their hackles up are a force to reckon with!
    The opponents were linked to Phyllis Schlafly and the Eagle Forum also.

    How it all started was in the objection to my curriculum which included Chaim Potok’s “The Chosen”—opponents (one family, actually) objected to Hasidic spiritualism as portrayed in the novel, the use of numerology by the Rabbi, the discussions of the nature of God, and so on. Somehow they couldn’t discern between orthodox/Hasidic Judaism and New Age “philosophy.” They were worried that by learning about Judaism via the novel, the students would be led astray. Further “research” into Potok and his other works led somehow to the conclusion that he was New Age in his thinking; at that point, I suggested alternatives for the objecting family’s student, including C.S.Lewis, George MacDonald, J.R.R. Tolkien, and L’Engle (rather begging the question on my part, but I wanted those names, typically deemed acceptible in the Wheaton/Calvin set, on my side); of course, they were all suspect, and the target shifted to L’Engle.
    Schlafly and Eagle Forum showed for a public meeting; I think they had hoped for a bigger audience and widespread demonic influence. When they realized the issue was localized, they disappeared.
    I do remember your article in the CEJ; it was helpful and encouraging to me as a young and idealistic high school lit teacher. The whole fight was exhausting.
    Some time later I met Chaim Potok at Calvin College; I spent a good hour talking with him one to one in the library—afterward I felt as if I had a therapy session with the Rabbi/psychiatrist: “so, tell me–why do you like my book? what do the students think of it?” I don’t think I ever voiced any of my questions, but he anticipated my thoughts and turned them back on me. What an experience!
    Thanks again for sharing your writing–
    JCarpenter, Palos Heights IL

    • Thanks so much, Jeff! That particular article provoked a fair bit of response, both negative (in Christian Renewal) and positive (at a number of Ontario Christian School Teachers’ Conventions). I wrote Madeleine L’Engle a letter a few years later about my struggle and she wrote a brief but affirming response. I think I’ll put it on my blog one of these days. Thanks again for taking the time to write and share your thoughts. You have no idea how encouraging that is to me.

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  3. Listening to the audio book again this week. Never thought about it until this time around. They aren’t and never were meant to be witches. The witch appearance was just part of their haunted house getup to scare people. Accusing them of being witches would be like accusing someone with a sheet over their head of being a ghost.

  4. This is an excellent article. I find it a tragic irony that Christians would oppose L’Engle’s work. I grew up in a non Christian household. Many Christian ideas were first introduced to me by A Wrinkle In Time and its sequels. I memorized the verse a character quotes from 1st Corinthians because it was so powerful and moving, and didn’t know for years that it came from the Bible. L’Engle was a powerful Christian influence on my otherwise wholly secular adolescence. What a joy it was to realize, after I became a Christian as an adult, that this old treasure was pointing me in the right direction all along!

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  7. Hello Ms. Smith,
    I recently did a research project on why A Wrinkle In Time as been challenged. I really enjoyed reading your post and how you battled with your school board trying to keep A Wrinkle In Time in your class. A requirement after finishing my research project was to write a persuasive letter. I chose to write my letter to your school board. I was unable to find the name of the school you worked at so that I could mail them my letter. I was wondering if you would be willing to pass on my letter to the school. I will post it below.

    Dear Education Committee and Board,
    I am a Christian student at H.H. Dow High School in Midland, MI. I have read A Wrinkle In Time by Madeline L’Engle multiple times and have done a lot of research on why this novel was challenged. While doing my research I came across a blog written by Ms. Smith who had previously taught A Wrinkle In Time twice before losing her battle with you about banning this novel. I have found that A Wrinkle In Time has become a conflicted topic between Christians, and should be examined. However, I feel A Wrinkle In Time should not be banned.
    A Wrinkle In Time should not be banned because it provides great lessons that don’t deal with specific religious views. Most of these lessons come from Meg. She learns to like her unique quirks that originally made her insecure. This change in Meg came from her greater understanding of responsibility. Meg learned that she couldn’t rely on others to do everything for her. She had to work to make the changes she wanted. These lessons are beneficial to all readers because they teach us to take control of our lives and grow in maturity.
    A Wrinkle In Time is a great novel with good Christian themes as well. The novel’s main conflict is the fight between good and evil, which brought about the display of Christian themes. For example, Meg was reborn into love when she was with Aunt Beast, which is what believers must do to become more like Christ. This rebirth gave Meg the capacity of love that could only have come from God, to defeat IT. These are two main belies in the Christian faith, but love is needed by everyone.
    Christians have commonly challenged A Wrinkle In Time because of Madeline’s characters, like the three Witches and the Happy Medium. The titles that are given to these characters are associated with bad, sinful things such as worshiping Satan. Yet the three Witches actually show characteristics of Angels or Messengers of God, as they help Meg follow the right path throughout her journey. The Happy Medium also becomes a guide to the truth instead of a mysterious connection to the dead. These characters teach the reader that you can’t judge someone by their “cover.” Understanding that people are different on the inside will further any personal relationships in the future.
    In the end, A Wrinkle In Time is fiction. Everything is imaginary, but provides great teaching material. The nature of fiction and the ability to respond to it is what Erich Formm calls the “one universal language.” The universal language leads readers “beyond all boundaries and into the one language of all mankind,” allowing readers to form their opinions without judgment. They teach the reader to determine their position on the novel and what they value as good and bad. It teaches the reader to defend it their views. Learning to defend your views is necessary in everyday life, especially when people attack your Christian faith.
    A Wrinkle In Time should not be banned because this novel provides many beneficial lessons for all readers. I understand that you have banned A Wrinkle In Time from your school. I have shown you my views on this topic and I think that you should revisit why you banned A Wrinkle In Time in the first place. I want you to look at your choice from a new point of view and change your decision to allow A Wrinkle In Time again in your school.


    Josie Queary

    Thank you for your time Ms. Smith.


    Josie Queary

  8. Very interesting and thorough review! I’m a fan of the “Time” series and I would call myself an orthodox Christian. I personally do not like the message that I see conveyed through lumping Christ in with a bunch of other human artists and scientists, but I also think if we start pulling stuff like this off shelves, we rob our children of the chance to analyze subtleties.

    In other words, it is not so much a matter of one side convincing the other of whether L’Engle’s “Wrinkle in Time” theology is sound. That is a red herring in my opinion. Instead, the focus should be on teaching children to analyze, to discover subtle nuances and to realize the difference between things that glorify Christ and things that blaspheme Him. In this way, I think that Christian schools should have far MORE on their shelves than they do.

    The only place I would diverge from your opinion a little bit is that really, everything is teaching theology. Virtually every book one picks up for young adults, every magazine, every TV show – everything is teaching us something about ourselves, about relationships, about God. Thus I never think that any work should be excused because “it isn’t intended to teach theology.” Almost always, the reply should be: “oh yes it is.”

    That certainly doesn’t mean I think we should be railroading children to conclusions – that’s the opposite of doing careful analysis. But we should encourage them to analyze literature and everything else for that matter, within the framework of certain immoveable goal posts – namely, biblical theology.

    thanks again for writing this!

    • Auslander, your comment may be the one thing on this page I can agree with. If a teacher wants to show that the book contains Christian themes and parallels, then they should also be willing to see where the book runs counter to important Christian doctrine.

      The passage lumping Buddha and Christ together might be seen as putting Christ ahead of Buddha, Einstein, etc., but not in any fundamental way. They are all listed among, “our very best fighters.” Christianity contends that Christ’s work was once and for all — he did not just fight evil, he conquered evil, and Einstein et. al. did not pick up unfinished work.

      There are strong themes in the book about non-conformity and other such things, and you can put Einstein and Buddha in that fight. There is a fight against natural evil, and one against ignorance, and you can put Curie and Pasteur there. But it’s not Christianity to put Christ there and suggest that this was his contribution to the universe.

      It was a clumsy passage. Anyone teaching the book (which I agree ought not to be banned) and measuring it against Christian beliefs should realize that and not be afraid to teach others the same.

  9. I really didn’t like A Wrinkle in Time simply because it is a poorly written and boring book. Its as if the author was too lazy to write a creative story. The villian is IT, its as if the author was writing the outline for the book couldn’t decide what the villain was going to be called and went with it as a filler but never picked a name. I don’t disagree with love conquering evil, that is the theme of many stories. Usually they put more creativity and complexity into it though than going and then love conquers evil. The whole “physics” of the Tesseracts was bogus, not even plausible to be science fiction. Also is it sci fi or fantasy, whats with witches just showing up. It was a dark and stormy night, really that is not a good intro, if the rest of it was a good fresh creative book it could be forgiven, it would seem like the author having a joke with us before really starting the book. Turns out it was a dark and stormy night is a great intro because that kind of writing style runs from cover to cover. Most kids forced to read this against their will seem to agree the first three chapters are at least readable but after that the book just becomes unbearably dull and stupid. The whole book seems very contrived, uncreative and just generally lame. Why have hundreds of millions of children been subjected to this drivel while thousands of writers walk around with better Sci Fi novels in their notebooks that will never be published?

    • 1. IT is a name with a lot of depth, and represents the evil of absolute sameness and total order and no variation. The world of Camazotz exists as a metaphor to Individuality versus fitting in; Meg Murry has an inward struggle versus the pressure to fit in socially, but then sees a world where EVERYONE fits in and is exactly equal, so then she begins to accept her own individuality.
      2. The book was immensely creative; it features a strong, female protagonist in a sci-fi book, which was unheard of and very controversial at the time.
      3. The physics of the Tesseract is basic 4th dimensional knowledge, and is entirely plausible.
      4. This book expresses the author’s view of unity of science and religion, very controversial at the time as well, and is therefore considered both as scifi AND fantasy. Scifi in itself can be considered as a form of fantasy.
      5. They aren’t witches, their names are Mrs. Who. Mrs. Whatsit, and Mrs. Which, not witch. They are actual stars, and are a metaphor for angels.
      6. The phrase “It was a dark and stormy night” used to begin the book was a nod to author Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s original use to the phrase; it was used ironically as the book began with a bland, cliche phrase, but the book itself was very original and creative: “With a wink to the reader, she chose for the opening line of A Wrinkle in Time, her most audaciously original work of fiction, that hoariest of cliches…L’Engle herself was certainly aware of old warhorse’s literary provenance as…Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s much maligned much parodied repository of Victorian purple prose, Paul Clifford.” (Wikipedia)
      7. As to the rest of your rant downgrading the quality of this fine book, I personally believe you are just an ignorant, young student complaining about having to read something you don’t like because of a school assignment. Why then, bother complaining to random strangers online who won’t take you seriously in the first place, due to your rudimentary affrontations? Please consider twice before denigrating a book with no solid arguments. Thank you for your time.

  10. Well, guess I’ll figure my way through this. I teach English Composition/Lit to homeschoolers in grades 7-12. I have the freedom to choose my texts…and I chose this novel without knowing the controversy it sparked within Christian communities. I myself have homeschooled all through (first graduate this year) my children’s years of education and literature is carefully selected. I look for strong writers, those who can convey ideas and images life few can. Some of these writers are Christian and some are not. I simply look for the best and those that explore the nature of man and God…we live in a sinful world…we must know how to deal with and identify the differences between the nature of each.
    Thank you for sharing your points, they will help me greatly in teaching this text to my 7th-8th graders…then we are moving right into The Magician’s Nephew…I am thankful I have the privilege of choosing. I have had parents complain about a few books I have chosen in the past “Unbroken” and a Steinbeck novel…I caved and let those books be optional readings….but I feel L’Engle’s wrting and style should be studied by growing writers…for that I am grateful!

  11. I just finished A Wrinkle in time after decades away (I read it very young, and am coming back to it as an adult with an English degree). Out of curiosity, I ventured into The Web to see what others are saying. I love your analysis and support your point of view! My question is this: the quote from Corinthians (‘the foolishness of god is wiser than the foolishness of man, etc) typically is interpreted to mean that the bible trumps all of man’s philosophy/science, yet the book is rife with biblical contradiction, not only in general but also in relation to that particular passage. Women as equals to man, scientists as workers of good, people exploring and using the mechanisms of science to counteract ‘the darkness.’ How does one reconcile the idea of science and religion in the face of the idea that ‘the bible is the be-all/end-all of knowledge?

    I truly believe our own earth is the embodiment of all things good, and is most evident of both God’s love and his plan for us, and is the most basic path to Him. However, this flies in the face of the Corinthians passage, particularly with the details of the book and am having difficulty reconciling ‘seek ye’ with ‘the bible knows all.’ Thoughts?

    • Hi Molly,
      I don’t have time for the long involved answer your question deserves. My short answer would be that the Bible trumps human philosophy and science on the topic of salvation. In other words, God has provided the Word as a revelation of himself because of our spiritual deprivation and impairment. I read the Bible as authoritative for salvation issues, but don’t see it as a handbook for science or philosophy. Creation itself is another revelation of himself that God has given to us, as well as the anointing and indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

      Interpreting the Scriptures involves many criteria that Christians don’t always agree on. For example, I see the Bible upholding the equality of men and women. I certainly think scientists can do good work for humanity and I do not hold to the popular idea that somehow science and religion are inherently opposed. But, yes, that’s the much longer answer I don’t really have time for at the moment. Biologos is a website that offers me much to think about in terms of faith and science. Peter Enns is a writer on this topic whom I admire. And of course, L’Engle herself. She was far ahead of her time in understanding that the Bible and science are not opposing entities.

      Thanks for your comments, Molly!

  12. Pingback: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle – Hope Is the Word

  13. Pingback: Challenged Book Response – Reader Response Blog

  14. I am looking for reading material for my daughter and came across this blog on Amazon. Finding in-depth discussion of this book has been helpful to me because I have not read it, so I thank you. Because of the misunderstanding about the characters’ identities as witches, I would not knowingly feed this teaching to my daughter. (John Perkins on 2-2-2012 shows that it is not clear because he did not realize they were not witches.) As it has been pointed out by others, the book teaches those who read it. What are they learning? For some, they may be learning that witches can be good. (This is New Age thinking, sorry.) I appreciate that the book was helpful for some, and I can see how a discussion with my daughter about the “true” identities of the characters could possibly help. However, why the author would use terms such as “medium” and “Mrs. Which” leaves me, as one who hasn’t read the book, suspect of it. Why use those terms at all? We are not to judge a book by its cover, but we are to judge the rightness or wrongness of things. And I would never want my daughter to think that a witch or medium is good.

  15. With the pending Disney twist on the movie (I’m VERY sad at the changes depicted in the trailer alone), is he interested to read your thoughts on what Disney does to the book. To date, from what I can Tell (and from trailers it’s not much), they’ve given Meg much more confidence and turned her into the “savior” of the universe. The three angelic characters aren’t presented as they are in the novel… Charles Wallace is hardly shown in the trailers, and Meg seems to understand her father’s work and theories from the get go and is shown explaining them to Calvin. I could go on. I hate to think that they may have erased the Scriptural basis of the books and gone for a more universalist/New Age take 😦

    • I absolutely agree with you. The thing I loved so much about this book was that it was an allegory for our walk as Christians. Growing up, I never saw the three “witches” or the Happy Medium as being representative of evil. I always referred to them as the three ladies. It blows my mind to see a beautiful piece of literature like this being challenged. As far as the new Disney adaptation goes, I’m hopeful, but skeptical. The 2003 TV film adaptation had its flaws, yes, but it stayed true to the central theme and spirit of this beloved book. If they take that away in the new movie, then they’re destroying what L’Engle’s message was in the story. This whole “be a warrior” thing that is consistent through the trailers was not at all what I believe L’Engle was trying to say. Meg wasn’t trying to “be a warrior” when she went to rescue Charles Wallace from Camazotz. She was doing it because she loved her brother, and wanted to save him from evil. I’ve always been able to relate to Meg. Being a Christian guy in a public high school makes it extremely hard to fit in, and I always sympathized with Meg because of that. Her transformation on Ixchel has always been an inspiration to me in my walk, and on days when I feel like the darkness I see in my school is overpowering what I can do for Christ. That’s why A Wrinkle in TIme is my favorite book.

    • I’m kind of hoping they did take the scriptural stuff out. I’m reading it for the first time and almost put it down because of the amount of overt religion in it.

      • It should contain the “overt scriptural stuff”. That is how it was written.
        That would be like them NOT executing the guy at the end of, The Green Mile, because it would be to sad. Ridiculous.

    • I’m so sorry to hear this! But I guess I’m not surprised. 😕 This was one of my favorite books growing up and when I became a Christian as an adult, the Christian themes became so apparent to me! It’s hard not to be discouraged by this fallen world that just wants to ruin everything of God. But God is on his throne no matter what and he has already won the war.

  16. I’m interested in Lynne’s comment above and I sympathize with her concern. Part of the enchantment of the book for me, was the portrayal of the three Mrs’s. When Mrs Whatsit arrives against the storm wrapped in Mrs Buncombe’s sheets — and scolded by Charles Wallace for so doing — I felt that little tickle of delight that these creatures, angels as I later found out, were pragmatic and had a sense of humor to boot! So when I see the posters advertising the Disney version, and how they portray the Mrs’s, I’m put on guard actually. Will the movie honor the earthly presence of the three? Or will they be portrayed in an otherworldly fashion, suggesting that goodness is something unreal and unattainable in our own world?

  17. Hi! This is a lovely blog that I found while looking for articles on the relationship between L’Engle writing and theology in light of the movie release. I might say, however, that it fails to mention that L’Engle eventually adopted Universal Reconciliation. I have read Walking on Water and am aware of the quote sited in this article, but sadly she did come to adopt the universalist position that she criticized in that paragraph. While she is so often credited for being so nonjudgmental, that too is also positional in her worldview, not out of divine love but of false doctrine. As an adult aware of her theology, I see the “new age” criticism as valid because she certainly did not adhere to sound doctrine personally. CS Lewis, on the other hand, took great care to ensure that even under imaginative and artistic plot arcs he was still upholding sound doctrine. It seems to me that L’Engle’s personal struggle is apparent in the book. As adults we are quite capable of discerning what is true and what is imagined, as well as what is sound and what is unsound, but kids have a harder time with that, and the mixture in the book could be quite confusing. At a Christian school, I can understand why the parents would have concern. I’m sorry it’s been painful for you though, and reading this I’m sure your discussion would have been helpful in clarifying hard passages and themes, though I do have questions about how you view the questionable contact in light of her theology, which wasn’t addressed in this post (though interesting and beautiful to read).

  18. Thank you for your detailed insights about this book!! I was sad to read that the book was challenged because of its ‘new age’ content (and found that to be very ironic)! I was born again at the age of 24 and had read this book as a child; it was one of my favorites! Once I became a Christian, the parallels between the book ance Christian themes just jumped right out at me (e.g. aunt beast being the holy spirit)! Once becoming a Christian I read a ton of c.s. Lewis books. His fiction works remind me a lot of wrinkle. They’re weird and amazing and totally parallel Christian themes. Saying that wrinkle is new age would be like saying c.s. Lewis’ fiction is new age! We are surely in a battle here on earth aren’t we! While I understand parents for wanting to be vigilant and protect their kids from evil, they also have to trust that God will be glorified no matter what and that starting battles is not how they should be spending their time!!
    Bless you and see you in heaven!

  19. Ms.Smith,
    I found your words thoughtful, inspirational, and sad. I was 10 years old in 1985 and attended the Darrington, WA elementary school as a 5th grader. A Wrinkle in Time is my favorite memory of that year. It was the only book I remember we studied that year. I was surprised to learn my own children had never even heard of aWiT. I bought the the 5 book series for myself and my family. It saddens me to know this extraordinary piece of literature is no longer allowed in schools.
    P.S. The new 2018 Disney movie, although visually stunning, does not appear to be very literally accurate. This irritates me greatly. I don’t know if I will ever be able to compel myself to watch it. Maybe as a DVD rental…maybe.

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