I only started hearing about John Bunyan’s “The Pilgrim’s Progress” a few years ago when I began listening to podcasts by Christians and they would mention the book. Then I went to a coffee/ sandwich shop run by Christians. The shop had a bookstore section. I saw “The Pilgrim’s Progress” and I picked up a copy. God built in me a desire for the classics, if only to try to understand what people are/ have been already talking about. However, due to getting bogged down with books I had to read for thesis, “Pilgrim” sat on my shelf for a couple years. Well, okay, a very small part of it was that “Pilgrim” was 400+ pages long and I didn’t think I would be able to finish it within a reasonable time, meaning before I began to forget the part I’ve already read.
This past September, I tackled “Pilgrim” and now I see that I should have read it sooner. I had difficulty putting it down. It’s a masterful way of giving glimpses of the Christian journey with variations along the theme [variations as to how people walk it]. In this way, I think that it could speak to any person who reads it. I kept thinking, “Am I like this character? I must be at this point in the journey,” and so on.
“Pilgrim” also reveals certain truths about the Christian faith through its story as well as through illustrations found within its story. “Chapter 5: The Pilgrim Meets the Interpreter” is full of such illustrations, like what it means when the Psalmist of the Bible asked God to “create in me a pure heart” [Psalms 51:10] and what it looks like when God grants it.
Each chapter is followed by dozens of notes, almost all of them being a reference to a passage in the Bible. I find this fascinating, as I had come to believe [in my recent read through of the whole Bible] that the whole of the Bible is one story, in one accord, lending to its trustworthiness, in my thinking. Also, that “Pilgrim” refers back to the Bible reminds me that it is no substitute for the Bible itself in terms of spiritual truth and understanding. “Pilgrim” is merely a helper to the Bible.
I would recommend anyone read “The Pilgrim’s Progress.” For the Christian, one should find its story to be full of encouragement, wisdom, and a good measure of warning for the journey. For the non-Christian, one should find an illustration for what the Christian life ought to be like and hopefully more understanding as to why the Christian believes in the God of the Bible.
The back cover of the version I read says this:
“The Pilgrim’s Progress” has been called “the greatest allegory ever written.” Its appeal sweeps across the scopes of age, intellect and education. Children read it for the excitement of the story; eager believers are challenged and trained by its invaluable teaching; Bible students and scholars alike read it for its depth of doctrine.
Just as relevant today as it was when John Bunyan wrote it from his cell in prison, “The Pilgrim’s Progress” is the story of every Christian--- from the first stirrings of the Holy Spirit beckoning us to follow Christ to our final arrival in the Celestial City of God. [ISBN: 0882707574]