Book Review: The Pilgrim’s progress By John Bunyan

AUTHOR: JOHN BUNYAN 

PUBLISHER: CHRISTIAN CLASSICS ETHEREAL LIBRARY

REVIEWER: IFIOKABASI OKOP

John Bunyan is one of a host of classic Christian writers (part of a group that includes Dante Algehieri and C. S Lewis). The Pilgrim’s Progress is one of the most significant works in Christian literature and has been translated into more than two hundred language. It has been identified as an allegory which, as an extended version of a metaphor, is a narrative technique that uses fictional characters, events or places to represent real situations and in this case, the Christian journey. 

The Pilgrim’s Progress is divided into two parts which tell the story of a man’s progress in search of salvation and eternal life. It is narrated by an omniscient narrator who sees all he narrates in a dream. The first part documents Christian’s revelation and decision to leave his home town, City of Destruction, to embark on a journey to the Celestial City. His journey to the Celestial City can be likened to the Christian race. Christian’s salvation is portrayed as the falling off of a burden from his back into the tomb where a cross is locates. He faces persecution in the valley of the shadow of Death where he loses his friend, Faithful. When his journey becomes tiresome, an easy path appears. This path represents false doctrines that lead people to destruction. He eventually escapes from there and continues on the true path which leads him to the Celestial City. There, he is received by the King into eternal life.

The second part narrates the decision of Christiana, Christian’s wife to join him in the Celestial City alongside their children. They are mocked by their neighbours because of the decision Christiana makes. They embark on the journey and go through similar experiences to Christian’s from the reproach at the City of Destruction to the Cross and the tomb where they are saved. They climb the Hill of Difficulty and at House Beautiful, Matthew, Christiana’s son is healed with a purge made of the blood and body of Christ. This represents the healing power of Jesus Christ. Their guide, Great Heart defends the travelling party against danger and points out to Christiana places where Christian had significant encounters. The journey is portrayed as a lifelong one as the children grow up and get married while on the journey. They all make it to the Celestial City and are received by the King.

This book portrays the difficulties and struggles christians face in their lives and the joy and happiness they will experience in Christ. Almost every moral struggle we encounter in our lives is somehow allegorized, whether in Christian’s own journey or in encounters that others tell him about. Christian is tempted by Mr. Worldly Wisdom and Despair while his friend Faithful has to get past Wanton. Every person has different strengths and weaknesses, and every Christian is encouraged by Bunyan to follow and study the Lord personally, and not compare oneself to other Christians, who have different experiences. Christian does not become perfect as he grows; sometimes he becomes proud because of his knowledge and displays an arrogant attitude towards others. He makes mistakes and learns from them. The novel has good ebb and flow as is depicted in the ups and downs of the Christian race. There are periods of rest after trials and temptations which arise after victories.

The Pilgrim’s Progress is an engaging and didactic read. There are complex, detailed sections of theological discussion which may seem boring. Warren Wiersebe’s notes help in better understanding of the book. He explains difficult words, themes and scriptural references in the book. Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is definitely a good read for every Christian.

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