Friday, October 12, 2007

The Pilgrim's Progress

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

Written primarily while Bunyan was in prison for preaching outside of the Church of England during the late 1600s, this allegory marks the steps of a character named Christian through a journey to the Celestial City (Heaven). Disgusted by his life of carnality in his home town, Christian sets off on a journey prompted by talking with a man named Evangelist. He goes through a variety of struggles and eventually arrives at the cross where Christ takes his burden away.

He then continues on his journey and has to fight an apocalyptic dragon known as Apollyon who wants him to return to his former life then attempts to kill him. Christian uses the sword of the Spirit (aka the Bible) to combat the dragon and continues on his journey. He also goes through the valley of the shadow of death.

A friend that he meets along the way is named Faithful and travels with him a while until they reach the town of Vanity Fair. It is here where their steadfastness and commitment to their faith and striving for the Celestial City causes an uproar amongst the citizens of the city. Christian and Faithful are imprisoned and then Faithful is burned at the stake sending him on to the presence of Christ early.

Christian escapes and continues in his journey while picking up another companion named Hopeful. They encounter people such as Flatterer who leads them astray, the giant Despair, Atheist, and countless other such characters who's actions are described by their names.

Eventually, Christian and Hopeful arrive in the Celestial City and are welcomed in by the King. As I read this passage, it made me think of finishing a race in which the crowd is lining the passageway and cheering the runners on to the finish. It was a neat mental picture of coming home to Heaven having finished the race.

The book provides good insight as to both the Christian life as well as that of people in the world and the various struggles, encounters, and types of people one comes into contact with throughout life. At times, the book was heavy on philosophy and could have used a bit more action rather than long discourse. Though I believe I've seen children's versions of this story, this original version was certainly written for the advanced high school or college level student.

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