Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Book Review: The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan

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Title: The Pilgrim's Progress: From This World to That Which is to Come

Author: John Bunyan (edited by C.J. Lovik)

Series: Standalone

Genre: Fantasy/Allegorical

Audience: Adult

**4 stars**

This great classic, The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan, was actually different than I expected. After reading the "children's version" for school when I was younger, I was picturing something decidedly more lighthearted and adventurous. But nonetheless, this was a good read!

In this book, John Bunyan describes his dream, where he sees a man named Christian living in the City of Destruction, with a great burden on his back. The poor man must figure out how to escape doom and find the way to the Celestial City. He meets various people among the way, some helping, and some hindering his progress; and encounters many a trial and tribulation.

I love the idea, this allegorical picture of the Christian's life. In The Pilgrim's Progress, we see symbolic pictures of facing temptation; being led away from the Bible's truth by worldly knowledge; falling into depression and despair; and also getting revived by godly fellowship; and being released from our burden of sin by accepting the forgiveness Jesus Christ grants. It's quite profound. I especially loved the chapter where the man Christian walks through "the valley of the shadow of death", facing all sorts of goblins and demons. It's fearful, and Christian is bombarded by all manner of darkness; but it has a certain beauty ... knowing we walk not alone in the darkness, and God will bring us through. I also loved the ending, where inside the Celestial City is glimpsed and what life will be like there spoken of briefly. How glorious! I felt it was a wonderful picture of heaven.

Things I didn't like as much. Compared the shorter versions I read before, this one was a bit too dark and even depressing at times. There wasn't any humor or lightheartedness. And sometimes it felt a bit like a "fire and brimstone" sermon; be very, very careful, lest you fall! It gave this feeling like you could loose you salvation if you make a mistake. But our actions, good or bad, don't save us. Believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, that He is the Son of God, that He died to save us from our sins, is our salvation! And I don't think that you can just slip away. You're in God's hands now. And nothing can snatch you from them. When we make mistakes or go astray, I believe God leads us back to Him. Gently. Firmly. Rebukingly even. But He doesn't forsake us. And each day, as we seek Him, we learn to love Him more, and come nearer and nearer to Him.
     Also, the feeling that life is horrid and we must be weary travelers until we die and reach heaven. To a certain extent, that is true! But life is also a gift. We can choose joy and choose to see beauty each day. There are lovely things like family, and friends, and marriage, and new life, and laughter, and doing the things we're passionate about. God put us here for a reason and gave us a gifts and people for a reason. But it is truly the suffering, and trials, and temptations, and persecution will come if we are wholeheartedly following Christ. Because the Enemy is against us.

I don't know if it was at all John Bunyan's intention for some of the story to come across that way, but it just felt like it here and there. But so you know, I do believe the theology and overall message is Biblical. It's just that certain times, things could come across a bit "doom and dismay".

In the end, The Pilgrim's Progress is a profound picture, showing the spiritual battle in a fantastical way. There were some scenarios I especially connected with, like: "Wow! What an interesting way to put that!" It almost helps you see your struggles more clearly - in a new way. A hopeful way even. To see that there is a way out. That the road can be hard, but that is to be expected, and God knows and He's there! And to realize that Satan often attacks those that are drawing nearer to God. You are not alone. You are not falling. Simply seek the face of the Lord and follow His way! ^_^

Oh, a sadness, this version of The Pilgrim's Progress didn't have Christiania's story! It ends with the character Ignorant being taken away from the gates of the Celestial City; and says nothing of Christian's wife or children. When I was younger, that was my favorite part of the story! Christian's family joining him in heaven! Is that actually part of John Bunyan's original work, or just something someone added on??

Anyway, overall, it was a thoughtful read! I enjoyed it, especially since this version had lovely illustrations! *smiles* A great book for Christians to read and discuss!


  1. I enjoyed this book very much too, and liked the concept, but I agree with you that it can feel a bit preachy. I feel the exact same way, that we need to remember that we are saved by Jesus, and not by anything we do. :)

    1. Yes; I'm glad to know some people feel the same way, Sarah! :)

  2. Hi! I'm stopping by from the Fantasy Love February challenge.

    I've had Pilgrim's Progress on my TBR list for a while. I've read the abridged version a couple of times during my school years, but haven't ever read the "big" book. I liked your review of it by the way.


    1. Hi Tarissa! Glad you dropped in! ^_^

      Yeah, this was my first time getting to the more original version too. I hope you enjoy it! And thanks! :)

      Blessings to you to! :)