Karina's Reviews > The Pilgrim's Progress

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
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's review
Nov 14, 2008

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bookshelves: 1001, christian, fiction, spiritual
Read in July, 2009

From the introduction: "[The Pilgrim's Progress':] uncompromising evangelical Protestantism has not prevented it from exercising an appeal in Catholic countries." Good to know: this means I might disagree with some of the contents, but it would still be a valuable read.

I'm on page 57 so far. It seems to me that the difficulties Christian encounters are unrealistic and sometimes too easily defeated. He's just fought off the devil who wanted to claim him back. I recalled The Screwtape Letters where devils use more devious and less obvious means to screw up new Christians -- that scenario seemed more realistic...

Page 88. The book gets better, but I wonder about the way Christian turns away people who don't have true faith:

By-ends. Well, if you will thus imagine, I cannot help it. You shall find me a fair company-keeper, if you will still admit me your associate.

Christian. If you will go with us you must go against the wind and tide, the which I perceive is against your opinion; you must also own religion in his rags, as well as when he walketh in his silver slippers, and stand by him too when bound in irons, as well as when he walketh the streets with applause.

By-ends. You must not impose, nor lord it over my faith; leave me to my liberty, and let me go with you.

Christian. Not a step further, unless you will do in what I propound, as we.

Is that charitable? Maybe Christian could have let By-ends tag along for a time, and along the way try to evangelize him, rather than presenting with this ultimatum. Well, it's a gray area, comparatively. This is worse:

Christian. I know you, Gehazi was your great grandfather, and Judas your father, and you have trod their steps. It is but a devilish prank that thou usest: thy father was hanged for a traitor and thou deservest no better reward. Assure thyself, that when we come to the King we will do him word of this thy behaviour. (p. 95)

It is one thing to determine that you don't want to take part in the other person's sinful doings, but it is quite another to condemn the person, say what judgment they deserve -- that should be and will be up to "the King".

I'm done with part one of the book. It is interesting the way Bunyan imagines that at the start Christian encounters a lot of different obstacles and trouble, but then during the rest of his journey the main danger is that of falling asleep and not to wake up; and that means you need a companion to talk with during that part of the journey.

What I disagreed the most with was the idea that there is one and only one way. That you must enter at a particular place. So that when Ignorance joined them on the road, this exchange occurred among them:

So Christian asked him from what parts he came and whither he was going.

Ignorance. Sir, I was born in the country that lieth off there, a little on the left hand; and I am going to the Celestial City.

Christian. But how to you think to get in at the Gate, for you may find some difficulty there?

Ignorance. As other good people do, said he.

Christian. But what have you to show at that Gate, that may cause that the Gate should be opened unto you?

Ignorance. I know my Lord's will, and I have been a good liver, I pay every man his own; I pray, fast, pay tithes, and give alms, and have left my country, for whither I am going.

Christian. But thou camest not in at the Wicket Gate that is at the head of this way: thou camest in hither through that same crooked lane, and therefore I fear, however thou mayest think of thyself, when the reckoning day shall come thou wilt have laid to thy charge that thou art a thief and a robber instead of getting admittance into the City.

Ignorance. Gentlemen, ye be utter strangers to me, I know you not, be content to follow the religion of your country, and I will follow the religion of mine. I hope all will be well. And as for the Gate that you talk of, all the world knows that that is a great way off of our country. I cannot think that any man in all our parts doth so much as know the way to it[...:]

I know what the problem is with this character, and it's not really ignorance. It's a kind of presumption ("all will be well"), and he's like the pharisee of the parable in Luke 18:9-14.

However, Christian's insistence on going through the Wicket Gate, and receiving scrolls to present as evidence at the Gate of the City - it bothers me. Suppose, this character's flaw really was ignorance, suppose he really lived someplace where no one knows of Christ (and no missionaries to tell them); yet despite that he follows the conscience, the natural law, and tries to discover truth... According to this allegory, he can't be saved - even though he may have stumbled onto the right path, there was no "Wicket Gate" at the start of his journey, and he may yet be turned away even at the Gate of the Celestial City.

I'm liking the second part so far. Not sure exactly why, but Bunyan seems to have improved -- I don't disagree with nearly as much. ;)

I'm just thinking about the children that go with Christiana... I sort of think that you can bring your children only so far, but ultimately it's each individual's own journey. The kids are a bit passive right now; almost like they aren't even there. But there are signs that they might be getting more involved in the journey:

Then said Mr Great-heart to the little ones, 'Come my pretty boys, how do you do? What think you now of going on a pilgrimage?' 'Sir,' said the least, 'I was almost beat out of heart; but I thank you for lending me a hand at my need. And I remember now what my mother has told me, namely, that the way to Heaven is as up a ladder, and the way to Hell is as down a hill. But I had rather go up the ladder to life, than down the hill to death.

Then said Mercy, 'But the proverb is, To go down the hill is easy.' But James said (for that was his name), 'The day is coming when in my opinion, going down-hill will be the hardest of all.' ''Tis a good boy,' said his master, 'thou hast given her a right answer.' Then Mercy smiled, but the little boy blushed. (p.192)

There was one long discourse (on pp. 186-188) about Christ's righteousness that I did not understand much, and I wondered how on earth would the women understand it ...

Oh, nearly forgot: As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the King, we will not harken unto thee; but we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth out of our own mouths -- LOL, that sounds familiar (recent example).

Okay, finally done. It had a good potential, but became very tedious by the end.
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07/05/2009 page 57
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by booklady (new)

booklady Interesting and detailed review Karina. I haven't read this in awhile but I remember becoming quite exasperated with Christian as well, who I thought wasn't very. He certainly got the fire 'n' brimstone parts right, but the turning the other cheek, and 'as you judge, so will you be judged, the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you,' (Matthew 7:1-2) seems to be missing. Ah well... Perhaps it's there and I'm forgetting. However, it is an allegory and the characters are simply supposed to represent a single vice (or perhaps virtue) so Bunyan's point may be that Christian's response is appropriate for that particular vice, character flaw, etc.

Karina As far as turning the other cheek, there was an incident at the Vanity Fair a bit earlier, where Christian and Faithful bore beatings and humiliations well, with patience, and stuff... Now that I think back to it, it did seem somewhat out of character for Christian, but I put it down to the Evangelist who was with them just before and warned about what they can expect in Vanity Fair, and that the one whose fate is worse there, will actually be better off.

Yeah, I can see the characters as particular vices... But at the same time, I think about what the good characters might have been before they acquired new names. If they could change, why not others, you know? But I'll try not to overthink it either. Good advice!

message 3: by booklady (new)

booklady Tough, tough book to read and review Karina, but you did a good job!

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