Megan Larson's Reviews > The Pilgrim's Regress

The Pilgrim's Regress by C.S. Lewis
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Nov 08, 09

bookshelves: christian-fiction, fantasy-mythology, modern-to-contemporary, philosophy
Read in November, 2009

This was not Lewis' best work, but its lacks can be understood in light of what else we know of him. First, he wrote it as a brand new Christian, having rejected worldly philosophy but not having lived much of the Christian life yet. Having read his later work, Surprised by Joy, I recognized many autobiographical elements relating to his own philosophical journey away from Christianity, and then back toward it. However, there were other elements I did not recognize, which seemed to be an attempt to generalize the landscape of philosophical reasoning as it relates to God's Truth.
Some of it was insightful--his understanding of things "North" and "South" of the narrow road correlating to either the cold, hard, and unfeeling exaltation of thought or piety, or the unyielding pursuit of thrills, religious or pagan. Other parts were very obscure--Lewis himself later described these parts as "needlessly obscure"--parts which were an attempt to describe his own journey allegorically, a journey which he later discovered was quite uncommon within Christendom.
I also remembered the comment of a professor I met who had studied Lewis extensively, saying that the academic community in which Lewis worked hated him with a passion. Unfortunately, some of his characterizations in this book probably contributed to those feelings. I was thankful for his afterward in the edition I read that apologized for that "uncharitable temper." True, he himself had been deceived by these philosophies, saw them warring in his own community, and (quite naturally) wanted to debunk them. He just wasn't very gracious about it.
I was also quite curious about the residents of "Puritania," where John was born. They didn't resemble any Puritans I've read, as they were obsessed with talking about rules, although private conversations showed they really did find the rules a bit much. They lived in a land of contradictions and didn't seem to mind it at all. I know that Lewis returned to the Anglican church of his youth after his conversion to Christianity...perhaps his view of the Puritans was prejudiced by his denominational ties. In any case, it was quite inaccurate.
I love C.S. Lewis--the 'little Christ' he tried to be as years went on, the unique talents he possessed, and the way he submitted them to his Maker as he grew in grace. In light of that love, and my genuine fascination with the life and writings of this man, I have to say that this allegory fell short of the one for which it was named. For an uplifting and inspiring understanding of the journey to the Celestial City, read Bunyan; to understand C.S. Lewis' thoughts about philosophy and God, read Mere Christianity and Surprised by Joy. In my opinion, you can do both very well without The Pilgrim's Regress.
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