The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come (or, simply just The Pilgrim’s Progress) is a Christian allegory written by puritan writer John Bunyan. Told in 2 parts, Part I was completed in 1677, and part II in 1684.
At some point 2 or 3 years ago, I picked up the Pilgrim’s Progress at one of my favourite second-hand bookstores for $6. It sat in my bookshelf for a while, as I worked through some other books I was reading at the time. I ended up reading it last June, and by the time I finished the 1st page, I knew it would be one of my favourite books. I was shocked no one had ever recommended it to me, actually! It is so good, and so completely up my alley! Read it! Now you can’t ever say no one recommended The Pilgrim’s Progress to you.
Part I tells the story of the Pilgrimage of Christian, a man from the City of Destruction, who was told the story of Christ by a man named Evangelist. Christian attempts to convince his family and friends to leave for Celestial City, but to little avail, as the one person who comes with him abandons at the journey’s first obstacle. Christian then meets fellow pilgrims Faithful and Hopeful and persists against fierce trials until coming to Celestial City.
Part II tells the story of the pilgrimage of Christian’s wife, Christina, and her 4 sons, along with their neighbor, Mercy. Christiana’s heart was changed after having dreams for her husband and the Celestial City, and is then visited by an angel, urging her to follow her husband’s example and go on pilgrimage. Christina and her family go on to Celestial City under the guardianship of the guide Great-heart and, fellow pilgrim they meet, Old Honest. Part II is unique because, while Part I deals with mostly personified spiritual or emotional trials, Part II deals with the more physical parts of life: aging, marriage, family and the like.
Okay, I feel like the way I have described the book so far is really lame, but it’s not! It’s seriously an epic adventure with triumphs and disasters!! And the best part is that they are (thinly veiled) allegorical triumphs and disasters, so they speak into the life of the reader.
When I read Pilgrim, I am given so much peace knowing that so many of the problems I have encountered in my Christian life have been experienced by pilgrims before me. When Christian is locked in the Castle of Doubt by the Giant Despair, I have been right there with him, and I’ve lived to see our escape from him, as well. I’ve even been with Christina when Great-Heart slayed Despair once and for all. (spoiler!)
One of the most poignant parts for me in Part 1 is a discourse that takes place between Christian and the character Ignorance. Ignorance is another pilgrim, and actually makes the journey all the way from his hometown to Celestial City, although it is made clear he has not come by way of Christ’s Gate, as he does not have Christ’s mark upon him, and though his answers are often logical and adequate, he does not know Christ, relying instead on his own moral compass and strength to guide him to the end.
Ignorance: But my heart and life agree together; and therefore my hope is well-grounded.
Christian: Who told thee that thy heart and life agree together?
Ignorance: My heart tells me so.
My heart tells me that my heart is right, therefore it is right. The lack of logic in this argument is sharp to me, as I am often guilty of making it as well. I have actually considered getting this excerpt tattooed on me, because it is so true to who I am, and who Christ is teaching me not to be.
Pilgrim also reminds me that troubles are a part of my inheritance in Christ, and that I have a lifetime of trials ahead of me still on this journey, but it gives me hope to know that so many before me have still made it to Celestial City anyway, and I am eager to be counted faithful among them, and to hear them commend me joyfully for joining them there.
(P.S. In 2 weeks is Douglas Coupland’s Life after God. It’s a book of short stories, and you can definitely read it by then.)
(P.P.S. as far as I know, no War College alumni (except maybe me, one day…) has a tattoo from this book, breaking our 2 book streak! Lame!)