Our family went to see the latest movie rendition of the book Pilgrim’s Progress (originally written by John Bunyan in the 17th century). It was an enjoyable experience, even though many critical parts of the book were left out and some themes were overemphasized (e.g., fighting demons) and other themes underemphasized (e.g., salvation).
The movie got me thinking, “Why don’t I recommend this book more often?” So, the question listed above was not sent in by a blog reader or member of our congregation, I actually asked today’s question. And here is my answer.
First, you should read Pilgrim’s Progress out of appreciation for its impact historically. Did you know that the 2nd most re-published book in the history of the world is this book? After the Bible, Bunyan’s book is #2. Of all the significant works in the history of the world, this one is the most widespread.
Second, you should read Pilgrim’s Progress as an opportunity to use your sanctified imagination. Very often, I encourage our congregation to put themselves in biblical narratives and wear the sandals of the saints that have come before us. I encourage them to think about their emotions in those scenarios, their possible responses and reactions, etc. Reading Bunyan’s book is an exercise in the imagination. You will encounter thought-provoking conversations; you will meet unforgettable characters; you will try to guess what certain palaces and cities and paths looked like. Every page is an opportunity to imagine, because the book is an unforgettable allegory.
Third, you should read Pilgrim’s Progress because the main character’s (named Christian) story is all of our stories. Every one of us Christians have felt burdened about something; every one of us Christians feel like we have visited a palace of great despair and thought about giving up; every one of us Christians have been tempted to spend money and time at Vanity Fair; every one of us Christians have felt the exhaustion of trying to pile up our good works to please God. Christian’s story is all our stories.
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