A framed picture of John Bunyan with a cloudy sky in the background

‘The Pilgrim’s Progress’ by John Bunyan (book review)

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John Bunyan The Pilgrim's ProgressI wonder how many thousands of times this book has been reviewed and written about and what I can possibly add that hasn’t been said before. The Pilgrim’s Progress is a classic of English literature and has been studied in classrooms around the world. Written in 1678, the book has been translated into over 200 languages, and has never been out of print.

Rather than giving a synopsis of the story, which you can easily find online, I think I will just try and briefly comment on what the book means to me, having just read it for the first time.

My desire to read the book was sparked when I heard the book had a huge impact on the life of the famous Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon, who is said to have read the book countless times. Spurgeon was a powerful preacher and often used to refer to the book in his sermons, so when I learned that, the book became a ‘must-read’.

The book’s power lies in its faithfulness to the Christian journey, and the trials experienced by the characters in the book are relatable to the life of the Christian reader. While there are not many direct Scripture citations, Biblical passages are mentioned and paraphrased, and stories from the Bible alluded to in the book’s infamous allegorical style.

The book does not make light of the Christian journey. If there is a message that comes out of the book, it’s that yes, the rewards of heaven are amazing, but that anyone who embarks on the Christian journey is going to face tremendous hardship and many trials in their attempt to ‘enter through the narrow gate’ into paradise.

I can see why Spurgeon loved this book. It’s engaging, vivid, truthful, and interesting. If I had to sum up the book’s depiction of Christianity in one word I would say the key word is perseverance. Under the Christian worldview, this is the harsh reality that pilgrims face; they are to endure and remain faithful through whatever onslaughts the devil throws at them. Only then can they at last expect to receive a crown of victory when their lives are over.

If anything, the book has helped cement my understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Readers of this blog will know that I find it hard to commit to the faith, not because I am daunted by it (I would do anything to avoid hell!) but because the Christian worldview presents certain philosophical and theological problems for me that I am yet to find answers to. This book won’t help you tackle the intellectual side of religion and theology, but it will make you appreciate the importance of simple and committed faith to the Christian journey.

You can find The Pilgrims Progress in bookstores everywhere, and because the book is out of copyright you can buy it very cheaply. I would highly recommend giving it a read, because it’s part of English literary history and also captures the essence of Christianity in a unique and wonderful way.

10 comments

  1. Excellent review, Steven. You certainly have convinced me to at last read it. I thought your third-to-last paragraph, dealing with perseverance, had the most impact on me. This really does seem to sum up the “Christian life,” and, as I hope to soon learn, this classic book.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I read this book many years ago and loved it. Yes, perseverance is important in the Christian walk. A few years ago, when I was depressed and praying, I felt like God said to me, “You need endurance.” I said, “Endurance! Who cares about endurance? I just want you to get me out of here!” I hated my life and wanted him to take me.

    But I thought about it and looked that word up in the Bible. Yes, we all need to learn endurance. It is important to our Father. I’m learning, slowly but surely.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “not because I am daunted by it (I would do anything to avoid hell!) but because the Christian worldview presents certain philosophical and theological problems for me” That seems to be the fly in the ointment for many. I was so turned off by this “belief is right, no this one”. I ran from it all. Always reminds me of the verse about a house divided can’t stand. I know that is used to refer to when they said Jesus cast out evil spirits, but a house divided, is still a house divided. Christianity has certainly become divided. I believe in Jesus, but when asked if I am a Christian, I say, I prefer child of God.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I find there are such a wide range of viewpoints within Christianity, and the Internet means we have access to teachers and preachers of all persuasions, so it’s easy to get confused. I’m not sure that’s exactly the point you were making but it’s what came to mind! Thank you and God bless 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was confused, until I stopped relying on “man” to tell me what God wants from me. :):) I rely on God. I prayed and asked Him to help me be the person He wants me to be, and to show me what He wants me to learn from His Word. Now, I just thank Him for it. Do I know all the answers, LOL nope. I don’t feel I ever will, that’s why I am a child of God, and not an adult of God. If that makes any sense at all :):)

        Liked by 2 people

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