An Outdated Progress: The Problem with The Pilgrim’s Progress in a Modern Christian Context
John Bunyan’s work The Pilgrim’s Progress, is one of the most renowned Christian books to read, but it is not in fact within Christian rules, according to the Bible, thus unveiling a logical fallacy. With careful analysis of The Pilgrim’s Progress and the New and Old Testaments, one can see that there are many contradictory factors. Excluding the sequel, where Christian’s wife and children survive the apocalypse and join him in heaven, we can extrapolate that had they not been saved, Christian’s sin would have led him to love the deity that doomed his children and wife to live in constant torture. The wife, children, and friends of Christian are seen as hindrances, as obstacles to God, yet in the Bible itself states “But if anyone does not provide for his own family, especially for his own household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.” (1 Timothy 5:8). The actions of Christian contradict the wishes of the Bible here, abandoning family, friends, and loved ones for individual salvation is to abandon responsibility. Noble states that Bunyan’s depiction of conversion is skewed “The Pilgrim’s Progress is at times a guide to follow in the way to God only in the sense that it is a compendium of snares to be avoided by wary pilgrims” (Noble 73). This is reacting back to the fact that perhaps John Bunyan’s version of conversion is not necessarily the way a modern church would wish for it to occur. Pilgrim’s Progress is supposedly about a grand journey in the name of salvation, but through the analysis of the texts we can see that it cannot be applicable to a modern perspective of true Christian beliefs and equality.
Christian may have lost his burden at the cross near the end of the prose, but it does not forgive the sins he committed against his family and friends. His greed for his salvation and his own life surpassed that of any possible fellow believers. Instead of attempting to convert more people to believe him, he ignored God’s will in order to save his own life and get himself into heaven. “Not everyone carries a burden, but all are sinful. It is only on reading the book that one becomes aware of one’s sinfulness and it becomes a burden” (James 45). If the church believes that one is not truly awake as a Christian why did Christian not fully attempt to educate his peers, and why is he let into heaven? Although his friends Obstinate and Pliable were easily persuaded not to come, Christian did not spread the word of God and save his fellow neighbours, or even his wife and children. There are many obstacles within the journey and Christian was warned, which just begs the question, did Christian not believe that his family or neighbours would pass this judgement, however perceived? “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). Christian is shedding judgement upon his family and peers when he does not fully attempt to bring them along with him upon this journey of salvation. Christian’s enlightenment is purely reliant upon him being a strong and just character, yet Christianity should never be solely about individual salvation. It is about larger issues of community and love, and giving people an opportunity to be saved and have hope in something bigger.
The point of The Pilgrim’s Progress was to show that the burden we bear can be resolved by giving yourself to God and proving your devotion. Yet, if unaware of the apocalypse, how could any of his beloved friends and family members be able to join him within the process? Christian may have spoken emotionally of his wife and children at home, but his mind was unchanged and he felt no remorse for his decisions. Modern Christianity is about social awareness, making the people around you understand the opportunity of God. “Social responsibility becomes an aspect not of Christian mission only, but also of Christian conversion. It is impossible to be truly converted to God without being thereby converted to our neighbour” (Stott 87), Stott proves that devotion to the Lord is not an individual mission, but a mission of community. Christian’s enlightenment is shown to be very different from others’ as James analyzes Hopeful’s conversion through his sinning, to the realization of his wrongdoing. Hopeful cannot withstand the torture that his sins have led him into, once having met Faithful he is determined to see Jesus despite his fear that he will be turned away. After hearing his begging multiple times, Christ gives in and allows for Hopeful to be graced by God (James 50). If Hopeful had to pay for his sins through torture, why is Christian exempt? Clearly he has sinned; otherwise what would there be to fear from Armageddon? He did not have to suffer the same way Hopeful did in order for him to be saved by God. Although there are many different types of conversion or salvation, and this is just an allegorical depiction of one within fiction, the popularity of this book within the Christian community shows that it is there to motivate, to be the goal, or the ideal.
Christian does not truly change as a character. He is introduced to the reader as a frightened man who sought christianity to free himself from fears of an apocalypse. He remains frightened. He loses his burden due to fear, perhaps skewing his true understanding of giving oneself to God. Most of Christian’s changes are due to a change in the author. Whether it be his arrest or his lifestyle, one comes to understand that Bunyan allows his perspective to influence everything, including his works. Diamond’s perspective upon the matter truly enlightens the argument “Bunyan’s turn from spiritual autobiography to allegorical fiction represents the shift from introspection to character detection demanded by Congregationalist ecclesiology. The consequent change of objects-from self to other-puts pressure on the logic and intelligibility of his two-dimensional characters” (Diamond 9), criticizing the indecisive tendency of Bunyan to sacrifice the quality of his characters in order to preserve his autobiographical integrity. In Christian’s attempt to be granted into heaven one can realize that he actually did not do it himself. The assistance of many side characters allows him to accomplish his goals; Evangelist gives him the message, Help pulls him out of the Slough of Despond, Discretion feeds him, he even has guardians helping him through to salvation. This depicts that God’s children are attempting to aid Christian and help him on to his journey, yet Christian remains unchanged and still unfazed about how he left everyone behind. The desired impact that these characters would have, other than creating a more interesting storyline, is that you should have people to help you when your faith begins to be questioned, or if you are struggling with your faith. This opposes Christians decision at the beginning to leave everyone whom he loved to fend for themselves through the Armageddon. The more interesting characters are in fact the side-characters, as Christian is solely witnessing what the consequences of his sins would be, he is not actually experiencing the suffering itself. The main factor of Christian’s awakening was fear, and he remains fearful all throughout the works. He is afraid that if he does not give in to salvation that he will die. This is a constant state for Christian, he is made to be a character that is not easily swayed from his beliefs, although his belief in his family went quickly enough. God perceives him as worthy. Christian is meant to be a simple man, a man of courage and dedication. His burden can be perceived as anything, yet we are aware of the fact that he did in fact sin badly enough to believe that he would go to hell for his actions during Armageddon. Christian is using his fear to steer his decisions, and his interest in religion would not have been so swiftly found if it had not been for said discovery, leading to the possibility that without fear of death that Christian may not have embarked on this journey at all. This would not be permitted in a modern church, no one is supposed to convert to christianity out of a fear of threat upon their livelihood.
There are many articles upon feminist interpretations of The Pilgrim’s Progress. The role of a woman during Bunyan’s time was to be submissive, she was to be perceived as less intellectual and less important than a man, and obedient towards her husband. Throughout a Pilgrim’s Progress women are constantly seen as therapeutic, less religious than men, and distracting. At the beginning we are introduced to Christian’s wife, who rejects the idea of just leading her family into danger and abandoning their home, sensibly. Yet with this action she portrays herself as a shirker, or not as religiously devoted as her husband. This leaves an impression on the reader that the female was not intelligent enough to believe in God and journey with her husband, that she is disobeying him, which in Bunyan’s time was a sin. If you marry you are to obey your husbands wishes. Later on in the novel, Christian visits the Palace Beautiful; where the four radiant women feed and wash Christian and ask him questions about his life in attempt to hear him, to engage with him. They provide him with armour, and send him on his way to his next task. These women do not perform any duty that a man was able to do during those times, they did not fight along with him, save him from anything treacherous, all they were seemingly capable of doing was cooking and cleaning for him. These were the times that John Bunyan was living in, but the changes in Christianity have adapted to ensure that women’s rights are included in religious matters. The women that do show up in Bunyan’s writing are interesting characters, although stuffed to the brim with stereotypes, “The burden on the back of Christian’s back at the beginning of The Pilgrim’s Progress is the product of centuries of unequal society” (Tinker 377), this quote explains that Bunyan’s views whether political or personal were brought through the character of Christian; as the journey that he goes through is meant to be an autobiographical approach to Bunyan’s conversion. These perceptions of women do not correlate with that of the modern-day church. Some chastise Bunyan for wanting an ideology that would silence women’s voices and leave women in submission. It is difficult to argue with N. H. Keeble’s evaluation that Bunyan “welcomes women on pilgrimage… as persons in need of especially solicitous ministerial care and guidance” (453 Johnson). The Pilgrim’s Progress is a story about a man, not a woman, finding his way to God within the wishes of Christ, and Bunyan at the time was attempting to influence the male dominance within the church, asserting his personal desires clearly in his writing. John Bunyan’s wondrous quality of writing is exposed by his prejudiced ideals. The 1600s were John Bunyan’s time, we can see how different a wife’s role would be in religion and in a marriage, yet religion set up rules and protected women to some extent. It was a time of a lack of freedom, religious and otherwise. This creates an understanding of Bunyan’s perspective, but it does not make it right, as we witness other authors write about women during that time we realize it is an interpretation. Of course Bunyan is permitted to have his own view, but it does not correlate with the ideals of the modern church. Women are seen as equals in the eyes of god and so are gay men, which during Bunyan’s time would be unheard of. It is all a biased interpretation of a man’s salvation within the Church.
The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan does not apply to modern Christianity or equality. In Christianity, John Bunyan did use a multitude of biblical references and guidelines yet ignored some sins that his own character himself commits. Christian, a male protagonist whose expectations of religion and women are irresponsible and in reality quite unachievable. He is a generally unintelligent character who simply follows along with what every supporting character instructs. This dissolves the faith that one has in Christian as a strong character, witnessing his weaknesses that were not perceived as such during Bunyan’s time. this may perhaps lead to a better understanding of his humanity, yet with such revelations it should no longer be a religious book. Having such high popularity within the Christian community, being one of the top rated Christian works to ever exist is outdated and classic. The relevance of this works should not be used for conversion, it should be used for classes about literature and religion. An educational tool to show wonderful writing that perhaps does not share the values currently held by society, but the way it is written is the beauty. John Bunyan allowed his prejudices to impact his life, especially during his jail time, and his beliefs were strong enough to inspire millions. He also has neglected to treat half of the population with equality. The sexist impression that Bunyan left with the world was not solely from The Pilgrim’s Progress, but his other works too. The belief in god was meant to be inspiring, it was meant to make you love thy neighbour, not leave them behind. Bunyan’s perception of conversion is much more of an individual focus, as though Christian were chosen by God to pursue the journey. In a person’s life they are given the opportunity to believe in God as they see fit, but in Bunyan’s time it was seen as a way of living, an outlet for hope and dreams and beliefs to be supported, which it still remains to be, although now the religion supports everyone equally.
Diamond, David M. “Sinners and “Standers By:” Reading the Characters of Calvinism in the Pilgrim’s Progress.” Eighteenth-Century Studies, vol. 49, no. 1, Fall2015, pp. 1-15. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.mercury.concordia.ca/login.aspx? direct=true&db=ahl&AN=110268140&site=eds-live.
Hill, Christopher. A Tinker and a Poor Man: John Bunyan and His Church, 1628-1688. 1988. New York: Norton 1990.
Johnson, Galen K. “‘Be Not Extream’: The Limits of Theory in Reading John Bunyan.” Christianity and Literature, vol. 49, no. 4, 2000, pp. 447-464. EBSCOhost, 0- search.ebscohost.com.mercury.concordia.ca/login.aspx? direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000004015&site=eds-live.
James, John. “Tortuous and Complicated: An Analysis of Conversion in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s
Progress.” Foundations an International Journal of Evangelical Theology, no. 67, Sept. 2014, pp. 43-59. EBSCOhost, 0-search.ebscohost.com.mercury.concordia.ca/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=110306755&site=eds-live
The Holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments ; translated out of the original tongues and with the former translations diligently compared and revised. American Bible Society, 1986.
Stott, John. Contemporary Christian. Intervarsity Press, 1995.Noble, Tim. “Pilgrims Progressing: Ignatius of Loyola and John Bunyan.” Baptistic Theologies, vol. 3, no. 2, Nov. 2011, pp. 64-78. EBSCOhost, 0- search.ebscohost.com.mercury.concordia.ca/login.aspx? direct=true&db=a9h&AN=79388266&site=eds-live.
Quest for Heaven : Salvation Through an Allegory
Why would a writer choose to write a Christian allegory? It is not a new concept, nor is it easy to create a presentation of the Christian allegory with new and interesting insight to captivate readers. Bunyan wrote his Christian allegory, The Pilgrim’s Progress, while he was in jail in Bedford, England. He was born in 1628 during a time full of religious turmoil, due to the protestant reformation. He experienced his own “intense spiritual struggle” during Oliver Cromwell’s commonwealth, from 1648-1652. After the British Restoration, Bunyan was arrested for not conforming to the Act of Uniformity while preaching in the countryside, and he spent 12 years in jail. After being released, he became pastor of an independent church, but was jailed once again in 1677 for preaching without a license. In his second confinement, he was jailed in a bridge over the River Ouse, where he finished writing The Pilgrim’s Progress. Initially, this novel was written as a way to entertain his children when they came to visit him in jail. This is very surprising not only because the story is very religiously dependent, but also because it contains many mature concepts. Bunyan may have written this novel as a way to indoctrinate his children and all the children of his church. Since he suffered in finding his own religious affiliation, his motive for writing this book was to help his children find their religion without having to struggle. Bunyan ingeniously uses characters as metaphors for virtues and sins throughout his novel; he also uses multiple metaphors within the allegory to represent important Christian doctrines and realizations.
This novel contains an abundance of characters, each with their own purpose and significance. Bunyan chooses to name his characters according to virtues and sins, and these respective characters exemplify the qualities of their names. In almost every chapter, a new character is introduced. Many minor characters may only be present for one chapter, but each of these characters possesses a quality, whether it is righteous or immoral, that is an important detail within the Christian allegory. Virtuous characters continuously prevail against devilish ones, which solidifies Bunyan’s belief that those who follow God’s path will ultimately achieve the rewards of eternal life. Christian and Faithful are both men of integrity who encounter many sinful characters who test their moral strength and teach the pilgrims how to truly live a life guided by Christ. Christian is the antagonist, who is a representation of the strengths and weaknesses of most Christian people. His journey shows the difficulties and rewards of embarking on the journey to Eternal Life. Throughout his journey, he meets many characters who help him, such as Evangelist, Faithful, and the Interpreter. In addition to reverent individuals, Christian also meets sinful characters, such as Mr. Wordly Wiseman and Apollyon. Bunyan uses generalized names such as Christian and Faithful so readers can apply the knowledge and faith learned by these characters in their own lives and not confine spiritual enlightenment to the book and the characters themselves. Christian, like all pilgrims, needs to keep his faith and be strong against all the tribulations he faces along the way to the Celestial City. Bunyan presents the general difficulties all Christians must face in order to go to heaven through Christian’s journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City.
Christian’s journey begins while he is reading the bible and pondering how he can be saved, he comes across a man named Evangelist. He tells Evangelist he is afraid of death because he is sure the burden he carries on his back will “sink [him] lower than the grave” (Bunyan 28). Since Christian is confused about where to go to achieve salvation, Evangelist shows him the narrow gate in front of the shining light because that is where Christian must go to start the journey to salvation. According to the introduction written by Ken Ham, Bunyan bases the character of Evangelist on a man named John Gifford, who helped Bunyan begin on the road to salvation. Bunyan personifies the Holy Spirit as the character of Evangelist when he helps start Christian on his journey. Evangelist sets Christian on his way, and guides him every time Christian is lead off the “narrow path”. In the bible, people of the Christian faith are said to be “led by the [Holy] Spirit”, which is the metaphorical purpose of Evangelist (Luke 4:1). Shortly after Christian begins his journey, he is entreated by Mr. Worldly-Wiseman and finds himself in danger in the presence of Mount Sinai. This is a mountain made of materials that initially seem attractive to Christian and pull him off the narrow path, but then the toppling tower presents an immediate danger to him. These attractive dangers make Mount Sinai a metaphor for the worldly things that distract a Christian from his true purpose and will ultimately lead to destruction. Christian is scared and alone, but Evangelist finds and enlightens him, saying “Thou must utterly abhor his turning thee out of the way, his laboring to render the cross odious to thee, and his setting thy feet in that way that leadeth unto the administration of death” (Bunyan 53). This is Bunyan’s interpretation of the Holy Spirit that forgives Christians for their faults and continues to set them on the righteous path. Bunyan later uses Evangelist one more time in the story to foreshadow and reflect the limitless knowledge of God. Evangelist meets both Faithful and Christian while they are together, and prophesies that “…one of you must seal the testimony with blood… and he will yet have the better of his fellow; not only because he will be arrived at the Celestial City soonest, but because he will escape many miseries that the other will meet with in the rest of his journey” (Bunyan 165). Bunyan’s reference to the “Celestial City” foreshadows Faithful’s eventual execution and also introduces Bunyan’s belief that a Christian who remains faithful even in the face of death will be granted eternal glory. Evangelist is an important character because he serves as a representation of the Holy Spirit, which is what gives Christians the desire for heaven.
Along with many helpful and religious characters, Christian meets some who are sinful and dangerous, such as Apollyon. Apollyon in Greek literally means “the destroyer”, and is the angel of destruction in the bible (Revelation 9:11). Christian’s battle with Apollyon represents the battle that people of the Christian faith figuratively fight every day, against all the devilish forces which seek to destroy them and prevent them from reaching heaven. All people of the Christian faith are obliged to resist Satan, as Jesus himself was “tempted by the devil” in the desert, but was victorious against sin (Matthew 4:1). Since Apollyon believes he is “the prince and god” of the City of Destruction and he is furious at Christian for leaving (Bunyan 118). Apollyon says that because of his godliness he can relieve Christian of the burden he physically carries on his back. When Christian sins and falls farther away from God the burden “seem[s] heavier to him” (Bunyan 49). His backpack is symbolic of the burden of sin people of the Christian faith carry, which can only truly be remedied by Jesus Christ. Apollyon also uses examples of previous “transgressors” against him that encountered “shameful deaths” on their pilgrimages to try to persuade Christian to abandon his journey (Bunyan 120). When Christian refuses to return back with Apollyon because of his allegiance to God, Apollyon is enraged and begins a physical battle. Christian is able to defeat Apollyon because of the infallible protection of the “Armor of God” he had previously received from the Beautiful Palace (Ephesians 6:10-18). Bunyan uses the narrative of the battle with Apollyon to symbolize how Christians can defeat the things that seek to destroy them, as long as they are faithful and rely on the “Armor of God” to save them (Ephesians 6:10-18).
At the end of the character Christian’s journey, Bunyan metaphorically uses the absence of a bridge over the River of Death to show that a person of Christian faith must drown so he or she can be reborn into Eternal Life by Jesus Christ. The only way to cross is to enter the raging water, which inevitably leads to drowning. As Christian enters the water, he begins to drown and fear for his life. Hopeful, another pilgrim whom he was traveling with, tells Christian that the difficult waters are only in place to try Christian one last time, and Jesus Christ is waiting on the other side of the water. As soon as Christian takes faith in Jesus and stops worrying, “[he] presently [finds] ground to stand upon, and so it followed that the rest of the river was but shallow” (Bunyan 275). Christian is forced to cross through the River of Death so he can receive his judgment, as all Christian people must die and receive judgment before they can reach heaven or hell. Christian is Bunyan’s portrayal of the difficulties Christians must face in order to reach heaven.
Bunyan uses various metaphors throughout The Pilgrim’s Progress that contribute to the overall allegory of the journey; these metaphors compare Christian’s journey to the Celestial City to the average person’s quest for heaven. Certain situations occur that contain multiple important components, such as Christian’s stops at the House of the Interpreter, the Hill of Difficulty, and the Vanity Fair. Bunyan uses different metaphors to represent some of the main points of the Christian Allegory.
The House of the Interpreter is one of Christian’s first stops on his journey. Christian starts on his quest to salvation after reading the bible, and is continuously encouraged by Evangelist, who sends Christian to the House of the Interpreter. The interpreter’s purpose is to “show [Christian] that which will be profitable to [Christian]” (Bunyan 64). The house of the interpreter contains various parts: The Picture on the Wall, Parlor of Dust, and the Room with the Fire on the wall. The first room Christian enters into contains the Picture on the Wall. This picture is of a man with “eyes lift up to heaven, the best of books in his hand, and the law of truth writ on his lips”, meaning this is a man who looks for salvation, holds the bible, and speaks of God’s love (Bunyan 64). The man leaves the world behind him and slights all of the immoral things of the world, because “he us sure in the world that comes next, to have glory for his reward” (Bunyan 65). The Interpreter shows this picture first, because it is an accurate depiction of all the successful pilgrims. The only pilgrims who will finish their journey are the ones that live like the man in the picture, and the rest will die as “their way goes down to death” (Bunyan 65). It is important for Christian to see this initially so he knows what is expected of him in order to reach the Celestial City. Bunyan believes this should be true for all those in search of salvation: Christians should leave the imperfections of the world behind and strive for the glory of Eternal Life. The Interpreter then leads Christian into the Parlor of Dust. This room has never been cleaned and is, as the name implies, full of dust. A man is called in to sweep this room, but when the dust is swept it completely fills the air and “Christian had almost therewith been choked” by all the dust that was simply being moved around (Bunyan 66). A woman is then called into the room to sprinkle water, and afterwards the dust can be swept away easily. The interpreter says “the parlor is the heart of a man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the Gospel” and “the dust is original sin” (Bunyan 66). The parlor shows how sin can accumulate within the hearts of those who do not seek God to cleanse their souls. The Interpreter says sweeping is doing what is good because of the law, sweeping with the additional water is doing what is good with the help God’s grace. “The law doth revive, put strength into, and increase [sin] in the soul, even as it doth discover and forbid it”, meaning even though the purpose of the law is to help, it cannot do what God can do. During the time this novel was written, the British monarchy had nationalized religion and the Anglican Church, and Bunyan was writing from his jail cell for practicing another branch of Christianity. He felt that he was wronged for being punished for practicing his form of salvation. Bunyan believed that the law cannot cleanse one from sin, because only God and Baptism can cleanse sin, and he illustrates this belief in the Parlor of Dust. Another room within the House of the Interpreter is the Room with the Fire on the Wall. As Christian and the Interpreter walk into the room, they see a man pouring water onto a fire that is sprouting from the side of the wall; however, this fire is continuing to grow despite the man’s efforts. As Christian looks further into the room, he sees that the reason that the fire is continuing to burn higher and hotter is that Jesus Christ is on the other side of the wall, secretly adding oil to the fire. The Interpreter says “the fire is the work of grace in the heart; that he who casts water upon it, to extinguish and put it out, is the devil”, but Jesus is on the other side continuing the fire and defeating the devil (Bunyan 72). This shows Bunyan’s belief that the devil cannot extinguish the work of God within the heart, despite all of his efforts. The House of the Interpreter is important within Bunyan’s Christian Allegory because it taught Christian “how Christ, in despite of Satan, maintains his work of grace in the heart; how the man had sinned himself quite out of hopes of God’s mercy; and also the dream of him that thought in his sleep the day of judgment was come” (Bunyan 104). This is a lesson Bunyan believes must be learned by all Christians in order to properly be able to start upon the Narrow Way.
Another one of Bunyan’s metaphors is the Hill of Difficulty. This hill represents the quest to find the tools that are necessary for salvation. Both Christian and Faithful find themselves at the Hill of Difficulty, showing that it is inevitable for all pilgrims. Faithful finds his virtue of faithfulness through encounters with characters such as Adam the First and Moses, to be discussed later. Christian meets temptation from the path itself and the arbor, but is then given the Armor of God when he reaches the Beautiful Palace. The metaphor begins at the foot of the hill, where Christian’s temptation arises from the natural landscape. When Christian first arrives at the foot of the hill he sees three paths: the narrow path, the left path, and the right path. “The Narrow Way lay up right up the hill”, while the other two paths skirted around the steep and treacherous hill (Bunyan 91). Although the other two would be easier options, Christian picked the difficult path that he was directed to by Evangelist. Later, Christian learns the other two paths were named Danger and Destruction. The difficulty of the Narrow Path is how Bunyan shows the difficulty of living a true Christian life. He believes other ways may initially seem easier; however, one cannot reach eternal life (allegorically the Celestial City) with any other path. Pious Christians must be able to withstand the difficulties of their pilgrimage in order to reach heaven, as shown by the narrow path forcing Christian to climb the Hill of Difficulty. Christian finds an establishment while he is atop the Hill of Difficulty: The Beautiful Palace. The Beautiful Palace is placed on the top of the Hill of Difficulty, to reward pilgrims who endured the steep climb. In this Palace, Christian learns that God will provide the necessities for his followers who are true to him, and he will help on their journey to salvation. The Lord of the house “is a lover of poor pilgrims” and He is happy to turn “beggars [into] princes, though they had been born beggars”, but Christian must first be questioned to see if he is worthy to take respite in the palace (Bunyan 111). The three princesses of the palace are named Piety, Prudence, and Charity; accordingly, they ask Christian questions to test his proficiency in each of these values. Piety asks Christian what made him want to be a pilgrim, and about what he has seen on his journey. Despite the various horrors and tribulations Christian has faced, he continues on his journey because of his sole love for God and his desire for salvation, which shows he is pious. Prudence then takes over the inquiry, and asks Christian if he prefers his difficult life as a pilgrim or his easier life when he was living in the City of Destruction. Although Christian realizes that his life was more peaceful in the City of Destruction, he also sees that the city will not serve him well when Judgment Day comes. This shows his prudence. Christian’s wisdom and prudence is exemplified in his desire to reach eternal life, and his decision to pick the more difficult life so he can please God. The questioning then passes to Charity, who asks what happened to Christian’s wife and children when he left the city of destruction, leaving them behind. Christian said he did what he could to convert his family, but they did not want to leave their material lives behind. Christian demonstrates Charity because he attempts to help his family at no cost to his own, and this shows that he is altruistic. Christian’s responses to these various questions prove he has the important qualities which will allow him to rest in the Beautiful Palace. Bunyan uses the Palace to teach that God will help everyone reach eternal life if they show they are pious, prudent, and charitable, proving they are worthy to enter into the kingdom of heaven.
Another metaphorical setting Bunyan uses is the Vanity Fair. It is called the Vanity Fair because it is in the “town where it is kept lighter than vanity, and also because all that is there sold… is vanity” (Bunyan 167). This fair has a history that begins in the time of Jesus. The heads of the fair are Beelzebub, Apollyon, and Legion, who are all legendary henchmen of the devil himself, showing vanity itself is a direct output of the devil’s work. Jesus himself was forced to walk through the Vanity Fair, and was tempted by the “lusts, pleasures, and delights of all sorts” that were sold by the “murderers, thefts, and adulterers”, who were the merchants of the fair (Bunyan 168). Bunyan uses the Vanity Fair to present the temptation of material things and how people of Christian faith must fight vanity. As soon as Christian and his fellow pilgrim, Faithful, enter the fair, they cause a ruckus. To begin with, they look like bedlams to the men of Vanity, but the pilgrims believed they were “fools for Christ” (1 Corinthians 4:10). The language of Christian and Faithful is the “natural language of Canaan” which differs so much from the language of Vanity that many people of the fair could not even communicate with the travelers (Bunyan 169). In essence, the pilgrims speak the language of God. The biggest difference between the travelers and the men of the fair: Christian and Faithful did not want to purchase any of the vanities available to them. The men of the Fair mocked and jeered at the pilgrims, because they believed “[their] only trade is in heaven” and that “[they] only purchase the truth” (Bunyan 170). The pilgrims showed their faithfulness to God in their differences from the men of the fair. Bunyan believes that in order to survive the temptations of vanity, good Christian people must be able to present their love for God in all that they do: their presence, speech, and actions. The pilgrim’s disinterest in vanity showed how close they are God; however, their actions disenchant the rest of the men of the fair. The people of Vanity deemed the pilgrims as madmen, who then “took them and beat them, and besmeared them with dirty, and then put them into a cage, that they might be made a spectacle to all the men of the fair” (Bunyan 171). Bunyan uses this embarrassing punishment to show although Christians may be persecuted, God will lead them through the tribulations of life if they keep their trust in Him. The pilgrims do not blame God for their pain, and forgave all who jested at them within the cage. Forgiveness is an important Christian virtue that the two exemplify, but it further angers the lords of the fair. To serve as an example to others, the men of Vanity chain the pilgrims and force them to parade around the fair. This journey through the town greatly resembles the Stations of the Cross. Bunyan parallels Christian and Faithful to Jesus Christ because people of Christian faith must strive to act as similarly to Jesus as possible, in an attempt to defy the difficulties of the material world and draw closer to God. This is not an easy task, and ultimately leads to death for Jesus and Faithful. Faithful’s execution as a martyr shows his true faithfulness to God. After Faithful died, he rose in “a chariot and a couple of horses [towards the] nearest way to the celestial gate” (Bunyan 179). His faithfulness allows him to reach the Celestial City even if it was through persecution. Christian, however, survived mortal trials of the Vanity Fair and continued on his journey to eventual reach the Celestial City as well. Bunyan uses the Vanity Fair to show as long as Christian people remain faithful to God, they can ultimately escape the snares of the material world.
Bunyan expresses the Christian allegory clearly through Christian’s journey to salvation. The most important aspects of The Pilgrim’s Progress are various metaphors and characters that represent the difficulties of the journey to heaven, and the necessary characteristics pilgrims must need to be successful in reaching eternal life. The use of generalized names for all of the characters allow this book to be applied to every-day life, so readers may see themselves as pilgrims on the journey of salvation. Bunyan wrote this novel to effectively persuade people to reform their lives and dedicate them to God, and eternal life will come in return.
Bunyan, John. The Pilgrim’s Progress. N.p.: Answers in Genesis, 2014. Print.
The Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books: New Revised Standard Version. New York: Oxford UP, 1989. Print
Justifying the Ways of God to Men: Context and Ideology in Paradise Lost and The Pilgrim’s Progress
‘I may assert eternal providence,
And justify the ways of God to men.’
(Book I, II. 25-26, p. 4)
It would be strange for any reader not to see that John Milton’s most famous work, Paradise Lost, is a deeply religious text, simply by glancing at its title; when one reads the epic it suggests that Milton felt convinced of his faith as a Protestant Christian considering the effort, time, and the several references to the Bible found within it. However, whatever Milton’s conviction was with regards to religion, his famous words found above also show that there was a certain sense of ‘the failure of religion’ at the beginning of the long eighteenth century. Why does he need to ‘justify the ways of God to men’ (emphasis added)? If God’s ways need to be justified, surely such a justification is in reaction to doubts and criticism cast on God and religion in the first place. John Bunyan also begins his most famous work, The Pilgrim’s Progress, by acknowledging a sense of unease with regards to religion was not uncommon. In an attempt to relate to the audience, Bunyan asks ‘Wouldst thou read Riddles, and their Explanation, / Or else be drownded in thy Contemplation?’ (p. 7). Though both works are in support of Christianity, both works seem to be in response to difficulties found within Christianity, and I will argue this case with particular regard to the divisions within Christianity as well as to the growing popularity of atheism with the rise of science.
Both authors experienced the entirety of the Civil War, from 1642 – 1651, which was caused in part due to conflicting views on religion. As Pauline Gregg argues in King Charles I, there was ‘dissension within the reformed, Protestant religion itself’, and Charles’ marriage to Henrietta Maria, a Roman Catholic, in 1625 added to tensions found within the Protestant government. As Nigel Yates also argues, ‘It was the policy of religious integration which had been a major factor in bringing about the Civil Wars of the 1640s and the temporary abolition of the monarchy in Britain’. Both authors had grown up in a country in which ‘The established churches of the British Isles had, at no point since the Reformation, enjoyed a complete monopoly of religious belief and practice…From the early years of the seventeenthc-century groups of Protestant dissenters had seceded from the established churches that they considered insufficiently pure in their Protestantism’. Clearly, ‘the failure of religion’ could be seen to be due to the lack of stability and unity within Christianity that had led to a nine-year Civil War.
Milton seems to have responded to this failure of religion by attempting to emphasise the similarities found within all denominations of Christianity. After all, Milton dwells most of all on the Fall of Mankind, hence the title, which is a belief shared by all Christian denominations, and paraphrases Genesis, a book familiar to all Christian denominations, in Book VII, II. 243 – 534, beginning with God’s famous command ‘Let there be light’ (pp. 175-183). Milton’s reflections on the ‘Intestine war’ seem to reflect on the Civil War in Britain, with the ‘grim war’ being pointless when considering the peace that would ensue if all worshipped God unanimously, just as, in Britain, if all worshipped as one then a civil war could have been avoided (VI, 259, p. 149). Milton’s emphasis on God’s righteousness, with his ‘eternal providence’, seems to respond to Christianity’s divisions by suggesting there is simply one God, who saved mankind from his ‘first disobedience’ with Christ’s grace (I, I. 25, p. 4, I, I. 1, p. 3). Bunyan, on the other hand, responded to this particular failing of Christianity in a different way, with a more aggressive manner. Perhaps Bunyan took a more aggressive stance due to his being ‘arrested and condemned on an ecclesiastical charge for refusal to hear divine service and receive the Sacrament’. When looking at Bunyan’s attack on Paganism and Catholicism, Bunyan notes that ‘two Giants, Pope and Pagan, dwelt in old time, by whose Power and Tyranny the Men whose bones, blood, ashes &c. lay there, were cruelly put to death’ (p. 65). Bunyan makes it clear that the denominations of Christianity are, in his opinion, very divided, and, unlike Milton, his response to this particular failing of Christianity is to condemn the differing denominations, in order to emphasise the righteousness of his own Protestant beliefs, and the ‘traditional view that the Pope was Antichrist’.
Not only was there contention amongst the religious denominations, but there was a growing sense of scepticism towards religion, and a growing sense of the right to question God’s justness. Meric Casaubon’s work, The Originall Cause of Temporall Evils (1645), attempted to oppose the two ideas regarding evil’s origins that either God was of an envious nature, prompting him to let mankind fall, or that God is not omnipotent and could not prevent the fall. Either scenario paints God in a very questionable light. Milton seems to defend religion’s potential failings in Paradise Lost; Book V’s Argument notes that ‘God to render man inexcusable sends Raphael to admonish him of his obedience, of his free state, of his enemy near at hand’ (V. p. 115). Adam and Eve are made fully aware of the order not to eat the forbidden fruit, yet they both commit the deed regardless. Milton also makes clear that God is omnipotent and omniscient; he knows mankind will fall before it does, as he ‘foretells the success of Satan in perverting mankind; clears his own justice and wisdom from all imputation, having created man free and able enough to have withstood his tempter’, six books before it happens in Paradise Lost (p. 61). God notes that ‘I made him just and right, / Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall’, for ‘Not free, what proof could they have given sincere / Of true allegiance, constant faith or love’ (III, II. 98-99, 103-104, p. 64). However, Milton also emphasises that, while mankind did fall because God allowed mankind free will, God also sacrifices his own son, Jesus Christ, to offer salvation. Christ’s offering of himself is emphasised to be the greatest sacrifice God could make, as Christ is his ‘sole complacence!’ and for mankind does he ‘spare / Thee from my bosom and right hand, to save, / By losing thee awhile, the whole race lost’ (III, II. 276-280, p. 69). Milton’s emphasis on the justness of providing man with free will, and the dear sacrifice God makes, both shows God’s undoubted benevolence as well as his omnipotence in being able to offer redemption in spite of man’s ‘first disobedience’ (I, I. 1, p. 3). While Milton emphasises God’s benevolence, Bunyan seems to take a stance in which God’s intolerance of evil is expressed. All of the characters, of which there are several, whose names represent a sin, fall on the pilgrimage, such as Mr. Mony-love, Mr. By-ends, Mr. Hold-the-world, and Mr. Save-all, who all ‘fell into the Pit’, tempted by Demas, the son of Judas (p. 108). God is just, in The Pilgrim’s Progress, by allowing only the righteous, such as Faithful, into Heaven, and one way in which Bunyan emphasises God’s omnipotence and righteousness is by using the one-dimensional names of the characters to show that God is undoubtedly right in rejecting Sloth, for example, or for not letting Atheist ever find Heaven, but rather lets him wander for twenty years searching for it (p. 135). It is clear that such characters are unworthy of God’s glory, and it is also clear that they will suffer dearly for their turn away from God.
Atheism was indeed another matter of contention with regards to the supposed failure of religion. Michel de Certeau points out that ‘in France in the early seventeenth century, atheism became the focus of not only a whole body of literature, but also of political measures, judicial sentences, and social precautions against atheists….”Atheism”, which was never spoken of a hundred years earlier, becomes a recognized fact’. Gavin Hyman continues to add that ‘at the outset of modernity, minds in England and France are beginning to be afflicted and plagued with doubts, [and] the term “atheism” is being used here [in the seventeenth century] more in the manner of an accusation, a term of abuse’. Milton and Bunyan both take a similar stance in response to the idea of atheism. Halfway through Book I, Milton mentions the story of Eli, a priest whose profligate sons lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle; ‘when the priest / Turns atheist, as did Eli’s sons, who filled / With lust and violence the house of God’ (I, II. 494-496, p. 20). Undoubtedly, this reflection on atheism is disapproving, and Milton echoes the doomed fate of Eli’s house for the acts against God (1 Samuel 2-4). Unlike the idea of uniting denominations, Milton seems to take a clear stance on atheists’ irreparable fates, just as Bunyan does so. As mentioned beforehand, Bunyan includes an atheist as one of his characters, who ‘fell into a very great Laughter’ at the idea of Christian and Hopeful’s pilgrimage (p. 135). The atheist’s claim that he has ‘been seeking this City this twenty years’ echoes Ecclesiastes, Chapter 10, Verse 15, that ‘the toil of a fool wearies him, for he does not know the way to the city’. Bunyan portrays the atheist as ignorant, both because shortly afterwards Hopeful and Christian do make it to Mount Sion, and by referencing the Bible. As Christopher Hill asserted, ‘The Bible is Bunyan’s sheet-anchor, his defense against despair and atheism’. The seventeenth century enjoyed ‘a particularly rich time for reading and rereading the Bible….Private Bible reading was, after all, one of the linchpins of the Reformation’. Bunyan’s response to atheism therefore was to reinforce what the Bible says regarding a lack of belief, and, considering the vast majority of his readers would be familiar with the Bible, this was likely to be an effective way to emphasise the importance of religion to the country, and to respond to the potential disinterest concerning Christianity by providing such messages through a story of battles, heroes, and villains.
With consideration of how important religion appeared to be, both authors responded to the idea of the failure of religion by stressing the consequences of leading an irreligious life, in which God is abandoned, with the fearsome descriptions of Hell in contrast to the beauties of Heaven. Book I of Paradise Lost quickly moves onto a description of Hell, with the rebellious angels ‘Hurled headlong flaming from the ethereal sky / With hideous ruin and combustion down / To bottomless perdition, there to dwell / In adamantine chains and penal fire, / Who durst defy the omnipotent to arms’. In this fantastic description, Milton contrasts the ‘ethereal’ Heaven with the ‘hideous ruin and combustion’ of Hell, emphasising that this is the consequence for those ‘Who durst defy the omnipotent to arms’. The continued description of the horrors of Hell (pp. 5 – 6) is powerfully contrasted with the single line ‘O how unlike the place from whence they fell!’ (I, I. 75, p. 6), which pitifully stresses how indescribably far the angels have fallen. The terrors of Hell are a powerful way of discouraging an irreligious lifestyle, and the revelations that Michael the archangel reveals to Adam in Book XI, such as the immoral lifestyle of ‘luxury and riot, feast and dance, / Marrying or prostituting, as befell, / Rape or adultery’ leads to the ‘Flood [that] overwhelmed, and them with all their pomp / Deep under water rolled’ (XI, II. 715 – 717, II. 748-749, pp. 293-294). Milton’s descriptions of Hell, and the consequences of immoral lifestyles, perhaps responds to the idea of the failure of religion both for denominations which rebel against one another as well as atheists who reject God altogether. Similarly, Bunyan presents a terrible portrayal of Hell, in which all the sinful characters inevitably face their fate. While Heaven is presented as ‘the City [which] shone like the Sun, the Streets also were paved with Gold, and in them walked many men, with Crowns on their heads’, Vanity Fair is an immoral city in which ‘Lusts, Pleasures, and Delights of all sorts, as Whores, Bauds, Wives, Husbands’ reign; one does not need to be told that such lifestyles will lead to eternity in Hell (P. 162, p. 88). As a response to ‘the failure of religion’, both authors took a view which, while encouraging a religious life, was designed to terrify those who had denied religion in the past. Just as God is to be loved, both Johns show He is to be feared too.
Paradise Lost and The Pilgrim’s Progress are both heavily involved in religion, and, while they both staunchly seem to support religion in justifying God and encouraging a religious life, such work would not be needed in a world in which religion had no failings whatsoever. Milton would not have felt a need to explain God’s ways, and justify his actions towards mankind, if Britain had never questioned God beforehand. Bunyan would not have needed to publish his work for the very same reasons, nor would he have added such views with regards to Catholicism if he himself had not failed somewhat concerning religion and Christian solidarity. Both texts make particularly notable points with regards to the issues of Christian denominations and a lack of belief, and such issues seem to have been the major ones with regards to the questioned ‘failure of religion’. However, with regards to ‘the failure of religion’, it is unlikely that both works would have been so very popular if religion had failed entirely, and so, while the texts suggest religious issues were significant after the Restoration, the favourable responses to the texts themselves suggest religious matters were still of undisputed importance in the world.
Allegory and Obstacles in The Pilgrim’s Progress
In the classic allegory The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan explains the journey of a newly-saved believer. Bunyan’s story unraveled in a dream of a man named Christian. After reading a section in the bible, Christian tells his wife and children that he must find a way to deliver them from the City of Destruction or they will be burned by fire from Heaven. As Christian sat in a field crying for salvation, a man named Evangelist advised him to run toward a shining light that would lead him to the Wicket-gate where he could learn how to be saved. Throughout his journey to the Celestial City, Christian encountered people who tried to discourage him and lead him astray in many ways. Two of these deceiving people, Worldly Wiseman and Apollyon, symbolize very common setbacks that occur in the walk of believers.
Worldly Wiseman was a man of high standing in his hometown Carnal Policy. He had great knowledge of how the world sees morality. As he crossed paths with Christian he tried to convince him that going to the Celestial City was a waste of time. He told Christian not to take counsel from Evangelist or read the Bible because doing so would only lead him to peril and death. However, even though Mr. Worldly Wiseman seemed to know what he was talking about, he didn’t. He tried to deceive Christian into thinking that he could have happiness and be released from his burdens if only he lived a moral life. He considered people who took the hard road to the Celestial city foolish. (13-19)
For the most part, Worldly Wiseman allegorically represents the world’s scorn of having a relationship with God. The world’s outlook, and that of Worldly Wiseman, fits right into the Devil’s plan because it makes people believe that if they are a good person they will go to Heaven without having a relationship with God and without taking the sins from their life, which is just not true. Christian was led astray by what Worldly Wiseman told him until Evangelist found him again and got him back on the road to the Celestial City.
Apollyon was a horrific beast, in the Valley of Humiliation, who believed that he was lord and protector of all the land. He despised the Prince (Jesus) and killed anyone who went to seek Him. When Christian encountered Apollyon, he tried to strike fear in his heart. He told Christian to go back to his home in the City of Destruction or he would kill him as he did the others who passed to find the Prince. Christian did not listen to him, but instead told him that he liked the things of the Prince better than those of Apollyon and would not return to his previous home but continue his journey. Hearing these things enraged Apollyon and he decided to kill Christian. However Christian stood his ground and fought him for nearly half a day. Battered and injured things looked grim for Christian but when Apollyon turned his back the Lord gave him the strength he needed to pierce his sword into the monster, and he flew away bringing victory to Christian. (63-69)
Within the narrative, Apollyon symbolizes subjection to worldly power and the loss of spiritual freedom. He tried to take away Christian’s freedom to choose a path towards God. Apollyon is comparable to a dictator who demands that the people under his rule must not worship or follow God, but instead take part in worldly, sinful practices. This type of government is all too common in this world. It causes people to have less knowledge of God because people fear to share the gospel in highly persecuted countries. Also the people who do know the gospel must risk everything at times. It’s hard for a father to sacrifice his wife and children or his life to follow God. However, people in lost, tyrannical countries must stay strong and fearless in their walk with God, and missionaries must trust that God can protect them as they share His Word with those countries. Evangelist went into Apollyon’s dominion, knowing the dangers, in attempt to save as many people as possible. Christian left his home and family, and went through many trials and obstacles to follow God. God is infinitely worth it though, both Evangelist and Christian knew this.
Every character in The Pilgrim’s Progress allegorically stands in for obstacles or blessings that occur in a Christian’s walk with Christ. This essay is focused on the obstacles. One of the worst things that happens in Christian churches across the world is the spectacle of half-hearted “Christians” believing that they don’t need a relationship with God. Instead, they have the mindset of Mr. Worldly Wiseman and believe following religious rules alone can get them to Heaven. Another common obstacle in a Christian’s, or even a non-believer’s walk is persecution. Apollyon, much like the world’s dictators, persecuted all who wanted to follow God. This kind of leadership makes it much more difficult for believers to follow Christ. Worldly Wiseman and Apollyon both symbolize some of the most destructive problems in the lives of Christ’s followers. However, those problems in reality, just as in the book, can be overcome.
Biblical References in Pilgrim’s Progress
Pilgrim’s Progress is a work by John Bunyan that is considered to be one of the most well-known allegories of a spiritual journey. For one to even begin to understand this work, it is necessary to embark on one’s own personal spiritual journey. Biblical references and quotations are riddled in even the simplest moments of this work, to the extent that one is seemingly forced to open a Bible and find the hidden meaning. This essay will analyze three characters of Pilgrim’s Progress and demonstrate how biblical references led to further understanding of said characters, and how these references encouraged a personal spiritual journey.
Obstinate is introduced as Christian’s neighbour in the City of Destruction. He refuses to join Christian in his quest, exclaiming: “What!…and leave our Friends, and our Comforts behind us!” (Bunyan 13) From this exclamation alone, it is possible to deduct that Obstinate is both worldly and stubborn. His first thought is to defy Christian’s request, rather than consider the possibility of better options. This notion is supported by the explanatory note that refers the reader to 2 Corinthians 4:18. This verse says: “While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” This verse explains that to lust for things that are seen is wrong, for those that are not seen are the things that are important to seek after. Obstinate is demonstrating a temporal perspective, and refuses to waver from his ideas. He refuses to abandon his friends and his comfort, both of which are in the category of temporal ideals. Christian attempts to aid him in seeking for things of an eternal nature, but to no avail. Isaiah 48:4 aids in the understanding of his character by using his name to explain another stubborn person in the Bible. It says: “Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass” (KJV, Isaiah. 48. 4). This verse demonstrates that to be obstinate means to have a neck of iron sinew, and a brow of brass. To have a neck of iron sinew means to be unwavering in beliefs and stance. Obstinate as an attribute is also referred to in the Bible as stubborn; the footnote in the Bible for stubborn leads to 1 Samuel 15:23, which says: “stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.” This explanation accurately describes Obstinate; to avoid progression is considered sin, and to put comforts and people before God is considered idolatry. Obstinate, both as a character and as an attribute, is considered to be iniquity. With that understanding, it enables the reader to understand that Obstinate’s character is one that represents slothfulness and iniquity, one that considers temporal needs as most important, and therefore the reader can more fully understand Obstinate’s role in the life of Christian.
Worldy Wiseman is a practical man that Christian meets during the early part of his journey. He believes in living a secular life, and attempts to convince Christian to stray from his pilgrimage. To fully understand his character, it is important to understand each part of his name. Worldly, in both the Bible and The Pilgrim’s Progress, is considered to be ungodly. In this case, the word world represents the carnal desires of man. As 1 John 2:15 states, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” This verse states that one cannot have one eye to the world and one eye to God; it is necessary to have an eternal perspective. From the first word of Worldly Wiseman’s name, it is possible to understand that he is not a positive/helpful character for Christian to associate himself with. Wiseman is his second name, and to aid the understanding of this name it is necessary to separate the name into two words. Those who are wise (in the Bible) are commonly those who seek worldly knowledge and not spiritual knowledge. They lean on the arm of man, and not on the arm of God. As Proverbs 3:5 states, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.” The Lord instead encourages meekness, which considered to be a Christ-like attitude. Christ delivered the Sermon on the Mount in the fifth chapter of Matthew, and in the seventh verse of this chapter he says, “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (KJV, Matt. 5. 7.) Meek has a different connotation in the Bible than it does in the world; Christ likens this attribute unto himself in Matthew 11:29: he says: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.” Although Christ is the Son of the all-knowing God, He refers to Himself as being meek, not wise. Meekness is to have humility, while being wise is to be stiff-necked. Worldly Wiseman considers his counsel to be so wise that he rebukes the counsel of Evangelist: he says: “I beshrow him for his counsel…And why should a man so carelessly cast away himself, by giving heed to a stranger?” (Bunyan 19) Not only does Worldly Wiseman look down upon Evangelist for his counsel, but he also states the ironic observation that Christian should never ‘give heed to a stranger’. Evangelist and Worldly Wiseman are both strangers to Christian, yet Worldly Wiseman finds it rash to heed the warnings of Evangelist but necessary to listen to himself. This example shows that Worldly Wiseman is not meek in the slightest; he considers his counsel to be the most sound, to the extent that he considers himself to be the exception of the rule. The second part of his last name is ‘man’. Man, in a biblical sense, is considered to be a lesser version of God. Though created after the image of God, man is mortal and has imperfections. Man is not perfect like the all-knowing God; man struggles with pride and shortcomings. Man lives in the world, and is not privy to the beauty and knowledge of Celestial glory due to his imperfections. After analyzing the name of Worldy Wiseman, the reader is able to view him as what he truly is; a son of man that is wise, but nothing compared to God.
Faithful is an old friend of Christian that reunites with him before they enter the city of Vanity-Fair. Evangelist said to the pair: “be you sure that one of both of you must seal the testimony of which you hold, with blood: but be you faithful unto death, and the King will give you a Crown of life!” (Bunyan 85) This quote means that at least one of the pair would perish because of their faith, but that if they remain faithful until death they will be crowned with celestial glory. Despite this warning, Christian and Faithful continued into Vanity-Fair and were taken captive. They were persecuted for their faith, and it was determined that Faithful would be the one killed. Until the very end of his life, Faithful remained steadfast in his beliefs. His last recorded words were: “That what Rule, or Laws, Custom, or People, were flat against the Word of God, are diametrically opposite to Christianity.” (92) Faithful heeded the advice of Evangelist by being faithful unto death, and demonstrated true Christianity. After his death he was immediately “carried through the Clouds, with the sound of Trumpet, the nearest way to the Celestial Gate” (95). Just as Evangelist promised, he was given the Crown of life. The story of Faithful is similar to the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego from the book of Daniel in the Bible. They were commanded by Nebuchadnezzar to worship the golden idol, but they refused because of their belief in the Ten Commandments that Moses had received on Mount Sinai. Upon their refusal to worship idols, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were cast into a fiery furnace. However, God preserved them just as He promised to preserve the faithful. In this case they were saved from harm and death, but there are other times in the Bible when that means that the faithful would receive an even greater reward. On page 85 of Pilgrim’s Progress Evangelist states the same principle. He says: “He that shall die there…he will yet have the better of his fellow; not only because he will be arrived at the Celestial City soonest, but because he will escape many miseries that the other will meet with in the rest of his Journey.” (Bunyan 85) This quote explains that by sealing their testimonies with blood, they will be saved from further misery and will be awarded with Celestial glory. Just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were awarded by God for their faithfulness, Faithful was given his award of celestial life and preservation from further misery.
The biblical references in Pilgrim’s Progress both aided the understanding of characters and allowed for a personal spiritual journey as references led to verses with different references and extended levels of meaning. The names of Bunyan’s characters alone were deep in meaning and encouraged the reader to understand more fully what it means to be obstinate, wordly, and faithful. Bunyan created two spiritual journeys: Christian’s, and the reader’s, as he sent the reader on a quest to more fully understand the lessons he sought to teach.
Bibliography: Bunyan, John. The Pilgrim’s Progress. Ed. W. R. Owens. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print. The Holy Bible. Ed. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2013. Web. Authorized King James Vers.
An Apology for This Book: Authorial Power in The Pilgrim’s Progress
John Bunyan, as he tells us in his prefatory remarks, didn’t mean to write Pilgrim’s Progress; it all happened while he was otherwise engaged. His Apology, at least at first, takes on the word’s modern connotations. He regrets having inflicted the reader with the book, which wasn’t his fault, and he seems on the verge of promising not to do it again. Even the aggressive act of publication is taken by the author out of the author’s hands. Not knowing whose advice to follow, Bunyan prints “to prove then who advised for the best” (2), and lets the audience be the ultimate accountant. But after he has made sufficient excuses, he lets loose with pages of justification and outright praise for his book: “Art thou for something rare, and profitable?/ Wouldst thou see a Truth within a Fable” (6). This confidence is allowed by the earlier diffidence. Bunyan, following some dictates of nerve and etiquette, needs to make a protective abdication of his power as the author in order to proceed with the book. But it does not end with the Apology. Abdication of power is a prominent feature of Bunyan’s style throughout his book, and it reflects the fissure at the heart of a writer in his position: when pursuing the ends of faith through the means of fiction, how far into God’s territory can you intrude? In other words, when religion becomes art, who is the creator?Fiction is therefore a disturbing proposition. Bunyan’s discomfort manifests itself in a certain unwillingness to go so far as to create a work of fiction, though fiction seems the natural inclination of his talent. Even his spiritual autobiography, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, is full of vivid, homely metaphors that tend to expand into miniature narratives. Yet Christian’s story is presented as a dream of the author’s, something visited on him rather than created by him. And within that dream allegories are presented, stories are told, and of course, dreams are dreamt. Within the great narrative there are smaller narratives, and narratives within those as well. The effect of all these layers is to erode the boundaries of fiction and remove the teller. As in Cervantes’ Don Quixote, the surrogate authors diffuse attention from the ultimate author, who, in Bunyan’s case, may be doing something he shouldn’t.For in Christianity, God is the ultimate author. And, in Protestantism especially, the Bible is the ultimate text. The Puritanical insistence on a return to that text, eschewing the trappings of Catholicism, created a vacuum for supporting mythology and tradition that could only be filled problematically. Protestantism was a young religion both lacking and ideologically opposed to the rituals that make religion comfortable. As Pilgrim’s Progress demonstrates, the unassisted journey to God is the hardest and most dangerous path. But Protestant didactic fictions, helper texts like Pilgrim’s Progress, had no certain place in a newly written tradition. Islam, for example, has a well defined system separating God’s own words from various categories of story and criticism, with guidance as to the authority of each. For the Puritans, only the Bible was meant to have authority. It was not merely a young religion, but a religion committed to remaining young, defined by endless new encounters with one sacred text.The primacy of the bible conflicts with the needs of the writer. The Bible is not on par with the Romans and Greeks that formed Milton’s tradition, nor the Romances that formed Bunyan’s. It is the truth, and its author is God. But writing a new text demands that the Bible become, in some measure, just another source. A writer must be able to borrow from, steal from and manipulate his sources. This amounts to an assertion of power over the author, an act of one up-manship. How do you appropriate the words of God? Can the Bible be just another text? In Grace Abounding, the ‘fiend’ of Bunyan’s own doubt suggests:…whether the holy Scriptures were not rather a fable and cunning story, than the holy and pure word of God?…The tempter would much assault me with this: How can you tell but that the Turks had as good scriptures to prove their Mahomet the savior, as we have to prove our Jesus is… Everyone doth think his own religion rightest, both Jews, and Moors, and Pagans; and how if all our faith, and Christ, and Scriptures, should be a think-so too? -(27)No wonder Bunyan is so cautious about the tendency of fiction to demote the Bible or One Book to one book among many: He actually- though the thought is foisted off onto a devil- flirted with that outrageous idea.Vincent Newey, noting that Bunyan was treading dangerous ground, identifies Pilgrim’s Progress as a preliminary force in a movement that has “left us largely god-less and without faith… adventurers seeking our treasure within the consciousness… or in the emotional lessons or intriguing structures of the text itself, or wherever it might be found” (28). Bunyan is certainly not god-less, but, as Newey points out, his creation of an inwardly reliant hero in a world where the mysticism of the holy spirit is hardly felt might have helped make god-lessness a possibility. The story is about Christian, not God. God is less a pervasive presence than an occasional help on the journey. Therefore, the danger of Christian’s maker slipping into the role of creator is always there.The tension between the demands of authorship and the demands of professorship is always there, defining Bunyan’s use of allegory and the inconsistencies thereof. The best excuse for the romance format- the one given in the Apology- is that of straight allegory: the adventures and obstacles encountered are not mere storytelling sensations, but edifying metaphors of the inward difficulties suffered by the seeker after God. But Bunyan often swerves from that standard, occasionally delivering moments of supreme disorientation. In the second book, the helper Great-Heart says of the pilgrim Fearing, “he had, I think, a Slow of Dispond in his mind, a Slow that he carried everywhere with him” (207). He had a slow of Dispond where? the allegorical reader is inclined to protest, on the grounds that a symbol walking through symbols cannot use symbols to describe other symbols, especially if they are already part of the symbolic landscape. But the anomalous sentence only throws light on the way Bunyan slips from one mode to another. The allegorical landscape becomes a Romantic and even a realistic one, while the component pilgrims become characters: “Not Honesty in the abstract, but Honest is my name” (205).That last example, also from the second part, shows a certain awareness and acceptance of the fact that characters are being drawn. Indeed, although there are similar examples in the first part (Hopeful who is hopeful, for instance), the second part discards some of its trepidation. After the phenomenal success of his first book, he seems readier to claim the authorial role. The preface this time is no apology, but a fond address to his new creation, which is able to reply in Christiana’s voice. The character is not only allowed life within the romance/allegory, but has achieved enough vitality to exist outside it, and to speak to her creator. The creator is Bunyan, not God, but the authority of part one has somehow made that less problematic.This contrast between parts one and two is particularly revealing. N. H. Keeble, in his essay Christiana’s Key, wonders at the split made by critics between the two. He cites the careful touches of geography and motif that link them, supporting the idea that part two was written to bolster and complete the theology and story of part one: to show the various kinds of pilgrims, to show penitence in a social rather than personal context, to include women. But it seems more likely that part two was written for the usual reason sequels are written: because the original was a success. This is not to say Bunyan had a mercenary motive. Rather, as it is made plain in the opening poem, Christian had become a famed trope, and his lend both confidence and a new subject to the author. The many references to part one create a cozy, excited feeling, the comfortable arousal of a reader being allowed to visit the landscape of a book in a new way. Christiana travels in her Christian’s footsteps, revisiting her husband everywhere, and picking up companions who speak with awe of the legendary pilgrim. By following Christian’s path as it is described in Bunyan’s work, they achieve salvation.Part two is an investigation of part one’s effect on the world. In it, the author gives himself supreme vindication, not, like a prophet, by declaring himself the mouthpiece of God, but by representing his efficacy through fiction. Like Dispondencie, Honest, and Feeble-mind, readers may follow the text and be saved. But the recursive nature of the justification again raises the perennial issue: the dissolvement of God’s authority into Bunyan’s. Christiana’s story is the story of Christian’s success- but as a conversion text, or a work of fiction?Works CitedBunyan, John. The Pilgrim’s Progress. Ed. Keeble. Oxford, 1984.Bunyan, John. Grace abounding to the Chief of Sinners. Penguin, 1987Keeble, N.H. “Christiana’s Key: The Unity of The Pilgrim’s Progress”. The Pilgrim’s Progress: Critical and Historical Views. Ed. Vincent Newey. Liverpool, 1980.Newey, Vincent. “Bunyan and the Confines of the Mind.” The Pilgrim’s Progress: Critical and Historical Views. Ed. Vincent Newey. Liverpool, 1980