ark Galli recently noted: “A few decades ago, Christianity Today asked leading evangelicals of the previous generation what books most shaped them, and the one book mentioned by almost every one was Pilgrim’s Progress.”1 The powerful influence of this book, first published in 1678, has been long-standing. Leland Ryken, now professor emeritus of English at Wheaton College, calls it “a Christian classic whose importance is impossible to overstate.” According to Ryken, “For more than two centuries after its first publication, The Pilgrim’s Progress ranked just behind the King James Bible as the most important book in evangelical Protestant households.”2 He observes that “through the ages, parents have read The Pilgrim’s Progress to their children much as they read Bible stories to them.”3 J.I. Packer states that “next to the Bible, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is the best-selling Christian book of all time,” and “by common consent it is Bunyan’s masterpiece and a milestone in English literature, both sacred and secular.”4
What kind of a book is The Pilgrim’s Progress? At one level, the book tells the story of a journey by a man named Christian from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. However, the book is more than just a travel story. Pastor and theologian Derek Thomas described it this way in a sermon series about the book:
Now this book, of course, is an allegory, the illustrative representation of one thing by another; and in Bunyan’s case, he will employ parables and metaphors, and fancies (by which you and I would read “fantasies”), and similitudes in Pilgrim’s Progress of every sort, and he does this by seeing the Christian life as a journey, a road trip, to the Celestial City, to heaven.
Then he pictures that road as straight and narrow, and strewn with all kinds of dangers and temptations and pitfalls, and then by introducing to us characters with delightful names, illustrative as they are of events and issues and realities and circumstances that all of us as Christians are familiar with — folk like Worldly Wiseman, and Lord Hategood, and Mr. Legality, and Mr. Liveloose, and Giant Despair — as well as places, including the House of Interpreter, and Doubting Castle, and the Valley of Humiliation, Delectable Mountains, and By-Path Meadow.5
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