I’m rereading Pilgrim’s Progress… again. I’ve probably read it at least a dozen times, and I can’t explain why, but it seems to get better every time! I’d love for you to be able to share in my joy, so I humbly offer you seven reasons to pick up Pilgrim’s Progress for yourself and give it a read.
1. It’s a classic.
While Pilgrim’s Progress may not show up on every literary classics lists, it is certainly a Christian classic. John Bunyan (1628-1688) was a pastor in Britain at a time when there were serious restrictions on worship for believers. He was arrested for preaching the gospel, and during his time in prison, he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. This allegory of the Christian life has stood the test of time. It is one of the best-selling books of all time with over 250 million copies sold.
2. It’s biblical.
While I don’t agree that everything in Pilgrim’s Progress is an accurate picture of the Christian life, there is a lot to like. Charles Spurgeon quipped about Bunyan: “This man is a living Bible! Prick him anywhere—his blood is Bibline, the very essence of the Bible flows from him. He cannot speak without quoting a text, for his very soul is full of the Word of God.” Get an annotated version of Pilgrim’s Progress to help you identify the Bible passages Bunyan had in mind at particular points in the story.
3. It’s profound.
The main character, Christian, is a pilgrim who is traveling from the city of Destruction (this world) to the Celestial City (heaven). He has many adventures along the way, and his story gives us powerful insights into the Christian life. For example, at one point, Christian is arrested by a giant called Despair, who locks him up in Doubting Castle. But then he finds a key called Promise with which he is able to escape. Every time I read Pilgrim’s Progress, I walk away with nuggets about God, myself, and the Christian life.
4. It’s enjoyable.
Pilgrim’s Progress is not a textbook on the Christian life. It is an allegory of the Christian life. In other words, it is a story that shows us what the Christian life is like. Perhaps this is why it has so often been adapted for children. I read through a children’s version with each of my four kids in later elementary school, and I’ve reread it just about every year since—not because I ought to, but because I want to. Once you’ve read Pilgrim’s Progress, you will want to come back to it again and again.
5. It’s understandable.
Bunyan’s genius was to capture the profound realities of Christian experience in pictures that anyone can understand. In my opinion, every Christian home should have a copy of this book. But here’s the problem: Bunyan wrote in the seventeenth century, and his language is sometimes hard to read. So, I was thrilled when Crossway published a beautifully illustrated edition of Pilgrim’s Progress in modern English. There are other good versions of this book too, but this one is a real gem!
6. It’s valuable.
A surprising number of Christian leaders over the years have found Pilgrim’s Progress uniquely valuable. Charles Spurgeon said, “Next to the Bible, the book I value most is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I believe I have read it through at least a hundred times.” J. I. Packer in his book Praying said that he read Pilgrim’s Progress every year for fifty years! And Pastor Colin Smith said that if he were stranded on a desert island, next to the Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress would be the book he would most like to have with him.
7. It’s sharable.
If you had lived a hundred years ago and you were a Christian, odds are that you would have had a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress in your home. This is no longer the case. I would estimate that less than 1 in 10 Christians I know have read Pilgrim’s Progress, and if you’ll humor me for a moment, 99% of Christians I talk to under the age of 30 have never heard of Pilgrim’s Progress. So, if you choose to read Pilgrim’s Progress, you could have the privilege of introducing it to your friends and family.
This month you can get a copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan by making a gift of any amount to Unlocking the Bible.