To be a pilgrim

"But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly..."


How ironic that one so unsure of his spiritual condition should have been so successful in his desire to assist others in their spiritual progress. The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come, to give it its full title, is the second most popular book in English and has been translated into over 200 other languages. Only the Bible itself has sold more copies. Which is exactly as the author of Pilgrim's Progress would have wanted it. In the scriptures of the Old and New Testaments of the The Bible, John Bunyan found the keys to understanding the unfolding drama of his own life. Only it wasn't so straight-forward. He had to do a lot of rummaging - and wrestling! He treads a fine line between receiving God's grace and accepting that it is sufficient to secure his salvation. So he "works out" that salvation in the tortuous progress of Christian towards the celestial city.


The autobiographical resonances of Pilgrim's Progress suggest that Bunyan regarded The Bible not so much as a narrative in its own right but as a repository of truths and insights with which the contemporary disciple/ pilgrim may interpret the trajectory of their own life's narrative. This is not to diminish The Bible, for which Bunyan had the highest regard. Instead it shines a light on how Bunyan and his contemporaries responded to two significant breakthroughs which occurred during his lifetime (1628 - 1688): the availability of The Bible in vernacular translations and the surpassing of a 50% literacy rate in England. Finally the scriptures were accessible to the majority of citizens and Bunyan was determined that England would make the most of the opportunity!


So, who will repeat the compliment in an age obsessed by innovative forms of literacy and how will that be achieved?...

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