My friend Doug Jones–with whom I have disagreements, etc.–nails it on his assessment of Pilgrim’s Progress. I have never loved the book, but I understand that it is an evangelical obsession. Here’s Jones’ critique of the book in two paragraphs: a
Certainly one of the most misleading classics of the modern period was Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Its influence seeped deep into Protestant culture, so deep that recovery from it will take centuries. The book’s message wasn’t new in itself. It gathered all the worst emphases of the Reformation in one place and soaked our consciousness thoroughly.
Pilgrim’s Progress presents a deeply selfish vision of salvation. It pretends to be about self-denial all while forcing a radical self-focus. Selfish salvation assumes that each Christian stars as the main character in the gospel story. Selfish salvation believes that the gospel is primarily about getting individuals into heaven and that self-interest is the primary motivation that gets us there. Selfish salvation focuses on an individual’s struggle with personal sins over and above the community.
- Dismissing Jesus, chapter 9 (back)