John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress is a masterpiece of Christian writing. Indeed, it has sometimes been referred to as an example of ‘inspired’ writing, with the intention of thereby demoting the idea of biblical inspiration to that of any other insightful spiritual writing.
But this will not work. The Baptist theologian A.H. Strong (following W.H.P. Faunce) suggested that, great as it is, Pilgrim’s Progress actually falls short of scriptural teaching about the Christian life in some important ways:-
1. In its despair of this world, The Pilgrim has to leave this world in order to be saved. But as Christians we long to do God’s will here, and to save others instead of forsaking them.
2. In its agony over sin and frightful conflict, Bunyan illustrates true Christian experience better by Christiana and her children who go through the Valley and the Shadow of Death in the daytime, and without conflict with Apollyon.
3. In the constant uncertainty of the issue of the Pilgrim’s fight, Christian enters Doubting Castle and meets Giant Despair, even after he has won most of his victories. But a more biblical faith believes that, “at evening time there shall be light” – (Zechariah 14:7).
4. In the constant conviction of an absent Christ, Bunyan’s Christ is never met this side of the Celestial City. The Cross at which the burden dropped is the symbol of a sacrificial act, but it is not the Savior himself. But we trust in a Christ who lives in us and with us today, and not simply a Christ whom we hope to see at the end of the journey.
A.H. Strong, Systematic Theology