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Pilgrim's Progress: The Theology Of Justification By Faith

937 words - 4 pages

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan tells the story of Christian, a deeply religious man whose self-imposed pilgrimage takes him through a variety of locations in his quest to reach Celestial City. However, to better understand Bunyan's perspective on Christianity as given in his novel, we must examine the life experiences of the author. Born in 1628, Bunyan lived in a time period that was undoubtedly heavily influenced by the Reformation movement incited by Martin Luther only a century earlier. The lives of Luther and Bunyan parallel in that both disagreed with fundamental doctrines applied by the Church in their lifetime. Additionally, both were labeled as dissenters and subsequently persecuted for adhering to their own principles (Bunyan, Introduction pg. XVII). Perhaps the most striking similarity was their common belief in the theological teaching of justification by faith, and the role, or lack thereof, of works in acquiring salvation (Perry, Peden, Von Laue, pgs. 18-19). The concept of justification by faith and the zero sum value of works as taught by Luther is the central theme of the novel The Pilgrim's Progress and the basic position concerning Christianity that Bunyan conveys to the reader. Three examples of this position contained within the novel include Christian's opinion of morality and legality as a result of his encounter with Mr. Worldly-Wiseman, Christian's definition of hypocrisy and the subsequent demise of By-ends, and finally the refusal of admittance to the Celestial City for Ignorance, despite his works.

First, near the beginning of his journey, Christian meets with Mr. Worldly-Wiseman. Christian confesses his burden to him, and in rebuke Mr. Worldly-Wiseman condemns the counsel of Evangelist. Instead, he suggests that Christian seek the advice of a man in a Village named Morality, where dwells a Gentleman, whose name is Legality (Bunyan, 19). Christian initially accepts this suggestion, for he is told by Mr. Worldly-Wiseman that Legality is a man who is known for his good works (Bunyan, 19). Christian them embarks on the trip to the Village of Morality, but in transit he encounters a hill that proved an insurmountable obstacle, along with the reappearance of Evangelist who shames him for trusting in the earthly qualities of morality and legality (Bunyan, 20-22). Therein we see confirmation of the notion that justification is by faith alone. For Christian, via the instruction and teachings of Evangelist, discards the knowledge and virtues of the concepts of morality and legality as nothing more than a fruitless diversion in comparison to seeking the Celestial City (Bunyan, 22).

Second, we see the concept of justification by faith alone supported by the definition of By-ends as a hypocrite and his ill-fated end. When...

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