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Valiant-For-Truth’s Parents

April 20, 2011 2 comments

In the Second Part of Pilgrim’s Progress, Valiant-For-Truth’s parents dissuade him from going on a pilgrimage – read: They don’t want him to be a Christian. Here are the reasons they give:

  1. The way is too hard.
  2. He will be tricked and taken in by people.
  3. He will just end up coming back anyway.
  4. Mr. Hypocrisy will be waiting for him.

It seems like Mr. Hypocrisy has been hanging around the church for quite some time now. The others are interesting objections against being a Christian, but all of them except Mr. Hypocrisy don’t really reflect the concerns of people today.

Rather than concerns 1 – 3, I think parents today would mainly be worried not only about Mr. Hypocrisy, but also Mr. Intolerance, Mr. Bigotry, Mr. Hate-Speak, Mr. Doctrinaire, Mr. Close-Mind, and Mr. Fundamentalist. And they would not only be afraid about simply meeting these particular gentlemen, but that being a Christian means actually becoming one of them.

I suppose these fears are sadly justifiable, however it seems to me that it is more dependent on how the individual child is raised, rather than what religious belief they hold to. If you raise doctrinaire kids, they’ll grow up to be doctrinaire Christians. If you raise close-minded kids, they’ll grow up to be close-minded Christians. The question isn’t whether Christianity makes you that way, the question is: Why do Christian parents raise these types of children?

Valley of Humiliation pt. 2

April 18, 2011 Leave a comment

In the Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian meets up with Apollyon in the Valley of Humiliation, where he is humiliated (surprise, surprise) by having his failures exposed to him (read the blog post here). In the Second Part, Bunyan explains to us just exactly how this works.

It turns out that the only reason Christian had a hard time through the Valley was because of his pride. If someone is humble, then the Valley is not an awful trial for them, but rather a bountiful meadow. But what exactly makes this any different? It’s the same Valley, after all.

Bunyan explains to us that everyone slips up in the Valley. It is simply too steep a climb not to fall every once in a while. If you are prideful when entering the Valley, the inevitable slip-ups will be the source of great embarrassment to you, and Satan will take that opportunity to pounce on you.

But by itself, slipping-up isn’t what matters. Like I said: Everybody falters. The difference is that it’s only those who are humiliated about it that suffer through it. The humble go through the Valley rejoicing. They also slip, but they know that they must slip, and they thank God for helping them through.

This is an extremely difficult message for me to hear. I hate screwing up, and what’s worse, I hate it when others see me screw up. I can tell you from experience that I have a really hard time walking through this Valley. And unfortunately for me, it’s a Valley I often find myself in the middle of.

Bunyan’s Theodicy

April 16, 2011 Leave a comment

Very simply, a ‘theodicy’ is an explanation of why there is evil in the world if there is an all-loving, all-knowing, all-powerful God in charge of things. The two facts don’t seem to fit together, and it’s something that monotheistic religions have often felt the need to offer justifications for (and rightly so).

Though some moderns toss their hands in the air exclaiming it to be a hopeless contradiction, this is a bit of an overstatement. The problem basically boils down to explanation. What possible explanation could God have for allowing such evil and hardship in this world? To simply say there can be no possible explanation is pretty well recognized as being illogical, but that alone doesn’t get us off the hook. Theologians have been offering possible answers since there have been theologians around to think about it.

In the Second Part of Pilgrim’s Progress, Bunyan adds a short theodicy of his own, almost as a side note.

Read more…

Evangelist

April 14, 2011 Leave a comment

During their abuse at Vanity Fair, Christian and Faithful are comforted by remembering the words of Evangelist from back before their journey even began. Evangelist told Christian that things like this would probably happen, and that people will be angry with them for even going on their journey.

It’s a sad truth that most evangelists today say the exact opposite of Bunyan’s Evangelist. Instead of warning about the hardships of following Christ, they come off as salesmen trying to impress upon people that by choosing Jesus, things will somehow be better. This modern style of evangelism flies in the face of pretty much everything that Jesus himself taught on the matter. Time and time again, he told his followers that they will be hated, attacked, and persecuted for their decision to follow him. We don’t do anyone any service by covering this part of his teaching up.

What comfort would Christian and Faithful had if Evangelist had not warned them of what was to come? If Evangelist had merely told them that their lives will be easier, and they were only following Christ under the pretext that it would be nothing but smooth sailing, what else would they do but abandon it when things started getting tough?

It is to our shame that we have neglected this part of the message. We are not called to follow Christ because it’s helpful to us, or it will make our lives comfortable, we are called to follow Christ simply because it’s the truth. Christian and Faithful are aware of this and it is the rock they stand on throughout their many trials.

When asked what they will buy at Vanity Fair, they respond by saying succinctly: “We buy the truth.”

Vanity Fair

April 11, 2011 Leave a comment

As Christian and Faithful pass through Vanity Fair, they are thrown into prison, put on trial, found guilty, and Faithful is tortured and burned at the stake. The reason behind their trial and martyrdom is a simple one: They didn’t buy anything at the Fair. The charge against them is non-conformity.

This is a petty thing to kill over, but we see this same kind of sentiment all the time. People absolutely hate it when you don’t join in with the rest of the crowd. Our inaction is sometimes more of a threat than any action could be.

They want us to join the herd and act as everyone else does because when we don’t, we are taking away from everyone the excuse of – “But this is what everybody does.” By not participating in their actions, you make them accountable and rob them of any justification they thought they had in the matter.

The smaller the minority of dissenters is, the more the majority hate you for not going along.

The Valley of Humiliation

April 9, 2011 3 comments

The reason the Valley of Humiliation carries that name, is because it is in this valley that Apollyon tries to humiliate you for not following God perfectly.

On the surface of it, this seems like a counter-intuitive way for the devil to act. Surely God is the one who is concerned about us following his laws, isn’t it? Shouldn’t it be him who scolds us for not doing things right? Why does the devil care? Instead of this, perhaps Bunyan should have tried to get Apollyon to make Christian hate God and feel good about himself. This seems like it would be more appropriate.

But Bunyan hasn’t written it that way, and rightly so. God is not the one who tries to make us feel bad for not acting perfectly all the time. That’s what the devil always does. Contrary to popular thought, the devil doesn’t want you to feel good about yourself, he wants you to feel as terrible about yourself as he can. And he goes about this by showing you everything you’ve ever done wrong. He humiliates you.

Humiliation is his great weapon he uses to achieve his ultimate goal. His hope is that you will become sick and tired of feeling unworthy and judged all the time, and come to hate God and all his stupid rules. He does this by making God nothing but an overbearing killjoy.

Read more…

Not Wanting Others Saved

March 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Before Christian even enters the Wicket Gate, Mr. Worldly Wiseman intercepts him and gets him to give up his quest in favor of going to house of Legality instead. It makes sense for Worldly Wiseman not to go to the Cross himself, since he takes comfort in following the rules of Legality and Civility and is counting on them to ease his conscience concerning his ultimate fate. But why does he go out of his way to keep others from the Cross? What benefit is it for him to have anyone else follow his example?

The motivations behind his actions are the same most people have behind wanting others to defect to their own position. Mr. Worldly Wiseman has taken comfort in following Legality’s quaint rules and regulations. He hates the Cross of Christ, because the ramifications of the Cross really being what it claims to be, is that Mr. Worldly Wiseman himself is NOT okay. The Cross means that he CAN’T attain his own salvation by following the Law the way he hopes that he can. The Cross means that we are to give up our own attempts and cling to Christ. Everything Worldly Wiseman has worked for is useless if the Cross is real.

There is a comfort in knowing that others have also taken the path you have chosen. Any doubts that might arise can be quashed simply by looking at all the others who have joined you in the sinking boat you’re all in. But when you look away from your own group and see someone going along a different path only to have their burden removed FOR them… those fears and feelings of inadequacy return.┬áIt means that your own burden should not have been removed, and all your works to remove it yourself have been in vain.

There is a similar incident in the Second Part of Pilgrim’s Progress. Christiana decides to leave on the path to the Celestial City for herself, and her neighbors come to try and dissuade her. Christiana hasn’t done anything to them, and nothing particularly bad would happen to them if she did leave, yet still they can’t stand to see her go. The reasoning is the same as Worldly Wiseman’s: If Christianity is true, then they are not safe. Christian’s and Christiana’s very existence is a threat to their way of life. It’s easier to try to ignore it and to keep living their life the same way they were, than to imagine it might be true and follow it themselves.

The more people you can be around who think the same way you do, the easier it becomes to ignore the whole matter, and think that all those ‘other people’ are just crazy after all.