This question is NOT:

  • what does John Bunyan believe about predestination

  • is predestination biblically accurate?

This question is:

  • Does "Pilgrim's Progress" take a position on predestination?

  • And if so, which chapter / section?


4 Answers 4


Here is an argument in favor of Pilgrim's Progress supporting predestination.

The names of the characters defines their behavior.

Faith, Christian, and Hopeful made it to the heavenly kingdom.

Timid, Athiest, Ignorance: not so much.

Furthermore, characters do not change their name. [For example, there is, afaik, not a section which details how "Christian" used to be named "Unbeliever" and then later changes his name.]

  • This is a rather large leap. It is more likely that the names are queues designed to direct the reader. It is , after all, an allegory. May 21, 2017 at 2:36

I can't point to a particular chapter but the entire book is written as if the author rejects predestination in the Calvinist sense. (Meaning irresistible grace)

The entirety of the book is written as if our choices matter - as if we have a choice. Based on that, I'd say that the book does take a position opposed to predestination in that sense, but I can't give one chapter/section that specifically makes an out and out statement.

  • Of course, "Irresistible Grace" is not the only application of predestination. If you had something else in mind, please clarify. Dec 29, 2012 at 4:07
  • 2
    I think I'm going to -1 this as an unconvincing argument with no backup and a tenuous definition of the theology. Calvinism doesn't deny that our choices matter, particularly AFTER being called. In Bunyan's story, Christian was called to and end he wasn't searching for, arrested by an idea that he knew was true without wanting it to be so, convicted of his sin by no decision of his own. After calling he was repeatedly set on the right road by fortuitous interventions and shown grace even when he failed. The story is much loved by Calvinists partly because it's quite consistent with our views.
    – Caleb
    Jan 4, 2013 at 9:04
  • @Caleb No problem. That is a good take on it! You should post it as an answer. While I don't agree with the conclusion, I can't argue your reasoning and it would get my +1. I wonder how much disagreement on the topic is based on the understanding of the definition, as well. It sounds to me like the difference we have on answering this question mirrors the difference that's been argues for ages on the theology. Jan 4, 2013 at 12:55
  • I've been uncomfortable with this answer anyway. As noted in my comment, predestination != irresistible grace. Baptists believe on predestination, but believe it is compatible with the existence of free will, partly because of how you explained it... God put those interventions in his road, and I'd fully agree with the statement that He knew from before the foundations of the world that He would intervene - those interventions were predestined. (Even for the fictional character conceived by Bunyan. God would know what Bunyan would write if He is truly Omniscient.) Jan 4, 2013 at 13:12
  • 1
    We disagree on "irresistible grace" because of how we understand the definition of the term. We believe that God puts those events and people in our path that cause is to choose to repent and put our trust in Christ. We do believe He chose us first, but balk at the idea of Calvinism because we think it denies free will. Perhaps we're not as far apart as we think and argue semantics more than Truth. Jan 4, 2013 at 13:21

John Bunyan's Piligrim progress in fact well supports Pre-destination and pre-choice. When the preacher gave Gospel, the Christian determined to set out to the celestial city. During the course of his journey many others also follow him, but they were not determined and lose the way. Although Christian faltered many times, God's grace was sufficient for him to reach there. The door was open for everyone (Rom.10:11-12) some have backtracked with their own choice, but those determined to put their trust in Him only would possess (Rom.10:13). Once they entered, the door is shut behind and their appears: "You are predestined to be conformed..." (Rom.8:29).

  • The question is referring to "which chapter and verse" of Pilgrim's Progress. Please edit your answer to support the points you make with citations from Pilgrim's Progress. Welcome the Christianity.SE. Please take the tour and visit the help center to get a feel for Q&A sites. Also, please take a look at some of the previously asked and answered questions to get a feel for how a good answer looks. Hope you'll stay around and join in. May 19, 2017 at 0:11
  • Rom 8 : 29, According to the foreknowledge of God. May 22, 2017 at 7:58

I sought an answer to this question after reading the following passage in Pilgrim's Progress: “And let us assure ourselves, that at the day of doom men shall be judged according to their fruits. It will not be said then, Did you believe? But, Were you doers, or talkers only? And accordingly shall they be judged.” (Google Books, online version of The Pilgrim’s Progress, page 214. https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Pilgrim_s_Progress/QkEQAAAAYAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1)

This seems to imply pretty clearly that, from Bunyan's point of view, there will be a Judgment Day and the fruits of your activity in life (presumably in your calling) will be a factor in the Lord's decision on that day.

My understanding of Calvin's doctrine of predestination is that there is nothing you can do to change your salvation fate, which is determined before you're born. Believers may want to pursue the fruits of their calling as a sign that they're among the elect, but that won't change anything. That would seem to obviate the need for a Judgement Day. No?

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