I'm listening to the Librivox version of Pilgrims Progress and I like it a lot, I really liked reading Pilgrims Regress which I read before I ever even heard of John Bunyan. So far, in listening to the first 6 parts there are a couple biting remarks about Catholicism (I'm thinking of Formality, Hypocrite and Pope) which may as well have been true as far as Bunyan's perception of the Catholic Church was concerned.

But as a Catholic myself, is there anything in the works that I should be worried about in reading. In other words are there any roads which Christian would walk down that a Catholic priest would advise me against walking down? And are there any portrayals of Biblical characters that are at odds with Catholic belief (I'm thinking we don't believe Moses is such a jerk)

  • By the way, Buynan wasn't alone in thinking Moses was a jerk. The sentiment was that since Moses was "the law-giver" he was in his OT way opposing the "Good News" of grace that Puritans so loved. Dec 22, 2011 at 15:24
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    Could be edited to ask, e.g., whether Pilgrim's Progress has ever been on the Index Prohibitorum Librorum and whether there was any indication of why. Feb 19, 2015 at 20:22

2 Answers 2


As you pointed out, Pilgrim's Progress was and is a very anti-Catholic book. Seeing as its author, John Bunyan, was a Baptist writer serving time in jail for opposing an Anglican church in England at the same time England was living in fear of the even-more hierarchical Roman church, you can understand why he might be anti-Pope.

The basic tenant of the book - that the Christian life is a journey that must be accomplished on one's own, is as about as Baptist / Puritanical as it gets. Like all Puritans, he celebrated rather than suppressed emotion, and wanted to ensure the "personal relationship" with Jesus took center stage. (Yes, Puritans were not the dour people popularly portrayed. Want to read a theology that celebrates sex between man and wife? Look to the Puritans - not the Catholics!)

These two biggies - the unmediated experience and the anti-hierarchical church polity - are probably the biggest bugaboos for a Catholic.

Beyond that, the book presents salvation as an act of free will, and seems to completely discount election or predestination. These issues may also cause some interesting discussions.

That said, this is the second best selling book of all time, just behind the Bible. Even if a good Christian were to disagree, I'd suggest it is edifying to read and think. The praise of Acts 17:11 comes to mind:

Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

As a Baptist believer in soul competency, Bunyan himself probably wouldn't have wanted you to accept his opinions without considering them against scripture. His genius was to rehabilitate allegory from static symbolism and push the metaphor into dynamic journey and learning that could be used to direct a believer's life.


The Pilgrim's Progress is a beautifully written book in the writing style known as allegory. On the surface it seems as though it is but an exciting adventure tale, but to those familiar with the Bible and Protestant theology, one recognizes immediately that there is far more to this story than appears on the surface, and it really serves the Christian as both a cautionary tale, teaching the Christian how to recognize error, and a tale of the assurance and victory the Christian has in Christ Jesus.

Protestant theology is most certainly front and center throughout the story, though to those unfamiliar with how to "read" the text beyond the text, and those who may not have a familiarity with Protestant Theology, it may remain somewhat hidden, I have found Barnes and Nobles texts to be one of the best, containing extensive notes by David Hawkes, which are overall very accurate. It also contains numerous references to Bible passages where the story is drawn from. For instance, in one scene, Christian, with the burden still on his back (i.e. sins), enters the slough of despond, and is pulled out by one named Help to solid ground (cf. Psalm 40:2)

The tenets of Sola Gratia, Sola Fide, Solus Christus, Sola Scriptura, and Soli Deo Gloria are all well-represented and defended within its pages, but especially Sola Fide, and this Protestant Theology, understandably, may be off-putting to Roman Catholics.

That said, as an Evangelical Catholic (i.e. Lutheran), I believe every Roman Catholic ought to read it :)

John Bunyan was heavily influenced by Martin Luther's "A Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians" and anyone familiar with St. Martin's text, recognizes almost immediately the theology and St. Martin's profound influence on John Bunyan, and hence, the Pilgrim's Progress.

If there is any particular passage one ought to be quite familiar with it is the passage in which a man by the name of Ignorance is introduced - he is, perhaps, one of the most terrifying characters of all, for so many follow his path . . .

May we instead all follow the path of Christian to the Celestial City. Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria


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