May 10th, 2010
Belmonte, Kevin. Christian Encounters: John Bunyan. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2010. 172 pp. $12.00.
The Christian Encounters Series from Thomas Nelson features biographies of men and women like Winston Churchill, Jane Austen, Johann Sebastian Bach, and many more. It is a fascinating series that brings to life many well-known and some lesser-known Christians in history. This particular biography is not so much about the man as it is about the book. That is, the book everyone has heard of but few have actually read–The Pilgrim’s Progress.
In an interesting prologue, Kevin details the many men and women who have been influenced by Bunyan’s magnum opus. Men like George Bernard Shaw and G.K. Chesterton. Women like Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mary Ann Evans (George Eliot). It is very fascinating to see the far reaching effects of Bunyan’s work down through the centuries since he wrote the book.
Throughout the book we are given a picture of the world in which Bunyan lived as well as those who influenced him. We see how his mother died and his dad quickly remarried and how young John struggled to accept this. We read of how he became a master tinker and how, because of his status as a tinker, was not able to attend school much beyond grade school. His vivid imagination comes from the handful of books he was able to read over and over.
We are able to turn back the clock and discover how the Second Part to The Pilgrim’s Progress was almost not written. Yet, Bunyan had to write the second part because imposters were trying to swoop in on his success with the first part. In the end, you meet with all sorts of inspirations for the various characters and places in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress.
As I stated earlier, this is more of a biography for a book rather than a person though, as was seen throughout this book, The Pilgrim’s Progress was sort of a biographical sketch of Bunyan’s Life. Now, we all know that Grace Abounding was his autobiography.
Personally, for me, I wish there would have been more regarding the spiritual impact of The Pilgrim’s Progress as well as John Bunyan’s ministry. For the most part, Belmonte dealt primarily with the literature aspect of this great work. It was overall a fascinating read and greatly educational insofar as seeing where many of the images and persons originated in Bunyan’s life.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking for an introduction to the life of John Bunyan. If you have read The Pilgrim’s Progress, you will find this book to be a valuable edition to your library. Over and over I found myself recounting the story of Christian on his journey to the Celestial City.