I am scribbling away at a book on The Pilgrim’s Progress.  Here is an excerpt:

Bunyan’s understanding of progress is not at all like our modern version.  Progress for Bunyan was anchored to ancient traditions which had stood the test of time.  Wise people believe these ancient paths are the only ones which offer “rest for the soul.” (Jer. 6:16)[1] 

Fools in the modern age blithely discard the old for the new.  Of course, the new never stays new so the discarding never stops.  It is why people in the modern age not only flit from one fad to another; it is also why we feel the compulsion to keep reinventing ourselves.  Even we are getting old (a very bad thing in our culture) and the only way we have for dealing with it is to try some newfangled gimmick which gives the impression that we are not so old after all.  It is why cosmetics, plastic surgery, and adultery with more youthful partners are big in America.  And it is why suicide, depression, and various addictions also exist. 

We modern folk view progress as anything which helps us do a desired task faster and more efficiently.  This is the only way “forward.”  Bunyan believed the way forward might be slow at times.  He also knew it could be fraught with all kinds of challenges which need ample time for preparation.  Going too fast may cause one to make serious mistakes.  Our fast-paced culture typically finds such methodical preparation a liability. 

It matters a lot who is defining progress.  Joe Sobran said, “If termites could talk, they would call what they do to a huge house “progress.”[2] 

[1]One cultural historian says giving up long-standing categories of right and wrong has led to “inarticulate dread.”  See Andrew Delbanco, The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost the Sense of Evil (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995), 9.

[2]Accessed on, Dec. 8, 2008.


One thought on “TRUE PROGRESS

  1. David McCoy

    Somewhat along the same lines, I am reminded of C. S. Lewis’ comment when asked why he did not read a daily newspaper: “All that is not eternal is doomed to be eternally out of date.”


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