Chapter

‘Sweet Fiction and Sweet Truth’: Theology and Narrative in <i>The Pilgrim's Progress</i>

Michael Davies

in Graceful Reading

Published in print July 2002 | ISBN: 9780199242405
Published online April 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191602405 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0199242402.003.0006
 ‘Sweet Fiction and Sweet Truth’: Theology and Narrative in The Pilgrim's Progress

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The theological frame of The Pilgrim’s Progress is one defined not by election and reprobation but by Bunyan’s covenant theology. Through characters such as Christian and Faithful, Despair and Ignorance, Bunyan’s soteriological concerns are centred in law, grace, and faith, rather than in predestination, as well as in the need for believers to understand and interpret the Word ‘gracefully’. Christian’s progress is a one of spiritual understanding, as well as of learning to avoid questions about one’s soterial status. This text also instructs the reader in interpretation. Bunyan’s choice of medium — allegorical dream vision — serves ideally to draw attention to interpretive practices and to privilege ontological over epistemological concerns. Bunyan’s use of marginal notes and of folk-tale motifs is discussed as limiting the reader’s imaginative indulgence in the allegory and its tendency towards ‘romance’.

Keywords: allegory; covenant theology; dream; epistemological; ignorance; marginal notes; ontological; predestination; romance

Chapter.  28484 words. 

Subjects: Christian Theology

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