John Bunyan on Christian Fantasy

In his introduction to The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan preemptively defends himself against those who might worry that the trappings of fantasy will diminish the power of biblical truths:

“I find that men (as high as trees) will write
Dialogue-wise; yet no man doth them slight
For writing so: indeed, if they abuse
Truth, cursed be they, and the craft they use
To that intent; but yet let truth be free
To make her sallies upon thee and me,
Which way it pleases God; for who knows how,
Better than he that taught us first to plough,
To guide our mind and pens for his design?
And he makes base things usher in divine.”

In a way that stanza is a defense of Christian fiction itself. He’s saying that the best writers throughout history have often written fiction, and that if someone writes a story that is morally bad, then God will hold them accountable for their intent, but that’s no reason to prevent the good stuff from being written. If a Christian writer writes for God’s glory, God will certainly guide his pen so that, even amidst revisions and diversions and mistakes and perhaps sheer lack of talent, His purpose will be met. Our works cannot be perfect, but by God’s grace they can be good. Isn’t it foolish, says Bunyan, to suggest that God is limited by the imaginations He gives us? He can “make base things usher in divine.”


Author: David

I’m a young Christian American reader writer dreamer wanderer walker flier listener talker scholar adventurer musician word-magician romantic critic religious idealist optipessimist man.

3 thoughts on “John Bunyan on Christian Fantasy”

  1. David

    The picture of Christian’s burden being loosed appears to be from a 1678 version of The Pilgrim’s Progress, but that was in black and white. Are you able to tell me the source of the colour version? I would like to use it as the cover of an ebook I am writing called The Sacred Stairway, and if it is not in the public domain I want to get permission to use it.


    1. It’s difficult to find info on that picture: at the time I wrote my review of “The Pilgrim’s Progress,” I just collected what I found online. However, the picture appears to belong to the collection of the Bridgeman Art Library. But they date the picture as 19th century and do not list an artist.

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