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.”

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