Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Pilgrim's Regress

I have had the book The Pilgrim's Regress by C.S. Lewis on my "to read" list for quite some time. I finally got around to getting a copy and working my way through it. I should say that this book was initially published in 1933 and represents Lewis' first work of (published) fiction. The story is an allegory that follows the character John on his journey through the philosophical and theological landscape of the early 20th century as he becomes a Christian. The book is clearly Lewis' personalization of John Bunyan's 17th century novel, The Pilgrim's Progress. As a disclaimer, I should say that I have not read Bunyan's book, but I have read a comment by the late pastor Charles Spurgeon who stated, "Next to the Bible, the book I value most is John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress." I have also read a number of reviews that put Lewis' re-wrapped version on the same shelf with its original inspiration.

The story begins with John as a young boy. As he starts to taste life and experience different things, he begins asking questions. These questions lead him to examine himself and what he believes. It is interesting how Lewis deftly shows how we go from only believing what our parent's tell us to forming our own personal view of the world around us. Well, John ultimately gets to the point that he moves beyond rote belief in his parent's philosophy, to a point that he is compelled to figure out what he believes and to get his own questions answered. This leads John on a long journey that takes him far from his hometown. Along the way he meets up with a menagerie of characters who represent different world views, different systems of theology, and different schools of thought. John learns from each of these interactions and slowly comes to his own understanding.

I enjoyed my time with this book. There were several sections that were a bit of a tough slog because the philosophies that Lewis was writing about have long since gone the way of the dodo. Without any knowledge of the system that he was discussing, I could not fully appreciate the interaction. However, this was a worthwhile read for any Lewis fan. I might even tackle the Bunyan original at some point on my own literary journey.