Pilgrim's Progress

The Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan presents several instances that tension is revealed to the reader among the characters. It specifically shows how temptations separate true faith from false faith through allegorical events that occur during Christian’s journey. Often, Christian and his different traveling mates are tempted with riches, doubt, and an easier path; which all tempt their devotion to the virtuous path. This paper discusses several instances that reveal the tension between true faith and false faith using the allegory in the text.

Christian is a family man who is living in a city allegorically named City of Destruction. He happens to read a book that quickly transforms his faith. It is probable that Christian and his community members had read this book before but when he reads it again, he receives a spiritual awakening that transforms his perception of his hometown and gives him the desire of a new city named Celestial City. A strange man named Evangelist tells Christian about true salvation and where that salvation can be found. Christian chooses to believe every word he is told by Evangelist even though he is a stranger. 

In fact, when he receives this revelation, he goes home to his family and tells them what he has received. He urges them all to accompany him to the Celestial City. Instead of believing with him, his family rejects his story and even thinks that he has gone mad. Christian could have easily been tempted to abandon the revelation from the book if he had a false faith. However, because he had true faith, he seeks the advice of Evangelist who shows him Wicket Gate but because of his faith, he cannot see this gate. When shining light is shown to him, he quickly identifies it as the right city and sets out to reach it. However, this is only the start of the temptations that Christian is going to face on his way to the Celestial City.

First, his neighbors try to convince him to abandon his madness. Everyone in the City of Destruction believes that Christian has gone mad and therefore determines to stop him from taking this journey. Even when they have failed, Pliable and Obstinate follows him for more attempts to stopping him. Obstinate tempts his faith when he asks, “What are the things you seek, since you leave the entire world to find them?” Christian’s faith leads him to answer, “I seek an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fades not away”.  Obstinate’s false faith is subdued by this answer from Christian and he asks no more questions (Bunyan, 18). Instead, Christian manages to convince Pliable to go with him as Obstinate goes back to the city. True faith is revealed when Christian manages to convince one of the neighbors who come to stop him. This means that true faith will always prevail over false faith no matter the immensity of the false faith. One would expect the two neighbors with false faith to have convinced Christian to abandon his pilgrimage but what happens is the opposite, he manages to convince one of them to go with him.

The tension between true faith and false faith is explicitly revealed when Christian and Pliable falls into a Slough of Despondence. Because Pliable has false faith and does not believe in reaching the Celestial City, he struggles very hard and manages to get himself out. What follows is the height of false faith because instead of assisting that Christian should get out of the swamp, he decides to leave him there and go back to the city. If Pliable had true faith, he could have helped Christian get out of the swamp. However, Christian’s true faith prevails over false faith when a man named Help appears and pulls him out of the swamp. Here again, true faith prevails when Christian decides to continue with his pilgrimage after this ordeal where he is almost killed in the swamp of Despondence.

The conflict between true faith and false faith is further revealed when Christian meets Mr. Worldly Wiseman who actually manages to divert the focus of Christian to the city named City of Morality. Mr. Worldly Wiseman is a cunning person who knows a lot about the book where Christian got his revelation. He tells him that he will have a practical and happy life if he abandons his religious beliefs and seek the help of Mr. Legality. He directs him to a Mr. Legality who is supposed to show Christian how to reach the City of Morality. At this point, false faith seems to prevail over true faith when Christian actually accepts to go and seek the assistance of Mr. Legality at Mt Sinai. Mr. Worldly Wiseman abandons him immediately after he embarks on a journey to Mt Sinai. However, true faith prevails over false faith when Christian identifies the hanging hills and supposes that those hills could come down and crushes anyone who dares to pass them.

Christian remains at the foot of the hills terrified until Evangelist appear and asks him why he abandoned the way to the shining light. The true faith is again demonstrated when Christian chooses to tell Evangelist everything that Mr. Worldly Wiseman had told him about the one Mr. Legality and the City of Morality. The Evangelist admonishes his departure from the way of shining light to this wicked way of Law. He asks him whether he would want to go back to the way of truth and Christian accepts. True faith prevails over false faith when the Evangelist tells Christian that his sins are forgiven and he can go back to the right way.

Furthermore, the tension between true faith and false faith is revealed when Christian and Hopeful are going through the Enchanted Grounds towards the Land of Beulah. The place is dangerous and they are supposed to go through the River of Death. Christian is afraid of the environment in which he and Hopeful find themselves in. however, because of their true faith they endure the dangerous place and mange to cross the dangerous River of Death that finally leads them to the Mt Zion and the Celestial City. It is important to note that the two friends, Christian and Hopeful get to encourage each other and their faith is made stronger. They are able to endure the challenges of Enchanted Grounds and the dangerous River of Death.

An expression of true faith that overcomes false faith is equally expressed when Christian has to carry his burden until he comes to the place where it is taken off his back by a man named Goodwill. Throughout the journey, Christian believes that it is only at the feet of Goodwill that his burden will be lifted at the right time despite the challenges he is facing. He obeys the advice from Goodwill and stops at the Interpreter’s home to listen to the spiritual advice as instructed. This is a show of true faith because Christian is still carrying the luggage with him and yet, he is willing to stay with Interpreter for spiritual nourishment before embarking on his journey again.

True faith is also revealed when Christian is given an entry certificate by one of the three shining ones. The shining ones are part of the celestial creatures that Christian is anticipating to meet in the new city. After falling asleep, he loses the certificate of entry to the Celestial City. However, because of his faith, he searches for the certificate around the place until he finds it again. Evidently, Christian would have chosen to give up on his journey after realizing that he had lost his certificate and there was no way he was going to enter into the promised city. Instead, he holds on his faith of reaching the city by faithfully searching for the certificate around the place he fell asleep. His search is successful because he finds the certificate and continues with is journey.

Along the path, Christian meets giants such as Apollyon who wants to kill him, through his faith; he is able to strike them with his sword. This act of killing giants along the way gives him more confidence of making it to the Celestial City. He does not fear to face the numerous challenges that still await him.  However, some of his friends have given up and even died along the way because of their unstable faith. This faith is described as false because it cannot enable them to overcome the challenges that they encounter along the way.

Additionally, true faith is revealed when Evangelist appears to Christian and Faithful along the way to the town of Vanity. The devastating news of what awaits the two friends in that town does not move them. One of them must die in the city. As the two have true faith, Christian and Faithful chooses to enter the city of Vanity where they are captured and are tried for mocking the religion of the locals. Christian manages to defend himself but Faithful is unlucky and is therefore executed for mocking the religion of locals. However, the two friends believe that this persecution is nothing compared to what they expect to get in the Celestial City and when Faithful is executed, he goes to heaven after death.

As a faithful believer in Celestial City, Christian resists the temptation of mixing himself up with friends whom he considers unsuitable for his spiritual growth. For instance, he rejects Talkative who has come with Faithful and refuses to accompany them as they enter the town of Vanity.  He also rejects the company of By-ends who crosses his path and that of his friend. As the two friends also enter the town of Ease, a smooth talker who tries to test their faith by offering them silverware with the condition that two abandon their journey approaches them. However, this temptation of using earthly things to lure the two men from their journey of faith does not succeed because the two passes him without paying attention to him.

Despair can be a threat to the faith that one holds. This is evident when the Christian and Hopeful take a shelter in the Castle of Despair where the owner captures them upon the encouragement of the wife and imprisons them after torture. The journey of the two friends seems to end when Christian remembers that he has a key called Promise that can open every lock in the castle. They use this to escape the prison. As believers, Christian and Hopeful have faith that nothing can and should stop them from reaching the Celestial City. This is the reason why they reach for Promise and opens the locks of Despair’s doors and escapes. Their faith is revealed when the two chooses to continue with the journey despite all indications that they will continue to encounter resistances in their quest for reaching the Celestial City. For believers, it is evident that Christian and Hopeful’s faith is tempted by all manner of challenges but they manage to circumvent the challenges by using the faith that they have.

Still their true faith is further tempted when they are approaching the Mountain of Delectable where the shepherds warn them about approaching the mountain. The shepherds tell them that previous pilgrims to the mountainous region have died. The shepherds even point to the tombs that belong to the slain pilgrims having been killed by the Giant Despair. The shepherds’ advice to Christian and Hopeful to avoid shortcuts brings hope to the two pilgrims. The shepherds note that the shortcuts lead to hell. This statement sends shivers in the two believers. It is enough to discourage the two from continuing with their journey. However, the two overcome this discouragement by following their faith and belief because they choose to continue with their journey instead of hitting the advice of the shepherds to go back. With the evident of tombs belonging to earlier pilgrims, Christian and Hopeful have every reason to believe that their journey will not succeed. Nevertheless, their faith is strengthened when they remember the kind of obstacles that they have overcome earlier in their journey and thus chooses to ignore the discouragements from the shepherds.


In conclusion, true faith will always prevail over false faith. Christian first encounters the awakening of his faith through reading of a book that his community has been reading for many years. When he receives the revelation of the imminent destruction that is coming upon his city, he decides that nothing should stop him from getting to the shining light that is shown to him by Evangelist.  He chooses to ignore the persuasion from his family and neighbors to follow what he believes to be the right thing. The reading also makes it clear that false faith will always be counteracted by true faith.

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