In the New Year of 2022
“Don’t Waste Your Pandemic!”
“John Bunyan: Who He Was and Why He Matters to Those Who Imagine”
John Bunyan was arrested in 1660 under an outdated English Law referred to as the Conventicle Act. This was a dire time in English history just after their bloody civil war. Using this law and others, the English government fought to restore civil order. Order, at that time, consisted of the union of state and church. Generally, all the clerics or preachers who would not “conform” paid dearly for not participating in or practicing the Anglican Church’s worship. These “non-conformists;” Baptists, Independents, et al were simply trying to “purify the Anglican church.” Their enemies referred to them as “Puritans”—a name of ridicule and derision. But to the government; they were considered seditious and treasonous. The non-conformists could receive the harshest penalties—up to and including death! But Bunyan continued to preach in outlawed “conventicles,”—homes, barns, or anywhere people would gather to hear God’s Word. At his arrest and arraignment, he refused to post bail and made it plain he would continue to preach! And was promptly remanded to the Bedford “gaol” (jail).
Bunyan’s gaol-time served to conceive and incubate his Pilgrim’s Progress (PP). It is a dream imagined by Bunyan. It is Christian, Bunyan’s protagonist’s journey from The City of Destruction to The Celestial City. The story parallels and becomes a metaphor for every Christian’s life; in it Bunyan depicts all the trials and tribulations one must go through to enter God’s eternal kingdom. I was asked to give a few reflections on Bunyan’s PP at the recent meeting. Here is a short discussion of what I shared.
From my reading of Bunyan, I have not found him to be a dreamer or an artist before his jail time. He was a non-conformist preacher simply persecuted by the government. He found his Christian imagination and formed it while in jail. You could label persecution his Christian formation. It is possible to conclude; had he not been imprisoned; he never would have found his imagination and ability to write. Thus, under pressure of his persecution he discovered the imaginative process.
There may be some parallels for us in these COVID times. Here is a bullet-point list of exhortations to all who have discovered God’s gift of creative imagination:
Find a time and place for solitude away from the sirens of this present age, especially those electronic.
In the silence, learn afresh and anew the Christian discipline of meditation.
Read the Scriptures, but not to “get a sermon” or “get a lesson” to teach, but to feed your soul as you “hear from God” from the Scriptures.
Think deeply, ponder the issues of your life, and the life of the wider world around you. Be careful not to do this from a temporal worldview but by your eternal worldview. Remember Colossian 3:2—[S]eek the things that are above, where Christ is.”
Consider those imaginations and inclinations that “inspire you” during these times of quiet. These may be from the Holy Spirit—and probably are!
Let the Holy Spirit move you along in the work God has called and gifted you to do! ACT ON IT NOW! Do not forget, that is God who is working in you both to will and to do of His own good pleasure!
Do be obedient and disciplined as you “trust and obey for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus—But to trust and obey!
To co-opt John Piper— “Don’t waste the pandemic!”—and all the seemingly down-time opportunities the COVID has brought to us!
This piece has been adapted from “The Imprisoned Imagination: A Reflection on John Bunyan’s Soaring Creativity” posted @ https://www.stageandstory.org/single-post/the-imprisoned-imagination-a-reflection-on-john-bunyan-s-soaring-creativity. His newest book, The Four Callings of William Carey, will be published by Free Grace Press and should be out later this Fall. Duke invites you to stop by to check out his latest books, blogs, and other neat stuff @ The Inverted Christian. https://www.invertedchristian.com/