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Why We Need Pilgrim's Progress Today: An Interview with Dr. Roger D. Duke-Part the Second

This is Part the Second of a a Three Part Interview conducted by Dane Bundy of Stage and Story. The entire interview can be accessed at

https://www.stageandstory.org/blog/categories/pilgrim-s-progress

This is a book cover replica of the first publication printing of "The Pilgrim's Progress"


Part the Second

It seems that Vanity Fair -- and what it deceptively offers -- is more accessible than ever to the modern Pilgrim. And Bunyan’s three distinctions between a converted person and a resident of Vanity Fair are quite insightful. What are some practical tips for the modern Pilgrim who truly wants to fight against the allure of Vanity Fair?

What practical tips would I recommend to modern Pilgrims (Fully Devoted Followers of Christ) to combat Vanity Fair’s allure? At first blush, it seems easy to offer some practical tips. But, on the other hand, with thoughtful wisdom, it is very difficult to offer insight. As a trained pastor and seasoned professor, I could quickly offer many Biblical and theological clichés. But my own pilgrimage so imitates Christian in the Pilgrim’s Progress; I understand the question must be reckoned slowly, carefully, and thoughtfully. All facets must be considered before giving a hurried answer. I am also not eager to sound “preachy” or condescending to whomever might read these comments.

The best I can do is to give some of those familiar Bible-based theological responses--because I have grown wiser from the experience gained from experiential application. For Bible answers that are not practical are like so much gossamer or “pie in the sky by and by when I die” responses. The Bible is preeminently practical for godly living and personal ethics.

Please consider:

First is commitment. I would ask the reader; have you started for the “Celestial City” like Bunyan’s hero Christian? He had problems with those of Vanity Fair because they held to one worldview and Pilgrim to another. They thought in a temporal manner. He thought in an eternal one. They set their eyes on the things below, he sought those things above. He looked through the tangible things seen--that will perish; to the things unseen--that are eternal. (For further reading on this line of thinking please see my inaugural article “The Inverted Christian” @ invertedchristian.com).

I would add a further word of explanation; “the main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” So many, even those who wear the name of “Christ,” have no idea who they are or where they are headed or even why they are here? If you have read (are reading) Pilgrim’s Progress, then you might understand better. Christian has made his choice, he has left the City of Destruction, he has set out for the Celestial City. All done while leaving wife, family, and worldly goods behind. The best way to be empowered to fight against the lure of Vanity Fair is to “set your affections on things above” initially. When this commitment is made, all other allegiances will fall axiomatically in line in order of importance. But even then, this will be a progressive and ongoing endeavor to persevere in the calling Christ has given you.

Secondly is concentration. Jesus made this idea of focus very clear for anyone who would become a Believer. He declared in the Gospel of Luke Chapter 9 Verse 62, “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” What the Savior wants, what He demands: is that every follower be single-minded about personal discipleship!

This concept has gripped my soul for years, i.e., “the cost of discipleship” Jesus set. I have mulled it repeatedly. To the point that I have made it the centerpiece of my web page mentioned above. It may sound strange, even offensive, to our contemporary American psyche. That a call to follow Jesus is a call to exclusivity.

Consider further Jesus' words: “For whosoever will save his life shall save it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it” (Luke 9: 24, KJV). This is a very, very hard saying indeed! And who can even consider becoming a Christian? But this is only Jesus' explanation of what he has already told those who wanted to follow him. When the serious inquirer reads the verse previous to Luke 9: 24 many today will walk away. In Luke 9: 23 he says: “. . . If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”

Third, is Confession. As a Baptist, I believe that a Christian’s Confession is pictured in his or her baptism. “Confession” or “profession,” is made up of two Greek words that mean “to say the same thing.” When we are baptized, we “confess” or say the same thing about our sin and Christ’s work of redemption. In other words, we agree with him. Our sin has condemned us. We deserve Hell for these “high crimes and misdemeanors” against the Sovereign Creator of the universe. And we commit ourselves, in baptism, to a legally binding public declaration that we belong to Christ. It is very similar to Holy Matrimony’s public wedding ceremony. Before witnesses, I leave all others and cleave to this one. A commitment to follow Christ is a commitment to His exclusive right to my life and if needs be to my death.

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