Recently I read John Bunyan’s classic tale Pilgrim’s Progress. Published in 1678, like some of the most powerful Christian writings (e.g. MLK’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Letters from Prison and Paul’s Letter to the Philippians) it is a book written from a prison cell.
What makes it such a brilliant book is the characters who the three pilgrims, Christian, Faithful and later Hopeful, meet on their journey. On their path to renewal, they meet plenty of characters who need to be resisted.
Talking a good game
One of my favourite characters is a man they meet called Talkative. He has an earnest desire to discuss Christian doctrine and ‘the things of God’. Talkative loves theology for ‘by this a man might learn to refute false opinions, to vindicate the truth, and also to instruct the ignorant.’
Initially, Faithful is very impressed with Talkative’s fine words. But Christian sees through his deceptive and shallow front and warns his fellow pilgrim about their new companion: ‘He talketh of prayer, of repentance, of faith and of new birth; but he knows only to talk of them’.
A world of words
Reading Pilgrim’s Progress coincided with the first birthday of Resistance & Renewal which started last Easter. It made me think that Talkative sums up the danger for anyone who writes a blog – because online its especially easy to become consumed in a world of words and debate and lose sight of what is really important.
This is all the more dangerous when you are writing about faith in God. As Christian says in a devastating challenge to armchair believers:
“The soul of religion is the practic part: pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father, is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. This Talkative is not aware of, he thinks hearing and saying will make a good Christian and thus deceives his own soul.
Hearing is but as the sowing of the seed; talking is not sufficient to prove that fruit is indeed in the heart and life; and let us assure ourselves, that at the day of doom, men shall be judged according to their fruits. It will not be said then, ‘Did you believe? but, ‘Were you doers, or talkers only?’ and accordingly you shall be judged. The end of the world is compared to a harvest, and you know men at harvest regard nothing but fruit.”
The Church is already full of words – prayers, songs, Bible readings and endless books. Blogs can easily into this danger too: they might be jammed pack full of words but do they make any difference in the real world?
It’s a challenge we want to keep in mind.
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Thanks for reading over the past year!