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Graceful ReadingTheology and Narrative in the Works of John Bunyan$
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Michael Davies

Print publication date: 2002

Print ISBN-13: 9780199242405

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2005

DOI: 10.1093/0199242402.001.0001

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‘Sweet Fiction and Sweet Truth’: Theology and Narrative in The Pilgrim's Progress

‘Sweet Fiction and Sweet Truth’: Theology and Narrative in The Pilgrim's Progress

(p.223) 5 ‘Sweet Fiction and Sweet Truth’: Theology and Narrative in The Pilgrim's Progress
Graceful Reading

Michael Davies (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The theological frame of The Pilgrim’s Progress is one defined not by election and reprobation but by Bunyan’s covenant theology. Through characters such as Christian and Faithful, Despair and Ignorance, Bunyan’s soteriological concerns are centred in law, grace, and faith, rather than in predestination, as well as in the need for believers to understand and interpret the Word ‘gracefully’. Christian’s progress is a one of spiritual understanding, as well as of learning to avoid questions about one’s soterial status. This text also instructs the reader in interpretation. Bunyan’s choice of medium — allegorical dream vision — serves ideally to draw attention to interpretive practices and to privilege ontological over epistemological concerns. Bunyan’s use of marginal notes and of folk-tale motifs is discussed as limiting the reader’s imaginative indulgence in the allegory and its tendency towards ‘romance’.

Keywords:   allegory, covenant theology, dream, epistemological, ignorance, marginal notes, ontological, predestination, romance

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