John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress was originally published in 1678 and it has never been out of print in the 332 years since. So it’s not a big surprise that this is one of the bestselling books in the English language. And it should be.

The Pilgrim’s Progress is the allegorical story of a man named Christian, all the way from conviction to conversion to glorification. Once Christian finds forgiveness for his sins in the cross, he begins a lifelong pilgrimage as a child of the King on his way to the Celestial City. An array of spiritual themes permeate the book, including worldliness, pride, humility, and friendship. Treacherous spiritual temptations are presented in pictures of monsters, giants, and deceivers. It is a brilliant fantasy, richly adorned with symbolism and penetrating spiritual insights.

But as popular as the book has been in church history it’s not a common read today. Its author—John Bunyan—was an uneducated, kettle fix-it-man and pastor from the 17th century whose book would likely have never been published except for his friendship with John Owen. Still, for all his success Bunyan is largely a stranger even among Christian folk. (I know this firsthand because I named my son Bunyan and 99 in 100 people find it odd that I would name my child after a common foot deformity.)

Of course it’s not a perfect book, but John Bunyan’s masterpiece is an important book. And thankfully there are many publishers working to keep the book available and accessible to modern readers. Not long ago Crossway released a beautifully illustrated version of the book, The Pilgrim’s Progress: From This World to That Which Is to Come (my preview here). This latest edition joins several now in print, ranging from reprints of the original text, modernized revisions, and this nice version for kids.

But I doubt any product has more potential for introducing the themes of Bunyan’s classic to a new generation of Christians quite like the new DVD of the musical simply titled Pilgrim. The Pilgrim DVD is a recording of a performance at Covenant Life Church in Gaithersburg, MD (disclosure: that’s my church). The high school students from the church performed all the acting and their work is exceptional.

But the real brilliance of Pilgrim is the theology of the script. One of my favorite scenes is between Goodwill, played by an energetic Irish woman, and Christian. Christian has not yet been to the cross. Watch how the theology unfolds:

Christian: I’m a mess. I need get myself cleaned up before I get there [to the cross].

Goodwill: You can’t. Oh, lots of pilgrims put off going to the cross so they can clean themselves up first, but you can’t do that on your own. The King is the only one who can make you clean. He loves you, despite your dirt.

Christian: I guess it’s good to know He loves me …(shrugs) … makes me feel better about myself.

Goodwill: Oh, laddie! He doesn’t love ye to make you feel better about yerself. He loves ye because that’s WHO HE IS. He died for ye to purchase ye back from the Prince of Destruction. He plans ta do a work in ye, Pilgrim, ta conform ye to His lovin’ image. And He wants to make sure ye git home safely.

Christian: Home?! NO! I want to go to the Celestial City.

Goodwill: Once you git to the cross, the Celestial City becomes yer new home.

Christian: Oh, right. That’s why I’m here. That’s why I made my decision.

Goodwill: Your decision.

Christian: Yeah, you know, to come down this road. I’m glad I’m finally doing it.

Goodwill: (chuckling) Ah, lad, ye think yer desire to walk this road began with you? No, Laddie. It began with the King. He put that desire in ye. He started it! On yer own, ye wouldn’t have come this way. And I’ll tell ye somethin’ more. It’s a blessed promise from that book [the Bible]. Since this wasn’t your idea but His, the same One who started His good work in ye will carry it through. Right to the finish.

The Pilgrim DVD is just under two hours in length and currently sells online for $18.00. I make no hesitation in saying this is a must-have addition to your family library. We recently enjoyed the presentation for our family movie night, and we used the theology of the film as a means of further discussion on the various spiritual themes. The allegory is brought forth in striking imagery and acting and singing. And while it is a serious and sobering production—how could an allegory about the Christian life not be serious and sobering?—there is some delightful humor at times, too.

Taken together I would say Pilgrim is an epic achievement in the long Bunyan legacy.

If you’d like more detail you can watch a brief trailer for the DVD here:

It’s also worth mentioning that Pilgrim was intentionally developed with the goal of helping other local churches to stage their own production of the play. Work is being completed on a performance package that will include the DVD, a reproducible script, chord charts, music, and lyrics for all songs, a music CD with full vocals, and the option to upgrade to an accompaniment CD/backing track. The performance package is now available. See here for details.

Miscellaneous Monday

Miscellaneous Monday

Good morning friends! I’ve got a list of things I need to write on and figured these would be best expressed in some miscellaneous notes.


Resources for children

First off this Monday morning I want to recommend some excellent resources for children. My wife and I made a commitment last year to package our television away. We had grown lazy and began extending our time in front of the tube so we decided to wrap it up and put it out of sight. Now we spend a lot more time together reading, listening to music, and watching DVD movies on our computer (we’re much less prone to laziness with a computer and limited DVDs). Much of what we’ve read, listened to and watched we do not recommend. But here are three resources we’ve tested and found to be excellent.

Reading. Communicating the substitutionary atonement of Christ to appease the wrath of a holy God is a concept parents must work at communicating to little souls. Yet, many resources for children fail to communicate this theme. C.S. Lewis’, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe presents the work of Aslan (Christ) as the appeasement the White Witch (Satan) sounding more like Origen’s “Ransom to Satan Theory” than the Biblical Gospel. I think this shows just how tough it really is to present to children the substitution of Christ as the appeasement of God’s justice (even the literary genius struggles here). This is why Caleb’s Lamb by Helen Santos remains one of our family-favorite books. Santos succeeds at clarifying the atonement for children and keeping it within the context of the holiness of God. In the beginning a young boy rescues a spotless lamb and in the end the spotless lamb rescues the boy. It’s set in the historical time of the Exodus. We reviewed this book in months past but a book I recommend time and time again.

Listening. Our family has enjoyed Hide the Word CDs by Mark Altrogge that take biblical passages and set them to music. We just came across a new series of CDs written with the same purpose called Seeds Family Worship. After listening to two albums (Seeds of Courage and Seeds of Purpose) we are very impressed with the quality of this project. The Seeds series music was recorded with a full band and is of the same musical quality as the best contemporary recordings. It would, however, be nice to hear more songs centered on the Gospel, so I’ll continue highly recommending the Hide the Word series where children are constantly pointed back to the Cross. Nevertheless, I would put the Seeds CDs on a wishlish. You can listen to excerpts and get more information here.

Watching. As much as my children love vegetables, I try to expose them also to biographical videos. The Torchlighters: Heroes of the Faith series does this very well. These are animated movies of about 30 minutes each. They contain very accurate historical details that you may not catch until you compare these movies with books. The William Tyndale Story and the John Bunyan Story are our favorites. Tyndale worked on (and died for) translating the Bible into English. The video portrays his struggles, successes and eventual martyrdom. Because I love Bunyan, The John Bunyan Story was my personal favorite. It revealed a gentle man driven out of a love for souls and firmly committed to preaching the Word of God to that end. My son loved the fight with the dragon in the Pilgrim’s Progress flashback scenes. These are children’s movies with plenty of action but also loaded with historical content and come with study guides for further use in homeschooling or Sunday school classes. In passing, I would recommend two documentary DVDs for adults. First was the interview with Dr. David Daniell titled William Tyndale: Man with a Mission. Daniell is a top Tyndale scholar and filled with interesting historical details of Tyndale’s life. The John Bunyan: The Journey of a Pilgrim DVD was an interesting tour of the life of Bunyan by John Prestell who works at the Bunyan Museum in Bedford, England. My wife and I enjoyed watching the animations with the kids and then the documentaries after the kids were in bed. Date nights the Calvinist way.



Ever headed over to desiringGod.com and found the Piper sermon you were looking for? It’s a breeze because of the diligent work of website manger Joshua Sowin. When he’s not indexing and making accessible the life works of John Piper he directs the Fire and Knowledge blog/website. Today at his site he posted an interview with myself. We talked about life, books and reading. You can read the interview here.



Today over at TakeUpAndRead.com I published John Tweeddale’s review of Post-Reformation Reformed Dogmatics by Richard Muller. I would recommend you check it out. I asked John to write a review focused on how educated laypersons and pastors could effectively use this excellent work and he did not disappoint! Read the review here. Note that Monergism has dropped the price of this set down to just $79.00!


New Winslow

As many of you know, my favorite author is Octavius Winslow (1808-1878). I like to track when his books are printed. The latest is Our God a study of the communicable attributes of God. Chapters include topics of God’s love, hope, patience, comfort, grace, holiness, peace and light. You can read many of Winslow’s books online for free here but I always recommend the dead tree version as best for posterity and reflection.


Well, I think that’s it for now. Have a great Monday in Christ! Tony

Reformation day idea: Martin Luther DVD [1953]

Reformation day idea:

Martin Luther, DVD [1953]

How will you be celebrating Reformation Day (Oct. 31st)? A game of pin the 95 theses on the door? Munching on gummy worms (aka Diet of Worms)? Grilling hamburgers (aka a Papal Bull BBQ)? Well this year my family and I will celebrate the day with a movie night.

Although there is a more recent movie on the great reformer, in my opinion nothing beats the movie Martin Luther. Released in 1953, Martin Luther is a black-and-white classic, unsurpassed in depicting both the boldness of Luther and the doctrinal divisions at stake. It depicts Luther wrestling with Paul and the ever-important phrase, “the just shall live by faith.”

One of my favorite scenes is from the debate at Leipzig where Luther says,

“I have the right to believe freely, to be a slave to no man’s authority, to confess what appears to be true whether it is proved or disproved, whether it is spoken by Catholic or by heretic… In matters of faith I think that neither counsel nor Pope nor any man has the power over my conscience. And where they disagree with Scripture, I deny Pope and council and all. A simple layman armed with Scripture is greater than the mightiest Pope without it.”

Luther was bold and strong. The writing of this movie and the acting of Niall MacGinnis bring these characteristics out clearly.

Though it is an older movie, technological upgrades have been introduced to the DVD version. Especially helpful are the subtitles (as the audio can be a bit unclear at times) and the photographic tour of locations and characters. Before watching the movie (especially with kids) it’s great to become familiar with the characters and locations. The DVD also includes a documentary on the making of the film and actor/actress biographies.

So to go along with the Papal Bull BBQ and a Diet of Worms, consider sanctifying October 31st with the classic movie, Martin Luther.