Book Review: The Strait Gate

The Strait Gate, Or Great Difficulty Of Going To Heaven, by John Bunyan

I must admit at the outset that I have rather different eschatological beliefs to the author when it comes to the kingdom of God, but by and large even with these disagreements, there is much in this book to appreciate and agree with, as is generally the case when one reads Bunyan [1].  Suffice it to say that I do not believe that mankind has an immortal soul but rather that eternal life of any kind must be given as a gift by God, and that even those who believe rest in the grave until the return of Jesus Christ at which point they will be raised at the last trumpet and will dwell with God and Jesus Christ and their resurrected brethren together forever in God’s Kingdom.  Be that as it may, the author does not spend a great deal of time speculating about heaven, which means that the points of disagreement between the author and I are rather minimized in the face of our much greater agreement about the difficulty of salvation as a human being and the rather small amount of people who profess to believe in Jesus Christ who actually follow Him.

Over and over again in this short treatise the author points out the difficulties of salvation and makes comments that correspond with his more famous work in Pilgrim’s Progress about the obstacles within us and outside of ourselves that make salvation such a difficult challenge.  What would seem like a fairly straightforward discussion about the narrowness of the way into God’s kingdom becomes a way of talking about how salvation has always been rare in human history and that the vast majority of those who profess to follow Jesus Christ do not do so.  In fact, there is nothing about which I can disagree with the author’s point, one only wonders what it was that made and continues to make salvation so rare, and here the author gets part of the answer right but does not give the whole answer.  It is likely that given the author’s lack of understanding about the history of Christianity, he focuses more on the barriers related to our love of sin and our lack of commitment to God’s ways rather than going into detail about how following  God has always been a difficult matter because Hellenized Christianity and biblical Christianity have always been so antithetical to each other.

Nevertheless, the author at least appears to understand this problem at least in part because of his own struggles.  Recognizing the corruption of the Christianity of his time and the way that it was enmeshed in heathen carousing and in political grandstanding, and recognizing as well that those who like himself were motivated by sincere religious belief ended up falling under government persecution, he correctly extrapolated his own experiences and the insight gained from looking at the Bible to point out the relative scarcity of believers across all human history.  If he did not tie in the Sabbath, for example, to this scarcity, he can be forgiven because of his own lack of knowledge about Christian history, but his concern with the difficulties of being a genuine believer in this present evil world are definitely something that has to be kept in mind by those who would wish to make Christianity more popular by being less rigorous, something that is bound to fail and a very common approach these days as well as in the author’s own times.  Even without perfect agreement there is still much to appreciate here.

[1] See, for example:

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2015/04/05/book-review-pilgrims-progress/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/03/02/book-review-the-holy-war/

https://edgeinducedcohesion.blog/2017/03/02/book-review-divine-emblems/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Christianity, Church of God and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Book Review: The Strait Gate

  1. jamesbradfordpate says:

    You may find this interesting to read and review, Nathan. It is Bunyan’s engagement with the seventh-day Sabbath. I never read it, but I hope to eventually. I tried to read a volume of Bunyan back in high school, and it had the tract on Sabbatarianism, but I could not get past the earlier tracts in the book, so I did not read it. I’d probably understand the book a lot better now. Anyway, here is the link:

    https://www.chapellibrary.org/files/6313/7642/2865/bun-sabbath.pdf

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