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Catechesis by the letter #9 (Conclusion)

Curtis Freeman ends his collection of letters from Pilgrim's Progress's Interpreter to the newly baptized believer with a Conclusion chapter.

Entitled ‘Going on toward perfection,’ Interpreter’s last catechetical letter to recently baptized Pilgrim is a commendation of pressing forward in faith. Conversion is the ‘front end’ of the Christian life. Much as Bunyan has the Conviction/Wicket-Gate/Interpreter’s House/Cross complex early in his narrative, Interpreters want the young Christian to know that salvation is not a matter of believing certain facts. Rather it is about living into God’s love in Christ in love to God and neighbor.  In this final letter of the collection, Interpreter sows the seeds for the book that is to follow, ‘Pilgrim Journey.’ Highlighting Augustine’s emphasis on pilgrimage of Christians and the church, we are told that one of the earliest recorded pilgrims to the Holy Land, Egregia, encountered the Easter practices of the Jerusalem church under its bishop, Cyril. (77) ‘Egregia describes the baptism and initiation process […](catechesis and instruction in the mysteries) Where baptismal catechesis focuses on biblical and doctrinal instruction, the purpose of mystagogical instruction is to explain to newly baptized Christians the spiritual significance of baptism, anointing, Eucharist, and liturgy.’


The push toward perfection is not an idolatrous pretense to be God, but rather a calling to fulfil our creaturely nature. (75) So God gives us the deep mysteries of faith through the figures of creaturely goods of ‘water and oil, bread and wine, words and gestures.’ Thus these mysteries are ‘hidden in plain sight’ (77). Interpreter warmly commends Bible reading as vital for this growth to maturity (78-79).


Lastly, noting the growing popularity of physical pilgrimage, like that of Santiago de Compostela, Interpreter notes the reality that on those pilgrimages, pilgrims end and must return to daily struggles. Bunyan’s progress is through death to the ‘time when we who walk by faith shall reach our eternal home, where we will see with clarity and know with fulness even as we are known (1 Cor 13:12).


The book is served well with discussion questions that help a reader to process and apply practically the Interpreter’s instruction. It has ample endnotes, a bibliography, topical index, and Scripture index.


A handy paperback size, but in a crisp hardback with an attractive slip case, this book and its companion, would make fine gifts to those coming newly to faith, and to those of us who are continuing to walk in our struggles until the perfect comes in the fulness of the Kingdom of God.

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