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If you give a missionary Pilgrim's Progress...

Updated: Mar 17, 2021

Along the lines of 'If you give a mouse a cookie...', I noticed a feature of Tyler Van Halteren's children's adaptation of PP: Little Pilgrim's Big Journey (2020), typifying the global missionary perspective a North American called to ministry in Asia might exhibit.

Back tracking first to Bunyan, it is clear that although Christian's journey is from this world to the next, the world that is in view, from its social class indicators, its topography, and cultural modes of architecture and civic life, is seventeenth century England. The description of Vanity showcases the streets as those that revolve in England's European orbit : 'Britain Row, the French Row, the Italian Row, the Spanish Row, the German Row, where all sorts of Vanities are sold.' The Ware of Rome, (Catholicism) abounds, except where 'Only our English Nation, with some others, have taken a dislike therat.' Bunyan's typical English nationalist Protestantism is to the fore.

A children's adaptation does not need to reproduce all the details of the description of Vanity. Some of the characters depicted inBeatriz Mello's illustrations wear what might be generic 'olde' costumes of 1500-1800 Britain/Europe, in as much as these can be identified.

But, in a deliberate break from that mold, the Interpreter is portrayed as an older Asian man, with white beard and long white hair tied up at the back, dressed in a floor length kimono (61).

Further, it is significant that Van Halteren gives Christian this to say to Pliable as they walk together speaking of the hope he has learned from his book: '"All the King wants," Christian said, "is for us to believe him, and follow him, and love him with our whole hearts. He wants to fill his city with pilgrims from all over the world so they can know his goodness and enjoy him forever."'(30, my emphasis)

Missions scholars Stephen Bevans and Roger Schroeder note in their Constants in Context. A Theology of Mission for Today (2004) that different eras of Christian missionary activity have foregrounded different key biblical warrants for their zeal. Christopher Wright, whose burden in The Mission of God (2006) is to show that all of Scripture is oriented to mission by the character of God, starts his book noting the prevalence among contemporary evangelicals of Matthew 28 and the Great Commission to make disciples all nations in missions motivation. We also consider that the ubiquitous John 3:16 too informs Van Halteren's 'all over the world'.

If you give a missionary PP...

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