I recently finished Pilgrim’s Progress by Tim Dowley. This, updated for kids, version of the number two best selling book of all time is very good. I highly recommend it to Christian parents trying to teach and explain the Christian life to their children. Even children too young to read will truly enjoy the illustrations as you read it to them.
I did have one concern about the book. The second to last line is, I believe, written by Dowley in a way that implies something significantly different than what Bunyan originally intended. Here’s the line:
“Good men made perfect walked there”
This statement comes as the two Pilgrims arrive at the end of their journey and are walking through the gates and into the heavenly city. Now, in all fairness, I went back and checked Bunyan’s original wording and I think I know where Dowley is getting this phrase. Bunyan’s original is a quote from Hebrews 12:22-23 “…the spirits of righteous men made perfect.” The modernized version of PP by Edward Hazelbaker (another excellent version) even carries this thought through to today when he renders it, “…there…is Mount Zion, the Heavenly Jerusalem, thousands upon thousands of angels, and the spirits of righteous men made perfect.” (Heb 12:22-23). What Bunyan was communicating was the final glorification, sometimes referred to as “perfection”, of all Christians upon death or the return of Christ. They are called “righteous” because of the righteousness of Christ. They aren’t good men, they are righteous men. Righteous is very different than good. The scriptures confirm that “none are good, no not even one”. But – some are made righteous by the blood of the Righteous One, slain in their place, raised to life for their justification, sanctification and glorification (see the golden chain of redemption in this earlier post)
For Dowley to render this phrase, “good men made perfect walked there” misses what Bunyan was trying to point to in scripture. If anything, it actually runs the risk of teaching the opposite of Bible truth. No good men go to heaven. Bad men go there. Bad men that have been declared righteous, declared just, are made perfect when they arrive in heaven. Saying that good men made perfect walk in heaven is misleading at best and down right dangerous at worst. It can imply that if you’re just good enough (which is what much of the world currently believes), you’ll walk into heaven and be made perfect. That’s not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches the opposite. That through the righteousness of Christ, a no good sinner, through faith, can receive Christ’s perfect righteousness so that on the basis of Christ and Christ alone, he can be made righteous and accepted by God and allowed into heaven.
Don’t get me wrong, this is still a great modern version of PP for kids, well worth the purchase. Just be aware that Bunyan was full of Bible and it spilled all over every page of his works. We need to be careful when bringing his English up to date that we don’t re-write his theology and unintentionally teach a different gospel in the process.