The Holy War

by Aaron
Don’t worry, the title of this blog is not calling you to arms to fight something; it is simply the title of a book I read over Christmas break that made me think about Christianity today verses the world of 1682. If you don’t know, James and I both have Goodreads pages where we show you what we are/have read and sometimes write reviews…the following is one such review.
 
John Bunyon (1628-1688) is probably best known for his book The Pilgrims Progress rather than his lesser-known works, one of which is The Holy War (both books are supposed to be allegories for our spiritual life). When Bunion wrote The Holy War he was actually imprisoned for preaching without a license…this imprisonment lasted 12 years. You can see much of feelings come to play as the story unfolds in this book.
 
Mansoul is the name of a city that is under the great king Shaddai. No one can enter the town of Mansoul unless the city opens the gates from the inside.  A couple of the names of the cities gates are the Ear-gate and the Eye-gate; you can see how the allegory is going to play out.
 
Diabolus shows up outside the city and takes it captive by convincing the people that their Good King's laws are unjust. That He gives freedom to do anything except, essentially, disobey Him, these laws Diabolus says are unreasonable. The city listens (at the ear-gate) and opens themselves to Diablolus. As soon a Diabolus enters the city square he says, “I have done indeed this service, as to promote thee to honour, and greaten thy liberty.”
 
This is how our entire culture lives, even those within the church. We think that we should get to decide what is right for ourselves, we twist God’s words to make them say what we want them to say, and everything in the scriptures loses power as we turn the bible into a therapy book and not a book of relationship, hope, and most importantly, truth. We turn it into a book to "honour" ourselves, rather than honor our God.
 
The city falls into grievous sin and the remainder of the book is Emmanuel’s rescue of it. There are some great allegories in the book, but some things that struck me as a throw back to a by-gone era. In the Chapter titled “Serving One Master” the city roots out all those loyal to Diabolus, but the court proceedings sound a lot like witch trials. When the city begins a slow slide back into self-centeredness the passive aggressiveness of Emmanuel is disturbing.
 
I wonder what thoughts Bunyon harbored about Jesus from the words he wrote. Maybe it was part of his mingled Puritan, Baptist, Quaker background. At one point in Bunyon’s life he was so despondent over his past life that he said he experienced mental turmoil and extreme guilt.
 
So, two points…First, would I recommend The Holy War? Of course I would. I have an illustrated edition that would be great to read with kids. The book doesn’t shy away from judgment of sin, our own proclivity to deceive ourselves and how easily we are distracted from serving our true King. It would also be great discussion starters for how the righteousness, justice, and grace of God all go hand in hand.
 
Secondly, after reading this book I think we could all understand better the goodness of God who comes to seek and save us. Whereas when Diabolus wants to enter the city of Mansoul, the city must open itself to him…but after the city is in the control of Diabolus, when Emmanuel wants to enter the barred gates, He busts through them and takes the city.
 
I don’t know if this was Bunyon’s intention of writing the book the way he did, but from a reformed perspective it makes sense to me. Our God breaks downs the walls to save His people and nothing can stand in His way.
 
If you want to have a good discussion with your family, or even looking for a fun, odd, old school book starting a family devotion with your kids; how about this classic…it’s a good place to start.
 
Although, if I was being sarcastic, it would be hard to believe that a towns people couldn’t figure out that Mayor Lust or Mr Self-Love weren’t bad guys from the start. I mean, seriously, I would just change my name.