Review: The Postmodern Pilgrim’s Progress

I signed up to participate in book launch for two of the co-founders of The Babylon Bee. On June 7 their first novel The Postmodern Pilgrim’s Progress is available to buy or download. I preordered a copy and then was sent a link to read an advanced copy! Part of the deal was then to share an honest review and promote it hence this review.
Similar to the original work by John Bunyan this work is an allegory that has been updated for the 21st century and filled with wit. The main character is Ryan Fleming who is in his early 30’s an agnostic and angry at God for the loss of his brother who died of a brain tumor. Ryan’s brother’s last words to him were, “Come back to church.” While attending a mega church service complete with a preacher that has what looks like “motor oil” hair and “white teeth that make a person suspicious” a video projector falls on his causing him to be transported to “The Dying Lands” for 3.28 seconds. While in “The Dying Lands” Ryan encounters characters such as Satan, Mrs. Deconstruction, The System, Radical, Faith, and Neckbeard. There are plenty of other characters whose names either reflect a current challenge to Christianity or a temptation that Christians face in this life such as “the slippery slope” and the character “love by the world.”
Similar to how The Babylon Bee is written the reader is exposed to such memorable exchanges where in one instance Ryan says to Satan after making a deal with him, “Do I need to offer a sacrifice or draw some pentagrams on my body!” Satan replies, “You can if you want to. That’s pretty old school. Most people now just watch Netflix.” Or the title of Mrs. Deconstruction’s book, “Forget Everything You Know and Listen to Me Because I’m The First Person To Really Figure Things Out.”
It was refreshing to read a book where the life of a Christian as Ryan learns with the character “Faith” is really one that is quite ordinary. It involves “listening to the King” who has provided “The Book to follow” and wants to keep us on a “narrow way.” The life of a Christian is not always glamorous actually it can be quite mundane and requires endurance to persevere to the “Golden City.” Similar to stories in The Babylon Bee the book has no problem poking fun at popular movements in Christianity such as “The Prosperity Gospel.” The writers also do not avoid the downside of “seminary” training for those attend to serve the church or for advanced study. I write from experience that yes higher learning can be both a blessing and a curse and applaud the writers for showing that in the book! There is a narrator in the book who identifies himself as a “chronicler” and likes to make references to “other dimensions” when certain characters and situations are introduced which is was a nice jab at the current infatuation with “multi-verse” stories. Another pleasant surprise in the book is a memorable appearance by the great G.K Chesterton along the way!
Two negative critiques of the book are these. First, while there are many memorable characters which Bunyan also had. There were times I had trouble keeping them straight and what they represented.
Second, I am not sure what the intended audience is for the book! If you look at the insider cover there are glowing comments from Sean McDowell and Kevin Sorbo among others singing the praises of the book. There were plenty of times I smiled and chuckled while reading it. There were also plenty of times that I winced at some of their observations about how rather being content and living day to day in the callings that God has given us. Many believers in North America want something is exciting which I struggle with and I bet I am not alone in that regard. I do not know how open someone would be to reading this book who is not familiar with Christianity or who is anti-church. In an interview that I heard with one of the writers of this book they did share that from time to time their work has a response similar to Paul preaching at Mars Hill in Acts 17 i.e. someone was curious by a point that they made and wanted to hear more! That would be a great result. Overall, it is a fun, quick, memorable read.
Review by Rev. Matthew Shive
St Pauls Lutheran Church, Sheboygan, WI