I’m a religious studies major and this semester I’m taking a class about Modern Christianity (1600-present). We were assigned to read a book called Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan (1628-1688) in order to better understand Christian Puritanism. The book is a spiritual autobiography that was written by Bunyan about his spiritual journey. In his book he records his struggles in searching for the truth, whether God exists, what the purpose of life is, and what his role is in it. Those are universal questions that arguably all human beings ask. Throughout the book Bunyan is virtually paralyzed by these questions; as soon as he feels that he’s come to terms with an answer he asks another question that he cannot answer. He seems to go around in circles, never being satisfied with the answers he finds. In our class discussion of this book, most of the students seemed to agree that his response and turmoil over these questions was quite over the top and largely, absurd. I, on the other hand, do not agree at all. If it is not understandable for someone’s life to be turned upside down because they do not understand what it’s purpose is, what then is a good reason? A breakup with a boyfriend? A bad exam grade?
Is there a God? What is the purpose of my life? These are questions that people potentially commit suicide over. For, what is the point in doing anything if you do not have a purpose. In great contrast to the rest of my class, I argue that Bunyan’s struggle is the same struggle that all people face when they allow themselves to think about these great questions. I think Bunyan pursued these questions with vigour, and though it might seem foreign and over the top to most of us, I find it quite respectable.
*I would like to add that I am not a Christian, I am a Baha’i, but I respect any search for truth regardless of religious affinity. I will also add that Bunyan was a Christian, and so his struggles were often more specific to Christianity – but evidently what he struggled with the most was the question of his life’s purpose.