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John Bunyan (Christian Encounters Series) [Paperback]

Kevin Belmonte
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

25 Jun 2010 Christian Encounters
"Christian Encounters", a series of biographies from Thomas Nelson Publishers, highlights important lives from all ages and areas of the Church. Some are familiar faces. Others are unexpected guests. But all, through their relationships, struggles, prayers, and desires, uniquely illuminate our shared experience. John Bunyan's world was a turbulent age of regicide, civil war, and revolution. Against this backdrop emerged a man whose matchless literary gifts were burnished amidst suffering and who profoundly influenced western culture. This "Christian Encounters" biography presents the life story you've never heard - how, amidst the crucible of repeated imprisonments, civil war, and violent persecution, John Bunyan crafted "The Pilgrim's Progress", a testament unlike any other to the triumph of the human spirit.

Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Nelson Current (25 Jun 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1595553045
  • ISBN-13: 978-1595553041
  • Product Dimensions: 18 x 13 x 1.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,696,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

About the Author

Mitch Stokes is a Fellow of Philosophy at New St. Andrews College in Moscow, Idaho. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Notre Dame. At Yale, he earned an M.A. in religion. He also holds an M.S. in mechanical engineering. He and his wife, Christine, have four children.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Read 29 Jun 2010
Format:Paperback
Having read `Pilgrim's Progress' and `The Holy War', I was interested to learn more about the man behind these great works. And, from a historical point of view, Kevin Belmonte's book did a great job of informing me. The narrative explores in depth Bunyan's early years and influences; it also gives us a real taste of Bedford and England in the 17th Century. Some of the insights into Bunyan's life are truly fascinating and help me to appreciate the kind of man he was.

However, from a spiritual point of view, I felt this book was a little disappointing. While the author does relate Bunyan's conversion experience and describe some of his spiritual struggles, I do think that a bigger emphasis could have been placed on this aspect of Bunyan's life.

So, for a good, solid overview of John Bunyan's life, I would recommend this book. However, if you want to know more about Bunyan's spiritual growth, battles and triumphs, I suggest you read his autobiography, `Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners'.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  66 reviews
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars So-so biography, padded, very dry, poor explanation of dissenters 13 July 2010
By HeatherHH - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This was an okay, but not great biography of John Bunyan. I learned some details that I hadn't been aware of before, but it was difficult reading and very dry.

The author had a tendency to pad the text with quotes that were only peripherally related to the subject at hand or were repetitive. For instance, the 9- page prologue has quote after quote from one famous person after another saying that John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress was a monumental work. The number gets exhausting; it would have been better to quote only a few and list others that were inspired with footnotes for those who want more details. Also, we learn about Bunyan's love of good books, and so the author shares an extensive quote about Abraham Lincoln's love of good books. Why? This sort of detour is quite common.

Bunyan also really did not come alive to me in this book. I didn't really feel that I had any idea of him as a person. I more perused a collection of facts.

Finally, the author doesn't do a very good job explaining what John Bunyan and the dissenters were dissenting from. What were their differing religious beliefs? Why were they persecuted for them? To have a good idea of John Bunyan's historical context, you'd have to come into the book well-informed about these issues.

Overall, this biography falls short. Instead of being engaging, it's dry and repetitive and frequently detours off-topic. It doesn't provide the necessary information to understand why John Bunyan was a dissenter and why he spent much of his life in prison. It doesn't make him come alive as an individual. I hope to find a better biography of John Bunyan to add to our homeschooling library in the next few years.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Tedious, Fluffed Up and Sometimes Fanciful Biography 16 Feb 2011
By Ctwink - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The Christian Encounter Series book "John Bunyan" is a pedestrian overview of the life and times of John Bunyan, who is famous for writing the Christian novel "A Pilgrims Progress". While obviously meant as an overview, as this 142 page book is half-sized, this book is not meant for the faint-hearted as it is hard to read (at least initially) and repetetive and overly cumbersome. I almost put the book down several times in the first eight chapters as the author labored over page after page of supposition, rumor, what-if's, and may have been's of Bunyan's early life. The author spends an entire chapter on Bunyan's mother - of which we know basically nothing beyond a throwaway line in Bunyan's autobiography. Other throwaway lines are used to build whole chapters on other aspects of his youth including his education. Never before had I read so many words put forward with so little concrete knowledge. This is largely how the first 40-50 pages play out. Finally as Bunyan becomes an adult, the chapters gain much more meat, but again and again it appears that the author chooses to copy and paste allusions in earlier chapters to bolster later chapters. One such, reoccurring theme is Bunyan's (supposed) love of the small "Chap Books" that were prevalent in his time, sold by peddlers. While this is more supported through many later quoted biographies, still the author time and time again basically reintroduces the theme of Chap Books influencing "Pilgrims Progress" as if it had not already been covered in detail in it's own chapter and mentioned in detail in a dozen other places earlier in the book. This writing style quickly gets old.

My thought is that this is basically a 70-80 page book that was "fluffed up" for publication's sake. Is it all bad? No. A good portion of the book covers wonderful aspects of Bunyan in depth and reveals the man to an audience who may not know him beyond being the author of one, very popular, book. Also the author obviously did his research, as the bibliography is 22 pages long, and the variety of quotes and references are broad and extensive. However, this subject matter drowns in the overall weight of pages and pages of fluff which is laddled on heavily throughout the book.

So I give this book 5-stars on subject matter and research, but zero stars on writing content and style. In retrospect, although I greatly wanted to know more about the man Bunyan and looked at an overview as a good start, I probably could have learned just as much by reading his Wikipedia page and not spent a month trying to slog through the text...
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A concise and informative biography 26 Jun 2013
By Kurt A. Johnson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This wonderful little book is part of the Christian Encounters Series. In a surprisingly small space, the author gives a concise and informative biography of the great John Bunyan, tells the story of his life and his faith and his writings. Now, like all of the books in this series, this one is not a look at the subject's theology, but is a biography that shows how Bunyan's faith entered into and influenced his life.

As for me, I must say that I really enjoyed this book. Nice and short, it gives the reader a good overview of the great man's life without becoming bogged down in minutiae. I found it to be interesting and informative, and I really enjoyed the time I spent reading it.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Concise, Short Biography 11 May 2013
By J.D. - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Like most series, the object is to cover the subject in thorough, but economic fashion. In that regard this biography accomplishes its goal. Bunyan's story is inviting and his achievements remarkable. He was a man of faith and overcame great odds in lack of education and despite persecution to write one of the best known works in literature.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Dry, but Good 20 Mar 2011
By Rachel B. Ramey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Especially toward the beginning, it took me a long time to work my way through this book. It's very dry. Also, the writing style is...I'm not sure - old-fashioned or something. Something about the syntax makes it harder to read with comprehension than the things we're accustomed to reading on a daily basis, but I can't quite put my finger on it. (It wasn't difficult words or anything; just something about the writing style.) The content, however, was quite fascinating.

In the beginning, especially, much of the content seemed to have just been quoted from earlier biographies. It was all attributed; I'm not making any accusations of plagiarism! It didn't seem to be a lot of new material, though, and I found myself repeatedly wondering why I would not have just read the other biography/ies. Farther into the book, this came to be less of an issue.

The text draws heavily from The Pilgrim's Progress. It makes a lot of comparisons between The Pilgrims Progress and Bunyan's life, and it attempts to explain what inspired parts of The Pilgrim's Progress. A recent reading of the narrative to have it fresh in one's mind might make the biography more illuminating, as might a recent overview of the history of the time. (Many allusions are made to historical events, but they aren't thoroughly explained.)

In my opinion, this book would be much more appreciated by a very educated reader than by one new to Bunyan, European history, or The Pilgrim's Progress. And I would suggest that most students in middle school or below will probably struggle to derive any benefit from it.
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