Reviewer Lois C. Henderson: Lois is a freelance academic editor and back-of-book indexer, who spends most of her free time compiling word search puzzles for tourism and educative purposes. Her puzzles are available HERE and HERE Her Twitter account (@LoisCHenderson) mainly focusses on the toponymy of British place names. Please feel welcome to contact her with any feedback at LoisCourtenayHenderson@gmail.com.
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
In his preface to Christian Encounters: John Bunyan, Kevin Belmonte speaks of his youthful intoxication with the Christian writer’s “simply wrought cadences” and “vividly conceived characters”, as well as his mastery of imagery “that has inspired writers from Thackeray to C. S. Lewis”. Both in his preface and in his prologue to this succinct, but informative, biography Belmonte describes the many acknowledgements that have been paid over the ages to Bunyan’s key work The Pilgrim’s Progress.
Aware of the pivotal role played by biographers in helping to establish the role of any great craftsman, Belmonte pays full tribute to John Brown, whom he notes to be “[p]erhaps Bunyan’s most assiduous biographer”. In fact, the acknowledgement that he gives to Brown’s work might very well apply, albeit it to a smaller format, to Christian Encounters: John Bunyan: “The impression one gets when leafing through his handsome [perhaps one should say, in this case, modestly framed], carefully documented work is that of a man who has undertaken his own pilgrimage—seeking to recover, as much as can be done, all of the sights, sounds, and settings that shaped John Bunyan.”
Just how the semi-schooled son of a tinker came to write one of the most influential books in the entire pantheon of English literature provides the gist of Belmonte’s biography. Exploring Bunyan’s life and times from his birth in 1628, till his death in 1688 (for which a detailed timeline is given in the appendix to the text), Belmonte reveals all that is necessary to know about the core factors that contributed to the creation of the enduring masterpiece, including Bunyan’s many bouts of depression, to which so many creative thinkers succumb.
Those who have had troubled lives themselves are likely to empathize with the many difficulties that plagued Bunyan’s life, including his imprisonment, during which time he wrote his great masterpiece. Extremely well sourced and referenced, Christian Encounters: John Bunyan is a more than adequate introduction to, and overview of, the writings of one of the great men of faith, who, despite many a trial and tribulation, has, nevertheless, across countless generations managed to inspire many a flagging spirit to renew the fight against earthly temptations and travails.
Kevin Belmonte holds a B.A. in English Literature from Gordon College, an M.A. in Church History from Gordon-Conwell Seminary, and a second master’s degree in American and New England Studies from the University of Southern Maine (Portland). Following the earlier publication of his outstanding biography William Wilberforce: A Hero for Humanity (Zondervan/HarperCollins, 2007), Belmonte received the prestigious John Pollock Award for Christian Biography. For six years, he also served as the lead historical consultant for the major motion picture Amazing Grace.