(Another post from a class blog.)
Bunyan’s emotional and spiritual turmoil is caused, primarily, by one core element of the Calvinist theology that he espoused and never seemed to question (that is, he either believed in this theology or no theology at all). That element is the doctrine of election in its specific strict Calvinist form, that of double predestination. As the Canons of the Synod of Dordt put it, God did not just predestine some (the elect) to salvation, but also predestined all others (the reprobate) to damnation. He chose “to leave them in the common misery into which, by their own fault, they have plunged themselves; not to grant them saving faith and the grace of conversion; but finally to condemn and eternally punish those who have been left in their own ways and under God’s just judgment, not only for their unbelief but also for all their other sins, in order to display his justice.”
So the question for Bunyan is this: From before the foundation of the world God chose me to be either among the damned or among the saved, but how can I tell which it is? That is, there was nothing he could do to change his predestined place; all he could do was to read the signs, interpret the events of his life to see what pattern emerged. For him and all the other Puritan autobiographers, this was the reason for self-writing: to discern the pattern that would tell them whether they were damned or saved.
Bunyan illustrated this great divide between the elect and reprobate in a widely-distributed “Mapp Shewing the Order and Causes of Salvation and Damnation.” Click on the image below to get a larger version.