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The Pilgrim’s Progress (Week 13 of 13)

Paved with Good Intentions: Ignorance

Pilgrim's Progress Book Club on Ignorance is a character that shows up toward the end of The Pilgrim’s Progress. Christian and Hopeful have a lengthy dialogue with him, revealing more of this character’s real beliefs and motives.

In our study of the “bad guys” of Pilgrim’s Progress, Ignorance helps us see the importance of orthodox theology when it comes to salvation. Do we rely on Christ alone to make us holy before God, or do we rely on our own works?

Getting Started: Read read the ninth and tenth stages of Pilgrim’s Progress.

1. Character sketch of Ignorance:

a. Ignorance is from the Country of Conceit which is connected to the King’s Highway by a crooked lane (see Proverbs 26:12 and Psalm 125:5). 

b. He is a brisk walker, eager to do good to others, believing his works and religious devotion will get him into the Celestial City (see Luke 18:11-12).

c. He did not enter by the Wicket-gate:

i. He is content to let the pilgrims think what they want about the Wicket-gate, but it is not for him.

ii. He thinks it is too far to walk to the gate, and he does not know the way (see Ecclesiastes 10:3).

iii. He sees no need of the Wicket-gate because the lane he uses takes him straight to the Highway anyway (see John 10:1).

d. He openly admits to Christian and Hopeful that he prefers other company to their own.

2. Christian and Hopeful’s approach to Ignorance:

a. After a brief acquaintance with him they choose not to walk with him, waiting for God to awaken his soul (see Proverbs 14:7).

b. Eventually Hopeful looks back at Ignorance with pity, thinking their conversation would do him good, so they invite his company as they walk.

c. Christian asks him about his relationship with God:

i. “I think about God and heaven.”

Reply: “So does the devil” (see James 2:19).

ii. “I want God and heaven.”

Reply: “So does the sluggard who never arrives” (see Proverbs 13:4).

iii. “I have left all to acquire heaven.”

a.) Reply: “How do you know?”

b.) “My heart tells me I have left all.”

i.) Reply: “Whoever trusts in his own mind and heart is a fool” (quoting Proverbs 28:26).

ii.) “But only an evil heart cannot be trusted, and mine is good.”

iii.) Reply: “How do you know your heart is good?”

iv.) “I know my heart is good because it assures me of my hope of heaven.”

v.) Reply: “But the heart can be deceitful” (see Jeremiah 17:9-10).

vi.) “But my lifestyle and heart are in agreement.”

vii.) Reply: “How do you know?”

vii.) “My heart tells me so.”

viii.) Reply: “Your heart is not a good witness, only God’s Word is.”

d. Christian tells Ignorance what a renewed heart should think about:

i. About one’s own heart: Romans 3:10-12 and Genesis 8:12.

ii. About one’s own actions: Psalm 125:5 and Romans 3:13-18.

iii. About God: Proverbs 15:11 and Isaiah 64:6.

e. Christian exposes Ignorance’s theological error:

i. Ignorance does not believe that Christ justifies him as a person, but that Christ’s merits make his own good works acceptable. In other words, man and God cooperate for salvation.

ii. Christian says this is not the kind of faith that is required. When a man comes to Christ he treats Christ’s righteousness as if it is all he is wearing that is of any value before God (see Galatians 3:26-27).

iii. Ignorance thinks Christian’s beliefs will only lead to license and loose living (see Romans 6:1-2).

f. Christian explains to Ignorance the meaning of his name:

i. He is ignorant about justifying righteousness.

ii. He is ignorant about how to be safe from God’s wrath.

iii. He is ignorant about the effects of saving faith.

g. Hopeful and Christian show Ignorance he has never had the Son made known to him by the Father (see Matthew 11:25-27).

ignorance pilgrims progress

Questions for Personal Reflection (please comment):

  • Ignorance relies on the testimony of his heart more than on the testimony of God’s Word. He is guilty of circular reasoning. Is this still a trend today? How?
  • Do you understand the subtle but important difference between Christ’s work justifying you as a person and Christ’s work making your work acceptable?
  • Christian paints a very hard-lined picture for Ignorance about what real conversion looks like in the heart. Do you think Christian’s description is accurate or is he overstating his case?
  • Read Revelation 20:11-15. Two books are opened before the throne of God. What are they? What does this text teach us about our works before God?
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