Christian and Ignorance from The Pilgrim's Progress

The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan is a classic allegory illustrating the path to salvation. At the start of the book, Christian leaves the City of Destruction on a journey to the Celestial City, which represents Heaven. Christian is not the only person on this journey; several other characters have the same goal. Some of them follow God's path and are saved, but most attempt to reach the City on their own and are condemned. Ignorance, one of those who are not saved, seeks to enter the City based on his own supposed holiness. Because no one is holy except by God's imputed righteousness, Ignorance is not allowed into the Celestial City. Christian and Ignorance share the same goal, but they differ in their methods to reach the goal and in their final outcomes.

Christian and Ignorance have a common goal: both of them want to reach the Celestial City, which represents Heaven. At the beginning of the story, Christian is approached by Evangelist, who warns him of the coming destruction of his city; Christian believes Evangelist and begins the journey. Although he is turned aside from the true path several times before he reaches the City, his ultimate goal never changes. Ignorance also seeks to go to the Celestial City. We are not told how he learned that it exists, nor what convinced him to seek it, but it is clear that he desires and expects to reach it. Throughout the story, Christian and Ignorance share the same goal. Despite their common goal, however, Christian and Ignorance attempt to reach the Celestial City in different ways. Christian believes that he will be saved by following the path that God had planned and revealed to him through Evangelist: by entering at the Wicket-gate, symbolic of the “strait... gate... which leadeth unto life” (Matthew 7:14), and leaving the burden of his sins at the cross. In contrast, Ignorance believes that he does not need to go through the Wicket-gate, but can enter the City based on his own righteousness. He claims, “I know my Lord's will, and have been a good liver,” and continues with a list of his good deeds. He fails to recognize that “we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6), and none of us can be saved except “by grace... through faith[,]... not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Although both seek to go to the Celestial City, Christian and Ignorance follow entirely different paths.

Finally, Christian and Ignorance have contrasting outcomes due to their different methods. At the end of the book, Christian and Hopeful, a fellow believer, reach the Celestial City. When they show the angels guarding the City their “certificates,” representing salvation, the King commands the angels to open the gate and let them in. Thus, Christian and Hopeful enter Heaven to live eternally. In contrast, Ignorance does not have a certificate, because his faith was in his own works, not in God. When the angels ask for his certificate, “he fumble[s] in his bosom for one, and [finds] none.” When the angels ask again whether he has a certificate, he “answer[s] never a word.” Because he is not truly saved, Ignorance is condemned to hell. Despite their common goal, Christian and Ignorance have opposite outcomes due to their different methods.

Although Christian and Ignorance both want to go to the Celestial City, their methods, and therefore their final outcomes, are diametric opposites. Christian accepts God's free gift and is saved; Ignorance trusts in himself and is condemned. These two characters in The Pilgrim's Progress show how salvation can only be achieved by grace, not by works.

Christian and Ignorance from The Pilgrim's Progress by Samuel Sloniker is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0