The Danger of Ignorance

While some may truly believe “Ignorance is bliss,” it should be evident from thousands of years of human history that such is not the case; ignorance is dangerous. Worse yet, as someone has noted, “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge” (Daniel Boorstin). One who sincerely believes he knows the right way, but is mistaken, will never reach his destination; it doesn’t matter how sincerely he believes he is right. As Amos Bronson Alcott said, “To be ignorant of one’s ignorance is the malady of the ignorant.” No, ignorance is not bliss; it is dangerous.

      The danger of ignorance is nowhere greater than in the matter of our spiritual standing before God. Ignorance of our true condition will result in eternal condemnation; ignorance of His will results in men following error or simply not doing all we should; ignorance of the meaning of certain terms or certain passages could result in us misunderstanding, misapplying, and misusing those passages and possibly leading others into error, thus endangering their souls, too. Ignorance in spiritual issues is not a light matter. And I would emphasize again that the sincerity of the ignorant one does not change the results.

      Within Scripture, we find such examples of dangerous ignorance that we would do well to learn from such examples and resolve to do our best not to follow those patterns. In the short space we have remaining, let us consider just a few examples, and what was dangerous about being ignorant.

      Not Knowing What Is Right. During the reigns of Uzziah in Judah and Jeroboam in Israel, Amos was sent to prophesy against Israel [and, indirectly, Judah] regarding their unfaithfulness to God. Many of their wrongs were listed within the book, but one particular statement summed it up well: “For they do not know to do right” (Amos 3:10). What a sad statement to be said of God’s own people!

      To no one’s surprise, their ignorance of what was right led them to do all kinds of evil. They oppressed the poor and the needy (Amos 4:1), and added taxes on them to make it worse (Amos 5:11); they afflicted the just and took bribes, ensuring the poor did not receive justice (Amos 5:12); they were dishonest in their measurements and weights (Amos 8:5); and they furthered the suffering of their neediest ones by buying and selling them as slaves (Amos 8:6). And they did all this as they reveled in their luxuries (Amos 3:15-4:1). They cared not for the suffering of their brethren!

      The sad part about this ignorance is that it should not have ever been the case; this was a willful ignorance, for God’s word taught them otherwise. They were to have the poor in mind when they gleaned their crops (Lev. 19:10; Lev. 23:22), and were to show generosity to the poor (Deut. 15:7-11), not oppression. Ignorance of what was right led to the mistreatment of their own brethren!

      This ignorance of what was right — what God’s word taught — led to the eventual destruction and captivity of the nation. Not long after Amos wrote those condemning words, Hosea would write to the people their spiritual epitaph, straight from the mouth of God: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge (Hos. 4:6). God plainly told them this was preventable, noting how they had rejected knowledge! Ignorance is dangerous enough, but willful ignorance is inexcusable!

      Not Knowing Scripture. While this may overlap with the previous point, it should be specifically noted as a danger, too. [There are certain ‘right’ things outside of what Scripture teaches, so it is necessary to note the ignorance of the Scriptures as a point in itself.] And the dangers of not knowing the Scriptures are multiple: one may be ignorant of what is taught within Scripture; one may be ignorant of the meaning of certain statements; or one may be ignorant of how or to whom the Scriptures are to be applied.

      As an example within Scripture, we find the Sadducees come to Jesus with what they believed to be an unanswerable scenario, where a woman had married seven brothers, one after the other after one dies, and who then died herself (Matt. 22:23-28). Their question was one meant to catch Jesus in His words. Jesus was not trapped, but replied, “You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29), and then explained, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven” (Matt. 22:30).

      The problem was, the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, so their whole scenario was irrelevant because they were ignorant of what the Scriptures taught! Their whole premise for asking the question was faulty, so their conclusions were also faulty.

      That is quite often the case in religious discussions today, for many people “are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures.” Many teach a man is saved by “faith only” when the Scriptures do not teach such at all. Many will say all one has to do to be saved is “accept Jesus into your heart” and pray “the sinner’s prayer,” but you won’t find either statement or requirement anywhere within Scripture. An honest study of all the examples of conversion within the book of Acts will show that every convert had to (1) hear the word of God, (2) believe what it taught about Jesus as the Christ and Son of God, (3) repent of their sins, (4) confess Jesus as the Christ and Son of God, believing that God had raised Him from the dead, and (5) be baptized into Christ for the remission [forgiveness] of their sins. Ignorance of this has led millions to believe a lie, and now falsely believe they are saved from their sins when, in fact, they are not.

      Ignorance of God’s plan for man’s salvation will lead many to be condemned in the final Judgment, with many appearing there with the erroneous thought that they will be rewarded with eternal life in heaven. Sadly, Jesus will say to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” (Matt. 7:21-23). Ignorance of what the Scriptures teach can have eternal consequences!

      Not Knowing God. Ignorance of God may be seen in two ways: one may claim complete ignorance of His existence [unlikely], and then there are many who profess to know God, but who are essentially ignorant of who God is. Neither is good.

      Any claim to be ignorant of God’s existence is dubious, at best. Paul reminds us, “since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse” (Rom. 1:18-20). To claim ignorance of God’s existence requires that we purposefully ignore the evidence within the natural world, which many seem to be doing. Whatever excuse one may offer, in the end, is just that: an excuse. It doesn’t change reality.

      And then there are those who claim to know God, but they are only acknowledging His existence; they don’t really know God. We find that the Israelites stand as an example of what happens when we don’t pass on the knowledge of God to the next generation (Jdgs. 2:10-15), and it never ends well. In the end, when Christ comes, ignorance of God will bring His wrath upon us and we will be eternally separated from Him (2 Thess. 1:8-10). Ignorance is dangerous.

      In all cases and situations, the only means to overcoming ignorance is education. Educate yourself by studying God’s word diligently, and it is there you will get to know what is right, and it is there you will get to know about God.

            Knowledge is power.  Steven Harper