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    Reading Conscience Together - Chapter 1 - What is Conscience?

    March 18, 2020 by Jude St John

    For many of my generation, the only teaching we received on the conscience came from the animated classic Pinocchio, which was only Disney’s second animated film. In the film we learned that we should “always let our conscience be our guide.” The marionette Pinocchio, since he wasn’t a “real boy,” was without a conscience. The Blue Fairy assigns Jiminy Cricket to act as Pinocchio’s conscience and we learn from Jiminy what a conscience is and does. To be honest, I didn’t pick this up as a kid and I’d have to analyse the film again to see how accurate and helpful the information on the conscience is. For a trip down memory lane—or for some, a glimpse into ancient history—look at this clip from Pinocchio on YouTube.

    However, be encouraged; you do not have to watch the film to learn about the conscience. Chapter one of Conscience by Andrew David Naselli and J. D. Crowley is an excellent teaching on the subject. Please read this chapter. If you have the book from the conference, at least commit to reading the first chapter. It is excellent.

    I will use the rest of this blog to draw your attention to a few things from this chapter.

    First, the subtitles alone give us a fairly good summary of the chapter. Here are the subtitles arranged as bullet points on the conscience:

    • The Conscience Is a Human Capacity
    • The Conscience Reflects the Moral Aspect of God’s Image
    • The Conscience Feels Independent
    • The Conscience Is a Priceless Gift from God
    • The Conscience Wants to Be an On-Off Switch, Not a Dimmer
    • Your Conscience Is for You and You Only
    • No Two People Have Exactly the Same Conscience
    • No One’s Conscience Perfectly Matches God’s Will
    • You Can Damage Your Conscience

    The information given under these subtitle is so helpful. Understanding these things is vital to your Christian walk. Much of the content would be information that you would quickly perceive as true, and might even have given some thought to at some point. But having these topics laid out by the authors so clearly and concisely is very beneficial.

    The last subtitle simply reads, “The Two Great Principles of Conscience” and this section offers us some foundational truths about the conscience, how it works, and what we are to do with it.

    The first principle is this: God is the only Lord of conscience. From this overarching guideline we derive some crucial information. We learn that:

    • Your conscience is not the lord of itself and you are not the lord of your conscience
    • Your parents are not the lord of your conscience
    • Your pastors are not the lord of your conscience 
    • Fellow believers are not the lord of your conscience.
    • If God shows you through his Word that your conscience is registering a mistaken moral judgment your conscience must bend to God
    • “Whenever “obey conscience!” collides with “obey God!,” “obey God!” must come out on top— every time” (31)

    That leads into the second principle which is: Obey your conscience. The authors make it clear that “The Bible teaches in Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 that to go against your conscience when you think it’s warning you correctly is always a sin in God’s eyes. Always” (30).

    This principle would be very dangerous if it was the first principle. We know that some people have consciences that are so marred and damaged that they have no qualms about doing some pretty heinous things. The very best of us, if we only had to obey our conscience without any other principle to consider, would live our lives in ways that contravene God’s laws, hurt other people, and damage ourselves. Even though we are to always obey our conscience, the fact that God—and not ourselves—is Lord of our conscience means that we must calibrate our conscience to his Word; if his Word indicates our conscience is wrong, we calibrate our conscience to align with God’s will.

    What did you learn from this chapter? What did you know already but can now articulate better in regards to the conscience? What surprised you? What questions do you have going forward? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section.

    Read chapter 2 this coming week and look for another post in a week’s time.

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