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    Reading Conscience Together - Foreword and Preface

    March 11, 2020 by Jude St John

    What if I told you that you could read a short-ish book—around 150 pages—and in doing so you could:

    • Incite yourself towards holiness
    • Teach yourself what to do with guilt
    • Drive yourself toward the gospel
    • Draw from yourself the joy of the Lord
    • Help the church move towards being a counter-cultural community
    • And prepare yourself for cross cultural missions work?

    Would you read it?

    I hope you would at least be interested in reading such a book.

    The above list of benefits are some of the things that well-known and respected theologian D. A. Carson mentions in the Foreword of Andrew Naselli and J. D. Crowley's excellent book on the conscience called Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ.

    Carson sees these as possible outcomes from reading this book because he believes the book will help readers “regain biblical perspectives on the nature, nurture and proper functions of conscience” (14). This encouragement from one of the world’s foremost evangelical theologians is a great way to start this book. If you need any more encouragement to read the book, I can’t think of what might persuade you. So why not join us in our community reading project as laid out below. This is the week to get caught up having only the Foreword and Preface to read.

    The authors also believe their book will bring significant benefits because some subjects “in Christianity are so fertile, so abundantly promising and useful on so many different levels, that studying them reaps a harvest far beyond expectations … Conscience is one of those subjects” (15). And since their book is on the conscience, they too indicate that this will be a worthwhile read. I couldn’t agree more.

    The authors indicate in the Preface what I knew to be true before I started the book; the conscience is a neglected topic. Most people I spoke to about this had some fuzzy notions about the conscience and they could point to some Scripture verses that speak about it. But they, like me, hadn’t formulated any sort of concrete understanding about the topic and certainly hadn’t been intentional in any way about applying their indistinct ideas to their lives.

    Crowley became interested in the conscience in the context of cross cultural missions work where he came to understand that different cultures form our consciences differently and this has the potential to generate offense and misunderstanding. Naselli began thinking more about the conscience when he recognized that different religious contexts—fundamentalist versus conservative evangelical—also produced people of significantly differing consciences.

    The chapters have been laid out as follows:

    • Chapters 1– 2 describe what conscience is.
    • Chapters 3– 4 talk about how you should deal with your own conscience.
    • Chapters 5– 6 explain how you should relate to other people when your consciences disagree.

    These chapters will help the reader answer some very important questions: What exactly is the conscience? What should you do when your conscience condemns you? How should you calibrate or adjust your conscience? How should you relate to fellow Christians when your consciences disagree? How should you relate to people in other cultures when your consciences disagree?

    How many of those questions do you think you could answer now? Could you answer them confident in the veracity of your answers? Could you answer them and support them biblically?

    When I started this book I couldn’t. But I am much more equipped now to do so. Take stock of these questions now that you have started the book and see just how many of them you feel much better about by the end of the book. Then I am confident you will share my opinion of just how valuable and helpful this book is.

    Up this week is on the reading plan is “Chapter 1: What is the Conscience?”

    Here is the reading plan for the rest of the book (the date indicates the day you begin reading):

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