A Biblical Worldview Primer:
Part 2 – Human Conscience: Moral Awareness
by Gerald R. Thompson
What is the conscience? – the law of our understanding? – a habit of the mind? – the judgment of reason? None of these. – The conscience is the laws of God (partially) written on our hearts. – For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Rom. 2:14-16).
Is this rule limited to Gentiles? No.
– The Aim of A Good Conscience
– love and a pure heart (1 Tim. 1:5,19; 3:9)
– ultimately, to better know right from wrong Our Consciences Can Be Corrupted – Rom. 1:28; 1 Tim. 4:2; Tit. 1:15 Our Consciences Can Be Trained – Rom. 12:2; 2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 5:14 Our Consciences Will Be Judged – Jer. 11:20a; Ps. 139:23; Rev. 2:23 The 10,000 Small Steps
– How does one sear the conscience?
– How does one become an atheist?
– How does one become reprobate?
– How do we prevent such things?
– “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
Eternal vigilance is the price of a clear conscience.
A WHOLESALE CHANGE OF CONSCIENCE
“I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” (Heb. 8:8-12). [Quoting Jer. 31:31-34.]
– When was/will this scripture (be) fulfilled? – at Second Coming
– Whom does it apply to? [Israel ONLY]
– Does this mean people will become sinless?
– What law governs the Jewish conscience now? How are we to treat our consciences today?
GUILT-TRIPPING THE CONSCIENCE
Principles of Conscience
1. The laws of God written on our hearts (the voice of God speaking to our minds?)
2. Each person is responsible for his own conscience (no one else for you, and you for no one else)
3. The conscience is sacred and inviolable (to violate one’s own conscience is sin); and
4. Everyone’s conscience is free (freedom or liberty of conscience)
The Liberty of Conscience
1. See 1 Cor. 10:25-29.
– Basic principle affirmed: Each person is responsible for his own conscience 2. See Rom. 14:1-4.
– Basic principle affirmed: Each person is free to choose according to the dictates of his own conscience 3. See also Rom. 14:5,10,12.
Fundamental Assumption of Rom. 14: – Matters at issue are indifferent in themselves (i.e., not outright prohibited by God’s laws) – In essentials, unity; In non-essentials, liberty; In all things, charity. – In other words, eating meat & observing days are non-essentials – hence, liberty prevails
Now for the wrinkle: What is a stumbling block? – See Rom. 14:13-17. – Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for anyone to make another stumble by what he eats. … The faith that you have, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who has no reason to pass judgment on himself for what he approves. Rom. 14:20-23.
How to interpret?
Option 1: Don’t cause others to stumble by flaunting your liberty. Generally it’s good to follow your conscience, except when it offends someone else. The weaker brother is the one who hasn’t yet figured out that all this stuff he thinks is essential, is really non-essential. What makes me guilty is my refusal to yield my conscience.
Problem: this interpretation conflicts with the basic principles of conscience earlier proved, namely, that
– Each person is responsible for his own conscience (no one else for you, and you for no one else)
– The conscience is sacred and inviolable
(to violate one’s own conscience is sin); and
– Everyone’s conscience is free (freedom or liberty of conscience) Therefore, this interpretation cannot be right.
1. “Option 1” treats the voice of God speaking to my mind as a mere suggestion, and not as a law. 2. It makes me responsible for someone else’s conscience above my own. 3. It makes me violate my own conscience in order to show love and honor God. 4. My conscience is no longer free before God, but constrained by others. There must be a way to interpret this text consistent with the rest of scripture.
A Better Solution
Option 2: I cannot force / pressure / berate another person to conform his behavior to the behavior my conscience believes is right. In other words, I cannot do something to make another person violate his own conscience. Here, the weaker brother is the one whom I can bend to my will. What makes me guilty is that I make something indifferent to be essential to someone else, but not for myself. – With this interpretation, I and my brother both do as our own consciences dictate – no one violates conscience, and the basic principles of conscience are affirmed. – We must interpret all scripture consistent with itself, and avoid inconsistent or conflicting interpretations.
Intro: A Biblical Worldview Primer
Part 1: Creation Laws: The Laws of Nature: The Lex Non Scripta
Part 3: Jesus Christ: The Living Word: Christology 101
Part 4A: Bible as Law: The Divine Covenants: The Revealed Law
Part 4B: Bible as Government: Four Great Commands: God’s Laws of Authority
Part 5: A Biblical Worldview: Putting It All Together