It was Jiminy Cricket who said, "Always let your conscience be your guide." This is good advice if our conscience is informed and ruled by the Word of God. However, if our conscience is ignorant of Scripture or has been seared or hardened by repeated sin, then Jiminy Cricket theology is disastrous.
There is an important role for the conscience to play in the Christian life. It is vital, however, that we have a proper understanding of it.
Conscience has often been described as an inner voice of God through which our mind either accuses or excuses us from sins. It includes two basic elements: (1) an inner awareness or consciousness of right and wrong and (2) a mental ability to apply laws, norms, and rules to concrete situations.
In Romans 2:15, Paul teaches that God has written His law on the human heart. The human conscience is informed by the revelation of God's law, which He has implanted in the human heart.
People have a moral responsibility to follow their conscience. It is sinful to act against one's conscience. At the Diet of Worms, Luther declared, "My conscience is captive to the Word of God...to go against conscience is neither right nor safe."
Luther's reply displays two important biblical principles. First, the conscience is to be informed or "captured" by the Word of God. It is possible for the conscience to be misinformed or to become seared or dulled by repeated sin. We can become so hardened by habitual sin or societal acceptance of sin that we stifle the voice of conscience and sin without remorse.
On the other hand, if our conscience persuades us that something is unlawful or sinful, though, in fact, it isn't sinful, then it is still wrong for us to do it. To do what we deem to be evil, even if it is not in fact evil, is to sin. Paul teaches that whatever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). In this instance to act against conscience is neither right nor safe.
Friday, July 3, 2009
Jiminy Cricket Theology
R.C. Sproul, Sr., Essential Truths of the Christian Faith, p. 151: