The Conscience

The conscience is an inherited moral and ethical knowledge and awareness that intellectually and emotionally guides us in differing between good and evil. The conscience does not arise from a particular societal or cultural moral code or standard although their influences mark the conscience in many ways.

The conscience is universal among all persons, in that, it can be demonstrated to exist throughout mankind's natural history and in all uncivilized and civilized societies. For example, cultures with virtually no connection or contact with any "civilizations" that have explicit written codes of legal and moral laws of conduct have an unwritten code of ethics or laws pervading their communities. They are convinced that stealing, lying, murder, adultery are unlawful and harmful. Certainly, the source for these moral attitudes are internal and inborn.

The inborn ability to discriminate between moral dilemmas involves the intellect (justification or condemnation) and feelings (guilt or innocence). The conscience is called by some the "moral sense," which indicates that this moral guide produces a compulsion to do right. When followed, the conscience is soothed and when violated the feelings of guilt arise.

Although the conscience apparently has many programmed absolute moral standards within, the "moral sense" can receive other moral input which becomes apart of the inward guide. For example, many moral controversies in our society like abortion, euthanasia, corporal and capital punishment, and eating meat demonstrate various moral standards and convictions obviously directed by different consciences. This shows the cultural and societal influences on the conscience. Outside of a comparable absolute standard (i.e. the Bible or philosophy, science, etc.) the conscience within is subject to the relativistic input of humanity´ s imaginations.

Following one's conscience when the inward moral guide is properly programmed and devoid of faulty convictions can be a wonderful signpost for attitudes and actions. The important link in a "pure," "strong," and "good" conscience is a standard empty of error and falsehood. While there are many purported authoritative moral codes throughout the world, the one which arguably speaks loudest and clearest in areas of morals and conscience is the Old and New Testaments.

Biblically speaking, the consciences of men and women can be made weak (1 Corinthians 8:7); defiled (Titus 1:15); evil (Hebrews 10:22); and seared (1 Timothy 4:2); implying corruption of a previously good conscience. In addition, the Bible indicates the conscience is inherited and universal with or without an accompanying written set of laws (Romans 2:12-16). In a true believer in Jesus Christ the conscience testifies to the truth (2 Corinthians 1:12); "bears witness in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 9:1); leads to submission (1 Peter 2:19); and justifies personal actions (Acts 23:1). The conscience should be "good" (1 Timothy 1:5); "pure" (1 Timothy 3:9); and receive it's purity by being "purged by the blood of Christ" (Hebrews 9:14).

In conclusion, the conscience is a gift from God to fallen, fallible humanity that serves as a guide for moral and ethical decisions, but is not an absolute standard in itself. This inward warning system is a helper, but is subservient to the superior rules and laws handed down to us from God Himself in the Holy Scriptures. While following one's conscience most often can be a proper course of action, the conscience is not infallible.