Literally the word conscience means “joint-knowledge” or “co-perception” in Greek. As a stand-alone, the idea simply speaks of awareness of one’s own thoughts, or of one’s own self. It also brings to bear moral/ethical distinctions between right and wrong, approval or disapproval. An interesting thing is the conscience, in that it is subject to certain variables – such as information input (either by objective or subjective means) and the willingness of the person to utilize it, etc. The condition of the conscience will eventually reveal the condition of the person, for a person cannot consistently think or act contrary to their own conscience (1Peter 3:16). But don’t miss the literal definition for conscience, which has to do with a “joint” or “cooperative” knowledge or perception.
In its basic form, the conscience is fed information out of norms (cultural, moral/ethical, etc.). What a particular culture deems acceptable or unacceptable is an influential variable when it comes to the “voice” of the conscience. Yet, the Apostle Paul insists, because of the inert knowledge of God in all creation (Rom. 1:18-19), that the conscience will alternately accuse or defend the individual according to an absolute norm – the Plan and Purpose of God. One can silence this voice, but it comes at the cost of knowingly opposing the truth in creation (1Tim. 4:2) and it pays dividends in dishonor and dishonesty (Heb. 13:18).
The real danger concerning the conscience comes when the cultural norms reduce the voice of God to an almost nonexistent whisper. In religion, for example, an extreme devotee can actually (and, perhaps, honestly) think he or she is doing what God expects and requires (Acts 23:1), but in actuality it is quite the contrary (Heb. 9:9, 14). Some in the religious norm are so morally and ethically driven by their own convictions that nothing is pure, which only proves that their mind and conscience are so defiled that they themselves are impure (Titus 1:15). This is where the insistence of the power and influence of the Resurrection on the believer is crucial (Acts 24:16). Here is where we find the “joint” and “cooperative” knowledge and perception. It is in the Resurrection Life of one claiming Christ that the Holy Spirit becomes the prime feeder of the conscience (Rom. 9:1); ensuring God’s character and sincerity of faith, and not fleshly wisdom (2Cor. 1:2), with a foundation of God-produced love with a pure heart (1Tim. 1:5, 19).
The conscience was created to be the housing that holds the mystery of faith (1Tim. 3:9); a place of correction and a seat of truth-seeking before God (2Cor. 4:2). This in no way implies that one’s own conscience is in and of itself an absolute norm (as though all humanity should heed the weight of one’s words), but it does mean that you are accountable to your own conscience in matters of justice and mercy (Rom. 13:5) and when deciding what you personally can or cannot do as a “Christian” (1Cor. 8:7, 10, 12). In the end, the conscience calls us to liberty, but with a view for the weak consciences of others (1Cor. 10:25, 27-29). Such liberty clears your conscience, which aligns with the one true judge (2Tim. 1:3).
Is your conscience clear? Or severed?