Lately, there has been much talk about Conscience. More exactly claims about decisions taken from a Christian formed Conscience. Such claims got even an enthusiastic and “blogged opinion piece support” coming from “a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1Cor 13: 1) hijacking – as in the recent past – Christian discourse on Conscience.
The Greek word for “conscience” in the New Testament is suneidēsis, i.e. “moral wakefulness/consciousness.” In the New Testament conscience has more of a personal undertone, while in the Old Testament it is more related to the covenant community through which one relates to God and Covenantal Precepts in being friends with God. Therefore for a conscience claiming to be Christian, it has to be always informed by and formed within the Community of Faith, though personal as it may be.
- a God-given capacity for self-evaluation. A good conscience is clearly in accordance with morals and values based on God’s standards. A good conscience shows uprightness of heart.
- witness to the presence of God’s law written in our hearts and therefore it is not external to us. It is honest, leads to holiness of life and authenticity.
- a retainer of the individual’s values yielding a strong sense of right and wrong. There is no good conscience if the latter is lacking. Conscience is clear where there is the maturity of faith and understanding. Immaturity in faith and lack of understanding leads to weak conscience. At this level, conscience is reduced to an opinion. BUT CONSCIENCE IS NOT OPINION.
A clear conscience does not smell of ulterior Pinocchian hidden motivations. It stems from the virtue purity of heart and is preserved by constant adherence to God through God’s Word and participation in the life of the Church (=the community of disciples) which renews and softens our hearts.