The Catholic Church seems to put great importance on the matter of conscience.
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As described by Paul in Romans 2, conscience is an attribute given by God to all humans (even to those without knowledge of His word as found in the Bible) with respect to discernment of moral conduct. (The Christian apologist C. S. Lewis referred to it as "the universal law of right and wrong", and used it in his excellent book Mere Christianity as the starting point in his argument for the existence of God and the accuracy of the Bible.) In that respect, conscience can be a useful tool in bringing individuals to the realization that they do not perfectly comply with that law. At the same time, however, and as also noted by Paul, conscience is fallible, and can be corrupted by cultural influences, as well as by the state of original sin into which all humans since Adam have been born. That is why the voice of conscience must always be compared with and considered in light of the inspired word of Scripture, and rejected when its promptings are not in accordance with that guidance.
Good question, Ainsley! The problem of putting too much importance on the conscience is this: It must be purged (Heb. 9:14, cleansed) because it can be evil (Heb. 10:22, cf. Jer. 17:9) and Seared (1 Tim. 4:2, insensitive). Weak and ignorant (1 Cor. 8:7, 10, 12). John MacArthur says, "Educate your conscience. A weak, easily grieved conscience results from a lack of spiritual knowledge (1 Corinthians 8:7). If your conscience is too easily wounded, don't violate it. To violate even a weak conscience is to train yourself to override conviction, and that will lead to overriding true conviction about real sin." A weak conscience is like a flag on a pole, vacillating between right and wrong, truth, etc. “shipwrecked.” (“Holding faith, and a good conscience; which some having put away concerning faith have made shipwreck: 1 Timothy 1:19) Defiled (Titus 1:15, polluted, stained). MacArthur adds, "Guilt feelings may persist long after the offense is forgotten, often spilling over to other areas of our lives. That's one reason people often feel guilty and are not sure why. Such confused guilt may be a symptom that something is terribly wrong spiritually. Paul may have had that in mind when he wrote, "To those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their consciences are defiled" (Titus 1:15)." A former pastor of mine, before he was saved, Dr. James Borror, felt "so bad" and so he said, "I didn't know why!" Well, it was because he was "unbelieving" and needed to be saved. After he was saved, he didn't feel "so bad" anymore! To say the least. I will bet he felt "so good!" Imperfect conscience (Heb. 9:9) http://www.theoldpathspublications.com/PDFs/CONSCIENCE%20OUTLINE.pdf
I believe the conscience was a direct result from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Too often today we are eating from that tree; what we judge as good today, tomorrow we may see it as evil. I have had my conscience condemn me for something that was not wrong, and not for something that was. The Holy Spirit doesn’t use our conscience to teach us, He speaks directly to our heart. I think the conscience can cause us to want to partake of the tree of knowledge so we can be sure we are right. God wants relationship with us. Jesus is the tree of life, that’s the fruit we should desire.
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