‘Conscience’ didn’t make the cut for the First Amendment.

".... the Senate adopted the first two parts of the House version but dropped 'nor shall the rights of conscience be infringed.' After that, a direct protection of the individual right of conscience never reappeared in the language of the final religion clauses." - TGC

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Understanding Christian Liberty

Christian liberty can be a thorny issue. Some sincere Christians fail to recognize this category at all. They have an opinion about nearly everything and endeavor to impose their conclusions upon others, treating each issue as if it is a Christian duty. To fail to submit to their understanding is, in their minds, to sin. They have little regard for Christians who do not hold the same opinion as themselves.

On the other hand, there are Christians who erroneously place practices the Bible calls sin into the category of Christian liberty. To them, Christian liberty means license to do whatever one pleases. They become the sole arbiter of their own behavior, and if anyone dares to label their errant practices sinful, they declare that they believe in Christian liberty, and no one has the right to judge another’s behavior. With such confusion abounding, it may be helpful to examine Biblical teaching about Christian liberty. The Apostle Paul deals with this subject in 1 Corinthians chapters eight and ten, as well as the fourteenth chapter of the book of Romans. I will confine myself to 1 Corinthians ten for this article.

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Review: Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ (Part 2)

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Handling Disagreements

In chapter 5, Naselli and Crowley discuss “Twelve Principles about How to Disagree with Other Christians on Disputable Matters.” #1 is “Welcome those who disagree with you (Rom. 14:1-2).” Here they re-define the weak conscience:

The weak person’s conscience lacks sufficient confidence (i.e., faith) to do a particular act without self-judgment, even if that act is actually not a sin. To him it would be sin … His conscience lacked the confidence (faith) to do those things without self-condemnation.1

This definition is excellent, as is the remaining discussion, which is based on it. They go on to describe weakness and strength as a spectrum2 extending from permissive (strong) to strict (weak). This is the pattern for the rest of the book, where “weakness” is treated as strictness, not theological immaturity.

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Review - Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ (Part 1)

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The goal of this book is “to put conscience back on your daily radar, to show from Scripture what God intended and did not intend [the] conscience to do, and to explain how your conscience works, how to care for it, and how not to damage it.”1

Definition & Understanding

As their titles suggest, the first two chapters deal with defining the conscience. Chapter 1 defines the conscience as “your consciousness of what you believe is right and wrong.” Chapter 2 examines how the New Testament writers taught about conscience and develops a biblical understanding of the conscience from these data. Included in this is a definition of the “weak conscience”: an “uninformed moral consciousness.”2 As we’ll see later, this is the first of two definitions given in this book, and this presents a dilemma.

Chapter 3 answers, “What Should You Do When Your Conscience Condemns You?” The answer is the gospel, for nothing but the grace of God in the atoning work of Jesus can free us from guilt. This applies to the lost man approaching the cross with his guilt and the long-time believer who must again and again return to God in confession and seek forgiveness. We must never allow our guilt to become a tool for the accuser to bring us to despair.

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