The Doctrine of Conscience -- By: Roger Douglass Congdon

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 102:407 (Jul 1945)
Article: The Doctrine of Conscience
Author: Roger Douglass Congdon


The Doctrine of Conscience

Roger Douglass Congdon

(Continued from the April-June Number, 1945)

{Editor’s note: The footnotes in the original printed edition were numbered from 21–62 and then in the section entitled “Source Material” the numbering was begun again from 1–9. In this electronic edition, the numbers begin at 1 and continue sequentially.}

The Problem

More Recent Theories.

Up to this point most of the discussion has had very real bearing on the Scriptural idea of conscience. Throughout the ages before Christ the idea and the words to express the idea were developing. It is important to know these developments in order to decide correctly the exact connotation of the word as used in the New Testament and to understand the thought expressed in the Old. Likewise it will be valuable for true Bible exegesis to examine the various interpretations which Bible students have given to the passages in question, realizing that the Holy Spirit may have given some of them special light on the subject which would be profitable for us to receive.

Previous to the Reformation we have no record of discussiona on conscience apart from theories claiming Biblical support. Since the Reformation the great advances in the doctrine have been in the line of pure human speculation. We will, therefore, look only briefly at such developments because they do not bear any weight on the primary purpose of this study.

We have the record of a definition which was common in France before the French Revolution, “that conscience is the verdict of our natural reason and judgment touching the moral quality of any act.”1 This is the theory of the rationalist, who places human reason above all, including God’s Word. Graves concludes his discussion of the results of this

belief: “Conscience, the voice of the understanding and reason, unguided by statute, human or divine, became the ‘higher law’ of France, and France became a hell.”2

Darwin says that man may sometimes gratify his own desires at the expense of “the ever enduring social instinct.” Later he sees the ill results and repents. “He will consequently resolve more or less firmly to act for the future, and this is conscience; for conscience looks backward, and serves as a guide for the future.”3 De Boer sums up Darwin’s theories in this manner: “The whole thing, therefore, is simply a matter of the natural course of events: the pangs of conscience are composed of delicate biological rea...

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