Page 25 - EMCAPP-Journal No. 10
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nects to an interpersonal world, and usually un-  Scriptural Teaching on the Nature of the
             necessary to appeal to a transcendent, objective   Conscience
             moral order that could ground it. Consequently,   The  vocabularies  of  languages  increase  over
             humanists and existentialists encourage others    time as terms are devised to label newly reco-
             to be true to themselves and to principles that   gnized  features  of  reality.   It  just  so  happens
             respect the rights of other individuals, but they   that the Old Testament (OT) was written before
             too have little reason to acknowledge the exi-    a term for conscience had been coined in the
             stence  of  conscience.  Perhaps  to  posit  such  a   Hebrew language, whereas the New Testament
             module would be a threat to individual autono-    (NT) was written when such a term was avai-
             my.                                               lable in Greek. Nevertheless, there are many OT
             One must read pre-20th century authors in the     texts that point to the existence of a conscience.
             West to learn about the conscience and also to    In addition, the Hebrew Bible provides the pri-
             find defenders in the West of the notion that the-  mary interpretative context for understanding
             re is an objective moral order in the universe in   the  NT.  Together  the  two  testaments  of  the
             the West (with a few contemporary exceptions).    Christian Bible provide a sketch of a lay psycho-
             Perhaps  there  is  a  correlation  regarding  these   logy of the conscience from the standpoint of
             two matters, such that, if humans assume the      redemptive-history, giving the Christian com-
             existence of moral reality, they are more likely   munity today a divinely-inspired starting point
             to recognize the existence of a module or facul-  for  a  more  elaborate  Christian  psychology  of
             ty that perceives such reality. Regardless, prior   the conscience.
             to the late-modern era, most Western thinkers     The  foundational  text  in  the  Bible  for  under-
             (along with most Eastern) believed that moral     standing the conscience is the record of Adam
             awareness is similar to human understanding of    and  Eve’s  reaction  to  their  having  eaten  from
             the physical, biological, and social worlds, sin-  the  tree  of  the  knowledge  of  good  and  evil.
             ce it corresponds to an actually, existing reali-  “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they
             ty. Hence, this stance is called “moral realism.”   knew they were naked. And the sewed fig leaves
             Eventually  in  the  ancient  era  a  term  arose  to   together and made themselves loincloths. And
             designate the faculty responsible for this aware-  they heard the sound of the LORD God wal-
             ness, syneidēsis in Greek and conscientia in La-  king in the garden in the cool of the day, and
             tin (Glare, 2012; Arndt & Gingrich, 1958).  Just   the man and his wife hid themselves from the
             as humans have faculties or modules that enable   presence  of  the  LORD  God  among  the  trees
             them to sense and perceive various aspects of     of the garden.” (Gen 2:7-8) Presumably, Adam
             the natural world (the five senses, and now we    and Eve were created with a conscience that was
             know,  brain  regions  dedicated  to  processing   only activated upon the commission of sin.
             their  respective  kinds  of  sensations  and  per-  However, the entire OT assumes that an awa-
             ceptions), so humans have a faculty or module     reness of guilt is a common feature of post-lap-
             responsible for the perception of moral reality.   sarian human life. Consider the sacrificial sy-
                                                               stem, particularly the guilt offering, which was
                                                               to be performed when people committed a sin.
                                                               Though the emphasis in the book of Leviticus is
                                                               on the objective guilt that is accrued when so-
             2  Both the Greek word and its Latin and English equiva-  meone sins, there has to be some kind of cogni-
             lents mean literally “to know with.” We might speculate
             that  the  compound  word  probably  reflects  the  visceral   tive awareness of that guilt in order for people
             phenomenology of the conscience as a discrete, differen-  to  understand  that  a  guilt  offering  is  needed
             tiable kind of self-knowledge beyond mere reason or con-  (see  5:15-19;  7:1-7;  14:12-29).  The  penitential
             sciousness, distinctly moral in nature and registered in   psalms  also  indicate  the  presence  a  profound
             the body and one’s emotions. Perhaps we could go further
             and pull the word into a more theistic direction and im-
             port the notion that a goal of the Christian life is to have
             our conscience conformed increasingly to the mind and   3  Part of the job of a science is the development of an
             heart of God, so that our moral awareness becomes more   enhanced vocabulary as more features of its object are
             and more a moral “knowing with” God.              recognized.
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