Is “Let your conscience be your guide” good advice?

JP: Worthwhile read from Albert Mohler, Jr.

Modernity, Madness, and Morals

Excerpt:

Why do you do what is right, rather than what is wrong? That is hardly a new question. It troubled the minds of the ancients. Some felt that humans are naturally drawn to virtue, but they were hard-pressed to explain why some individuals seemed to resist this impulse. Others argued that society had to make a firm impression upon the young, inculcating a desire for virtue and character that was more external than internal.

Fast forward and the Victorians in Britain were convinced that a lack of virtue could be traced to either heredity or deprivation. Assuming the British middle class as normative, the Victorians offered the advice famously advocated by Jiminy Cricket to Pinocchio — “Let your conscience be your guide.”

Experience indicates, consistent with what the Bible teaches, that this advice has limited value. The conscience is a human capacity for sure, part of the moral sense that testifies of the imago Dei, but it is just as deformed by the Fall as any other capacity. Conscience alone explains nothing. Many of the most heinous acts in human history have been done by individuals with a clear conscience. The conscience can lie, rationalize, and deceive.

Scripture:

  • Jeremiah 17:9, “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?
  • Romans 3:10-12, “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.”
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