5/5 So can we really Trust our Conscience to guide us?

So far, we have defined the Conscience and given the three main views about where our Conscience has come from.

We have also discovered that the human conscience is the internal governor that helps us determine between right and wrong; it is the part of us that keeps us from doing unspeakable evil.  The Conscience triggers those feelings of guilt and remorse when we step over ‘our’ sense of right and wrong.

However, some people seem to have no conscience. They can do terrible act toward others without hesitation. Their actions are pure evil.  Why is this so?


1.  Conditioned by our childhood

We are conditioned to regard right and wrong by our own family and culture’s standards.  What we learned in our family is reinforced as the rule for future behaviour – until we see the weakness in our childhood beliefs.

A funny example is Sally, who always cut the end of the Christmas ham off before she cooked it.  When asked why, she said that her mother had always do so.  Sally asked her Mother, and through her laughter, her mother replied “We had to cut the end of the ham off because that was the only size pan I had.”

Following our family tradition can lead to many less humorous situations, especially when we take in faulty views about ourselves.  We will cover this topic in a later post, however.

2.  The Bible records and history shows terrible things done in “God’s name” – which He did not say to do.

The Apostle Paul declares that he ‘…had nothing on his conscience….’, yet he persecuted and arranged the slaughter of many Christians.  He had lived with a clear conscience and yet he was ignorant of the wrong he was doing to the Lord’s people.  His conscience misled him.  He freely admitted this when he later came to know God’s rule.

“I put many of the saints in prison, and when they were put to death, I cast my vote against them.” Acts 26:10.  “My conscience is clear but that does not make me innocent.  It is the Lord that judges me.” 1 Corinthians 4:4.


1. We can also be ignorant of God’s ways, like the soldiers who crucified Jesus.

They were just doing their job and probably did not have a guilty conscience by killing Him.  Even Jesus recognised their ignorance rather than wilful rebellion.

”…forgive them Father for they knew not what they do…”  Luke 23:34

2.  We are not justified with God by having a clear conscience. 

It may mean that we are ignorant (1 Peter 4:3).  The world seems to live this way.  They say: “I never did anybody any harm!” with a clear conscience.  What keeps them from God is not in their conscience.

Our Conscience can be distorted – Proverbs 30:20, Ephesians 4:19, 1 Timothy 4:2.


1.  Our conscience is not the Voice of God

However, it is a Gift of a loving God to help us find a better way.  God’s ‘Voice, or Truth, is eternal and changeless, yet, the Conscience has changed throughout history.

Here’s an example. In 1748, at the age of 16, George Washington wrote,

“Labour to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience.”

Throughout his life he worked hard … follow the urgings of the Divine Spark flickering in his breast. Yet, when he started farming at age 22, he did so with the assistance of 36 slaves. Over the years, the number of slaves grew, until at his death in 1799, his estate had 316 slaves. So, you see, despite his wish to live a moral life, he suffered no pangs of conscience regarding slavery.

Today we hold a different view.  We believe slavery is an immoral action against other human beings.

2.  The Conscience is a moral compass that points to goodness and excellence – AS WE UNDERSTAND IT AT THAT TIME.

It is dangerous to believe our conscience is the Voice of God, for when we do so, we use an unenlightened or perverted conscience to justify, slavery, genocide, war and other atrocities.

3.  The Conscience can fail us.

The human conscience is part of what we really think we should do and what we know we should do, but if we refuse listen or follow that God-given inner voice, our Conscience can fall to guide us.

At best, the conscience is a weak guide because it is subject to all kinds of outside influences and personal error.  It is an instrument that needs cleaning and adjustment.  So how do we do this to hear our Conscience but yet answer the call of our Creator to growth?

3.  The world’s view

The conscience is generally seen by the modern world as a defect that robs people of their self-esteem. Far from being a defect or a disorder, however, our ability to sense our own guilt is a tremendous gift from God. He designed the conscience into the very framework of the human soul. It is the automatic warning system that tells us, “Pull up! Pull up!” before we crash and burn.


When we violate our conscience, it condemns us, triggering feelings of shame, anguish, regret, consternation, anxiety, disgrace and even fear. When we follow our conscience, it is peaceful, even commends us, bringing the emotions of joy, serenity, self-respect, well-being, and gladness.

We can adjust our actions in line with this voice.  However, we must still understand how our Conscience works and how for some people, why their Conscience has stopped working.  Join us for our next post on how the Conscience works for us.

Susanne Fengler, Blog Author



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