November 26, 2020

What Does It Mean for a Christian to Violate His Conscience?

Nathan W. Bingham & W. Robert Godfrey
What Does It Mean for a Christian to Violate His Conscience?

What is our conscience, and how do we make sure we aren’t acting against it? Today, W. Robert Godfrey considers how to align our consciences with the will of God in order to lead lives that are pleasing to Him.


NATHAN W. BINGHAM: Joining us from California is the chairman of Ligonier Ministries, Dr. W. Robert Godfrey. Dr. Godfrey, what does it mean for a Christian to violate their conscience?

DR. W. ROBERT GODFREY: That's an interesting question. Conscience is a reality taught in the Scripture. Christians possess a conscience, and perhaps one way of thinking about conscience is as a moral voice or a moral monitor that we have in our beings that is an alarm that goes off if we're being tempted in an immoral direction. It testifies internally to us of what we sense to be good or evil.

The problem with conscience, of course, is that it's not 100 percent reliable. It's not 100 percent accurate. It does testify within us to the reality of a difference between good and evil, but the problem with sinners is that they can in various ways silence or harden or even distort their conscience. And so, something that at one point in our lives strikes us as very wicked, later in life we can dull the conscience if we don't listen to it, so that we no longer have that testimony within us that something is wicked.

And, that means that a conscience needs to be cultivated. A conscience needs to be strengthened by the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit preeminently strengthens conscience, I believe, by our use of the Word of God, our study of the Word of God, our turning to the Word of God again and again to know what is true. And so, conscience needs to be strengthened within us and needs to be informed by the Word of God so that it will provide that instinctive reaction within us to know what is good and what is evil.

So, the conscience, once it is strengthened by the Word of God, does testify to us what is right and what's wrong, but it is possible for the Christian to ignore conscience, to suppress conscience, to violate conscience. And, just as when we hear the Word of God telling us what is true and good, we can act against it. So too with conscience; we can act against it, but we ought not. And, as I said, part of the danger is that if we consistently violate conscience, then we will begin to deafen and deaden it, and it will not testify as it ought within us.