555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

411. Does Conscience Ever Approve Anything That Is Wrong, if so, How Can It Be the Voice of God in the Soul?

Certainly, conscience may, and often does, approve things that are wrong. A conspicuous instance (as already noted), is that of the Apostle Paul, who verily thought that in persecuting the Christians he was doing God service. Many since his time have erred in the same way, while sincerely believing at the time that they were doing right. Conscience is the faculty of the mind which discerns the moral quality of a course of conduct, and passes judgment upon it, according to the standard of right and wrong which it has. If the standard be wrong, the decisions of conscience will be wrong. "There is a way," says Solomon, "that seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death." Conscience needs to be educated; it must rely on knowledge and reason for its data; it has to avoid being warped by self-interest and being blunted by its environment. Paul speaks (I Cor. 8:7) of a weak conscience, that is one that sees wrong where there is no wrong. As a judge, it represents God in the soul, but it never exercises infallible judgment. It needs divine enlightenment and the development which comes from Bible-reading and prayer. It is, however, the "voice of God" within us in this respect, that it bids us do the right, so far as we can discern it, at any cost; and as we obey or disobey, it rewards or punishes with sweet approval or stern condemnation.