• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Conscience is the voice of God - discuss

Extracts from this document...


Conscience is the voice of God - discuss The notion of conscience's matter, form and even existence has been under scrutiny by the Christian Church ever since it began. Although not referred to explicitly in the Gospels, in the letters of St. Paul conscience is mentioned twenty-five times in a variety of senses. An example of the manifestation of the idea of a conscience, however, can be found as far back as Job in the Old Testament - "I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go, my heart does not reproach any of my days" (Job 27:6). According to St. Paul, the law of God is 'written in the hearts of gentiles'; the conscience acts in every individual, no matter what stage in life, or knowledge of existing civic laws. In Sophocles' 'Antigone', the heroine defies her King's order in favour of a greater allegiance to an "unwritten law", and history is spattered with such examples of conflict between inner 'moral truth' and civil obedience. Following the introduction of the term by St. Jerome (347-420), writers of the earlier and later Middle Ages referred to the innate power of distinguishing good from evil as 'synderesis'. Jerome himself describes this as the 'spark of conscience ...by which we discern that we sin', but later writers such as Aquinas refer to the term 'conscience' (conscientia) for the ability to distinguish good from bad at the level of particular actions. St. Augustine, a contemporary of Jerome, also regarded conscience as an innate faculty which reveals God's moral law, as it is "Written in the book of light from which all laws are copied" (De Trinitate 14, 15, 22). ...read more.


Proportionalists therefore argue that the conscience is not the voice of God; they argue that conscience means knowing when to strictly obey God and when to uphold an essentially higher good than the ancient rules laid down by Christian teaching. For example, the Roman Catholic Church disapproves of In vitro fertilisation (IVF) because it requires masturbation, an intrinsically disordered act according to Catholic teaching. However, Proportionalists would argue that to achieve reproduction, one of the primary precepts of Aquinas' Natural Law, masturbation may be performed because IVF itself is not condemned by Roman Catholicism. Masturbation, however, is considered intrinsically wrong by the Roman Catholic Church and St. Paul wrote, 'Do not do evil that good may come'. Also, conscience becomes the voice of the person, not the voice of God which the Roman Catholic Church's teaching tries to emulate. Joseph Butler, an Anglican priest and theologian, challenged Aquinas' view with 'intuitive conscience' in the early 18th Century. Butler, like Aquinas, believed that conscience could both determine and judge actions, but also said that conscience was immediate and totally authoritative because it was 'put there by God' - one must always follow the conscience unquestionably. Although this may be an ideal situation for Butler, in reality 'following ones intuitive conscience' could be used to justify all sorts of acts. Butler's theory of conscience is far more ambiguous than any others before in regards to the voice of God. He manages to hit a vague median between Aquinas' authoritarian approach and the Platonist innate conscience, which seemed to create a confused theory, although he manages to make it comprehendible by disregarding Aquinas' 'informing' approach and replacing it with Platonist innate reasoning. ...read more.


Moreover, there are stories from the Vietnam war and the Nazi regime in Germany, such as the case of My Lai, telling of normal people taking part in the massacre of thousands of innocent people, and evidence such as this shows how social environment can alter a person's idea of morality - to some soldiers, the duty to follow orders is the 'highest form' of conscience. Atheists would claim to have a clear idea of right and wrong, just like the billions involved with one of the many conflicting religions, and it seems far more simple to believe in conscience as a psychological construct than in a conscience which is guided by a supreme deity. However, we can only be scientifically sure of empirically evident things, and God is not empirically evident. The question of determining God's existence, however, is another matter. Supposing there is a God, and if he is morally connected with us and with our actions, then some responsibility for moral evil and suffering in the world must lie in His hands. The existence of suffering in the world lead J.L. Mackie to conclude that the God of the Judeo-Christian tradition cannot exist, and therefore if conscience is the voice of God, it cannot be the God of Christianity. C.S Lewis wrote about our innate sense of right and wrong, but even if we accept that we have this universal understanding, its presence does not necessarily imply a supernatural or super-empirical being. Although no rational person should exclude God, the rapid advancement of psychology and modern medicine brings us hope for a fully materialistic account of conscience in the not-too-distant future. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Philosophy essays

  1. Compare, contrast and evaluate Plato and Mill on the relationship between individual and society

    If they speak out and are found to be wrong, then they have simply helped the mass come closer to the truth by falsely opposing it. Plato's analogy of the Beast shows how politicians will keep society happy in the short term, while not regarding what is best for them in the long term.

  2. What are the principles of natural law? Every adult has the right to become ...

    With regard to ethics, Aquinas has a value based ethical theory. Rightness or wrongness is judged by whether an action contributes to or frustrates the good, as to understand the good is to understand God's will for it. Using something against this will in an unnatural way is wrong.

  1. Philosophy - Conscience (90/90)

    Accordingly, the human being consists of 'three' separate elements; either 'body', 'soul' and 'spirit', as is noted above, or, most applicable to the question of conscience: i) appetites ii) affections, and iii) reason - the latter having familiar associations with the conscience.

  2. Natural law is the most reliable approach when making judgements about sex and relationships. ...

    having sex, this forms the idea that natural law does not agree with the suggestion or the act of premarital sex. Homosexuality is another issue in which is nearly always raised within the topic of sex and relationships. As natural law's perspectives are very similar to that of the Roman

  1. Assess the view that conscience is given to us by God.

    The idea of God is not necessary, Dawkins explains that cooperation is a desirable trait and therefore conscience can be explained by evolution. Taking the fact that we have moral and cultural relativism into account it seems that conscience cannot be the voice of God.

  2. Explain and evaluate the role of conscience in moral decision-making

    The conscience is still immature and punishment is expected if a rule is broken. Autonomous (self law) is the next stage when a child reaches the age of 10 and over. At this age the child understands how rules operate in and help society, they are less dependent on moral

  1. Critically assess the claim that the conscience is the voice of reason (35)

    For Newman, God?s voice gives moral direction and for us to recognise the goodness of the Pope?s teachings, we must recognise this if from both his understanding of Biblical teachings and his understanding of the voice of God: ?I toast the Pope, but I toast the conscience first?.

  2. Conscience is innate. Discuss

    As previously stated, if our conscience comes from God, then surely God must be responsible for all of the actions we make, even the bad ones? Not for Butler. He said that as conscience is a direct knowledge from God, convincing yourself that wrong actions are good ones is self-deception which interferes with God?s purpose for an individual.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work