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Following Jesus

The Conscience: Not Just Personal

January 15, 2020 by

Erin Hanson, Desert in Color, detail
Erin Hanson, Desert in Color, detail

In 1932, in the waning days of the Weimar Republic, Bruderhof co-founder and Plough Publishing House’s founding editor Eberhard Arnold published a booklet on the conscience and its relation to politics and society. This article is adapted from a newly released English edition of that work. Start here, and click through to finish the article in Plough Quarterly's recent online issue:

The conscience is an organ of extraordinary delicacy, representing the deepest feelings of the human spirit. Like a sensitive recording instrument, influenced by every change of weather, it is liable to be damaged by any shock. When we thoughtlessly leave the doors of our inner life open to the ever-changing atmosphere of the times, the conscience is in danger of being thrown off balance.

But not only then: it can be led astray just as much by mental and intellectual development. Even an increase of religious activity can cause serious derangement. The conscience is an uncertain factor even in the holiest spheres of life. It remains diseased as long as it is not healed by the power of Jesus’ surrendered life. Bound to false ideals, that is, to erroneous human thinking, it remains unreliable until it experiences freedom – and asserts its freedom – in the true and vital Word of God, in the living Spirit of Jesus Christ.

The unhealthy state of an erring conscience comes to expression in annihilating self-accusations, which can even lead to derangement. Here, the conscience is reacting in the wrong place. It is typical of all false ideals and goals that they rob the conscience of certainty about the essential thing, binding it instead to what is secondary. As long as other points of attraction compete with the magnetic pole, the compass needle jerks unsteadily here and there without any accuracy.

This restlessness gives rise to a wavering judgment which, like a bird of prey, looks for a victim. There are cases in which a sick conscience lets no thought arise and no step be taken without submitting it to serious misgivings and harsh judgments. Such a sickness fills the whole of life with grievances and dissatisfaction, with self-laceration and injustice.

Only when the conscience that inflicts such suffering on itself experiences the remission of sins through Christ can healing be given. Those who have been forgiven much love much. Those who experience love forgive much.

Read the rest.

Learn more about the Inner Land series, and download the free ebook of volume 1, The Inner Life.

 

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