Tuesday, September 22, 2015
The triumph of conscience. . .
Conscience has become not the voice of God but the voice of the true man, informed by naked desire and constrained by no sense of intrinsic right or wrong, the person listening to his or her conscience is not noticeably different than the unbridled reign of unmasked desire. This conscience is what is ruling the day and defining everything from offense to truth. In essence, conscience has become the spiritualized enthronement of desire.
Many blame Luther for this. After all, he was the one who invoked conscience when faced with Charles V and the powerful forces of church and state to hold his view up to scrutiny. Yet Luther is not to blame for this for the very idea of conscience so rampant today was completely foreign to him as it ought to be to his heirs. Luther can be blamed for many things but this is not his creation. It is a thoroughly modern and anti-Scriptural ideal.
Lutheran did not locate the compass of truth within the conscience of the individual but squarely within the Word of God. He did not set conscience over the Word as the primary religious, moral, and political value. What we today have fallen into as we make individual conscience the supreme arbiter of truth and goodness, was unknown to Luther; he had no intention of propagating this crucial value of the modern democratic creed into the public or religious square. For Luther, acting against conscience meant acting against the conscience that is “captive to the Word of God”. Neither conscience nor reason can trump the Word of the Lord for Luther. Would that we learned what He meant.
When, for example, the ELCA invented the conscience clause to allow not only disagreement but distance for those who rejected the votes of the CWA 2009, it was literally affirming the idea of conscience above the Word of God. While some presumed that such conscience would be a temporary disagreement until time or argument wore down the opponents, the whole idea literally removed the truth of the issues decided upon out of the Word of God, out of the domain of creed and confession, and allowed the individual conscience to be the supreme voice of truth and the final arbiter or what was right or wrong. It affirmed the modern heresy that all truth must be submitted to the individual conscience for affirmation or rejection and apart from the will and desire of the individual to recognize such truth, it has no standing, value, or influence. So we have invented the anti-Scripture of the individual conscience, a fundamental human right to choose, affirm, reject, and submit to everything.