Conscience: Seeing Past Personal Rules

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Politics and the Christian Conscience graphic

There are about 30 passages in the New Testament that deal with conscience—God’s gift of a subconscious moral values guide that impacts every aspect of an individual’s life.

Christians most often have congenial interpersonal relationships because their consciences overlap. Untended, though, weeds in the form of personal opinion can crowd out the standards of right and wrong that God’s Word teaches and create points of conflict. Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 address individuals or groups with differing consciences.

Andrew Naselli has written extensively about the conscience, and the BJU Seminary graduate will be the principal speaker Nov. 12 for the fourth Stewart Custer Lecture Series.

The event is designed to honor one of the University’s most celebrated scholars, the late Dr. Stewart Custer, and to advance the Seminary’s commitment to cultivating scholarship in service for the church. Each fall, a published author whose scholarly work addresses contemporary challenges of the church is invited to speak.

Regular Calibration Needed

Naselli is associate professor of systematic theology and New Testament at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis and the author or co-author of nine books, including Conscience: What It Is, How to Train It, and Loving Those Who Differ. He defines a person’s conscience as their self-awareness—”your consciousness of what you do that you believe is right and wrong.” There are times when it requires calibration.

“At any given point in your life, your conscience will be functioning in an incorrect way in certain areas,” Naselli said. “None of our consciences perfectly match God’s conscience. So, it’s a lifelong process to discern what it is do we need to add to our conscience or remove from our conscience. The way we do that is from reading Scripture and reading Scripture in community with our church and talking to church leaders and fellow church members and exhorting one another.”

Passionate about Politics

Naselli will apply his work to the current contentious U.S. political climate. He’ll address issues that all Christians should agree upon, how believers in Christ should biblically respond to each other when they disagree on political issues as a matter of conscience, and how should we respond to the political theater being played out daily in the media.

“Why is that Christians are so passionate about politics and why do they disagree so often? How should they disagree?” he said. “A big part of understanding why Christians disagree and how they should disagree is understanding their conscience. Most political news today involves wisdom that depends on looking inside of Scripture and outside of Scripture. People with different perspectives, judgments are going to reach different conclusions for many political issues that are just complex—how do you deal with the issue of immigration and refugees, how do you deal with economic issues of having a safety net and yet being fair with taxes?

“You name the issue and I don’t think you can say there’s the Christian position for the policy for most political issues. There are some like there’s a straight line from don’t murder to don’t abort. But for most political issues there’s wisdom involved, and it’s helpful for Christians to recognize that we have our convictions individually but we’ve got to have leeway with fellow Christians.”

Beware of Snakes and Dragons

Naselli, who received a PhD in theology from BJU Seminary in 2006, will also present some of his recent research about a biblical theology of snakes and dragons. The Serpent and the Serpent Slayer is scheduled to be published next fall.

“I studied all the passages in the Bible that talk about snakes and dragons explicitly and implicitly and organized that along a Bible storyline (such as Pharisees being children of the serpent and Christ being the serpent slayer),” Naselli said. “The role of Christians is to beware of and fight those serpents and ultimately trust Jesus to defeat the serpent.”

Register for the free morning event on the BJU campus.