Thursday, June 19, 2014
US Supreme Court On Conscience
Within days, the Supreme Court will rule on Americans' right to act on their conscience and resulting moral convictions.
John Jay, America's first Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court said, "Security under our Constitution is given to the rights of conscience and private judgement. They are by nature subject to no control but that of Deity [the Lord] and in that free situation they are now left."
How will the Court of 2014 rule on conscience?
Has our collective conscience become so "seared" that we are desensitized to the fundamental principles of life and liberty and now believe that "conscience can be your guide" only if it is not shaped by Judeo-Christian values?
The Court's decision will not only impact the current issues related to Obamacare and abortion, but will impact, and could silence future generations from living according to their conscience for fear of reprisal.
The true American dream being weighed in the balances?
Jennifer Marshall with the Heritage Foundation reminds us that "the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the case of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialities---family owned businesses that have gone to court to challenge a provision under Obamacare that requires them and nearly all other employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs, contraception and sterilization, regardless of their religious beliefs."
The Green family, who owns Hobby Lobby, are evangelicals. The Hahn family, who run Conestoga Wood, are Mennonites.
There are literally hundreds more people and cases to follow on this same issue.
But it is even bigger than that. The very heart and soul of what America is about is essentially on trial.
Life and Liberty rests in the right of conscience.
Has America become so desensitized to our moral foundations under our radical secular leadership that this Court could rule against the very intent of our Founding Fathers? Or shake its fist at the God who created life and liberty?
Samuel Adams told those gathered in the State House in Philadelphia on August 1, 1776, "Freedom of thought and the right of private judgement, in matters of conscience, driven from every other corner of the earth, direct their course to this happy country as their last asylum."
Has our conscience become so "seared" under this present secular administration that this last asylum for right of conscience has now been banished from the earth?
Our first President got it. Does this one?
Washington said each of us, "Being accountable to God alone for his religious [biblical] opinions, ought to be protected in worshipping...according to the dictates of his conscience."
Why is the matter of conscience so important that early settlers to America left all, and risked all to practice it?
Merriam Webster says conscience is "the part of the mind that makes you aware of your actions as being either morally right or wrong."
But what informs that part of your mind as to what is "morally right and morally wrong?
Every successful culture and every major religion draws or has drawn on the moral teaching of the Bible.
While the word "heart" is most often used in the Old Testament in speaking of conscience, the word "conscience" is used 31 times in the New Testament.
A key passage is Romans 2:14-15.
Scripture teaches that humans, made in the image of God, have an innate sense of right and wrong, a moral monitor installed at Creation, that either "approves" or "accuses" and serves as an umpire on moral and ethical issues.
However, the Fall---when man rebelled against God, drastically affected conscience, but did not completely destroy it.
There is a remnant of God's moral law in all culture, which gives, to some degree, a sense of rightness or wrongness---like murder, incest, lying, etc.
The New Testament gives a clear picture of how conscience is developed.
Look at Paul (Saul) before his conversion.
He persecuted Christians with a "good conscience" (Acts 23:1). His conscience told him to do right, while his convictions told him it was right to kill Christians.
In his case his conscience and convictions were transformed by his experience on the road to Damascus.
1. Our sinful, often misguided conscience is transformed, redeemed and heightened by salvation through Jesus Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Then when we sin, our conscience being influenced by the Holy Spirit, convicts us of the wrong. (I John 1:9)
2. Our conscience must be properly informed by God's Word regarding right and wrong. Paul is teaching this in I Corinthians 8-10 and Romans 14. It can then become "our guide" in the sense of following God's eternal truth and moral structure.
3. Our conscience can also become "seared" (I Timothy 4:2) If we repeatedly and purposefully disobey convictions based on God's Truth it desensitizes our conscience. We hear the phrase "they have no conscience."
When we become ambivalent to God's Word in regard to personal issues or moral issues in the culture, our conscience becomes "seared" as we become apathetic.
Unconfessed sin in our lives also leads to a "seared" conscience. (Hebrews 3:12-13)
4. Our conscience can also "malfunction" in the sense that it becomes hypersensitive and over functions, resulting in believers condemning and accusing other believers over incidental issues, while the important issues are not addressed. A hypersensitive conscience can also cause a believer to condemn themselves for perceived short comings or past sins that are now forgiven and covered by Christ and His atonement.
False guilt is often used by Satan to steal and rob from our lives and our effectiveness.
If there is decay in the conscience of the culture, whose fault is it?
First it is mine---and yours. We must take responsibility and seek a "pure conscience" through understanding God's Word and living according to it. (I Corinthians 2:6-16) By humbling ourselves and praying...
We then must ask God for the courage to act on that understanding and be a light in the darkness of the culture---salt and light.
And finally, pastor and evangelist Charles Finny said the fault lies with the church leadership.
He said, 'If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discernment, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in Christianity, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it."
Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Prayerful. Be Pro-Active. Be Blessed.