10 June 2012

Conscience

The other day I was blessed to have a chat with Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller, who was preparing to head up to Canada to present to the St. John Chrysostom Preacher's Retreat.  I was totally intrigued by his thoughts on preaching and its relation to conscience.  He shared so many profound things in such a short time that I'm still digesting them.  First, here's a challenge for you:  use an electronic version of the Confessions and read what they say about conscience (AFTER you do the same in the Scriptures!).  Second, think about the effects of the fall on the conscience and the fact that a human being now may feel guilt or shame over something that he ought not; or the fact that a human being now may not feel guilt or shame over something that he ought; and finally the fact that a human being may in fact read a situation rightly in the conscience.  Third, think of the task of preaching in relation to the conscience:  by the gift of the Ten Commandments we have a tool from God that can correct a conscience that is crushed under a burden it ought not be - for they inform us what is sin and what is not; likewise, when our conscience is broken and not warning us about sin, the Ten Commandments can reinforce and bring back to the conscience the knowledge of what actually is sin that we've pretending is not.  But the best of all is how the Gospel enables a good conscience (check those Confessional references again!), and how this is first and foremost because it rests our entire righteousness in the flawless righteousness of the Son of God.  Here Pr. Wolfmueller pointed to the parallel uses of "Paraclete" for the Divine Persons of the Son and the Spirit.  As the Son lives to intercede for us and is our advocate before the Father (1 John 2), ever pleading His own all-sufficient propitiation, so the Holy Spirit is the advocate within, in the conscience, also pointing ceaselessly to that perfect righteousness of the Son of God and proclaiming it as our very own.  There is no human righteousness that WE could come up with that would give us a good conscience in the light of the Law of God's relentless demand for absolute purity and perfection ("as Your Father in heaven is perfect!"), but the Spirit witnesses within our spirit that we are sons of God and if sons then heirs, heirs of God and coheirs with Christ.  The Spirit is given to us so that we may know the things freely given to us by God.  Also note the role of the conscience with Baptism in 1 Peter 3.  Still so much to think over, but is that not a fascinating area?  You know, it's been a long, long time since I sat in a seminary homiletics class, but I do not recall the area of conscience ever even being addressed, yet it is surely ought be.  Through preaching the conscience is informed and corrected and strengthened.  And the result is that we are kept humble in repentance and made firm in faith.  More later as I continue ruminating on the topic.  Any of you have further thoughts?

7 comments:

s-p said...

I can't remember who said something like this, but my favorite "concience" quote is, "A good concience is one that accuses you. A bad concience is one that is broken and lets you off."

Myrtle said...

I have written a few blog entries and Facebook notes for the Reveling in the Christian Book of Concord group about this, after a fashion. Posting all the Snippets from our Confessions and trying to cross label them as I do, has illuminated for me just how much of our Confessions refers to anxious consciences or souls and the comfort and consolation of the Gospel. To me, our Church fathers expected us to struggle, to wrestle with shame and guilt, anguish and despair, doubt and confusion. So often we are told about our implacable foe and his relentless assault on our person, the church, and the world. For me, this is why I spend so much time in my beloved BOC. Over and over and over again, the things in my head and heart are...normal...and always, always I am given the sweet, sweet Gospel as a means for peace and rest and respite from the weight of such.

Charles Lehmann said...

Bryan is frickin' brilliant. Every conversation I've had with him has been like this.

Michael G said...

Dr John Kleinig talked about the conscience from Scriptures and Luther during his 2009 presentation in Ainsworth, "Heaven Now Open: Lutheran Liturgical Theology"

I believe the DVDs are still available at http://www.thelcs.org

Unknown said...

“As the Son lives to intercede for us and is our advocate before the Father (1 John 2), ever pleading His own all-sufficient propitiation, so the Holy Spirit is the advocate within, in the conscience, also pointing ceaselessly to that perfect righteousness of the Son of God and proclaiming it as our very own.” This has always troubled me. Is the Father still mad at us, even after Golgotha? If (John 10:30), “The Father and I are one,” is true, then why should One be advocating and pleading before the Other One? Or does the πρὸς in παράκλητον ἔχομεν πρὸς τὸν πατέρα indicate that being with the Father, He has authority to intercede for us against whatever or whoever wants to (John 10:28) “snatch us out of his hand”?

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Unknown said...

After my last posting, I immediately thought of those first words of Greek I learned from Prof. Proehl at Concordia, Bronxville: Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. I don’t know if anyone knows for certain whether the Gospel of John or 1 John were written first, but clearly in the Gospel, being πρὸς τὸν θεόν means being τὸν θεόν. Could it be that John is expressing the same idea in his first epistle, rather that saying that the Son is actually interceding with the Father?

Peace and Joy!
George A. Marquart

Unknown said...

Kleinig also speaks alot about conscience in his Doxology lectures...that was the first I recall hearing anything at all about conscience.