From the One Big Idea Session of our 2015 National Gathering here is John Thompson on “Conscience Is Not Our Lord.”
In the church debates of the last generation, one prominent refrain has been that “God alone is Lord of the conscience” ― one of the “historic principles of Reformed theology” found in the Westminster Confession but traceable to Calvin and others. But if we read this maxim in its larger context, conscience seems to be less of an ally and even a less reliable guide than one might gather from the ways it has been invoked in our debates. Indeed, Presbyterians on the right and on the left may well be guilty of invoking this maxim to mask a truly worrisome practice: making our consciences Lord, so that they rule over the Bible and even over God. What is conscience? Should we abandon this notion altogether? How do we cultivate this divine gift so that it takes its rightful but limited place between head and heart, between doctrine and mission?