Clark deNoon writes here as a guest author—
I’ve noticed that people implicitly ascribe a high degree of reliability to conscience, as if were either the underlying foundation for both their words and actions. Some find refuge in conscience as if it were a restoration of innocence and purity. Others, evidently think that speaking or acting according to conscience is an expression of righteousness or, even, godliness. I find such behavior neither comforting, nor encouraging. Rather than admirable, reliance on conscience is, at best—naïve, worse—negligent, and worst—stubbornly juvenile.
My experience has been that reliance on conscience is flexibly either a substitute for reason, or the name given for a position that doesn’t stand up to reason. I find conscience to be both a dim light and primarily effective only in retrospect.
Perhaps, conscience was beneficial in the halcyon days of early childhood, when it was as tender and responsive as our flesh and bones had been. Placed in us by our Creator to accuse or excuse our behavior, its usefulness is limited and erratically obeyed, but as the years stumble past, and by the time we reach voting age, it has become numbed by bad decisions, conflicting knowledge, twists of logic, adoption of contrary values, the influence of education, and the many voices we have chosen to listen to and believe.
Under the sway of such influences, I find practicing reason and collaboration to be safer, more sensible, and more reliable. Reality has a way of defeating idealism, facts have a way of exposing fantasy, truth has a way of undermining wishful thinking, time has a way of ending naiveté, and reason has a way of correcting emotional decisions and transforming our thought lives.
Paul of Tarsus, a writer of many books in the Bible, describes in Romans 1:18 to the end of the chapter, what can happens to conscience when truth is denied and reason is abandoned. Chapter two makes clear how powerless conscience is to change the outcome of someone who relies solely on it in the face of judgment.
Isaiah the prophet quotes God saying, “Come let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18), as He goes on to urge the people of Israel to use sound reason, or suffer the long-term consequences of bad decisions.