Concerning Resolution #6, Part 5

Posted: November 4, 2011 in Resolution #6
Tags: , , , , ,

“…those who serve according to their conscience…”

The appeal of Resolution #6 to conscience is a powerful one, and resonates with our fundamental belief that the individual always knows what’s best for his own life. “My conscience directs me, and when I follow the dictates of my conscience I live free of guilt and shame.” In other words, my conscience is clear. Trouble is, conscience varies quite a bit from person to person. What may offend my conscience may not affect yours in the least, and vice versa. Trouble is, conscience is a fickle guide; it must be informed by spiritual and ethical instruction. Without them, conscience serves its own pleasure. The pool into which conscience initially looks for direction will be the morality formed through having been taught a particular view of right from wrong. If one has been taught an idea or an action is right, his conscience will likely approve of the idea or action. Conversely, if one has been taught an idea or an action is wrong, his conscience will likely disapprove of the idea or action.

The authors of Resolution #6 allow for conscience to work equally in diametric directions, and for the two extremes to be morally relative. They say that my Christian conscience may allow for taking the life of another human being, while your Christian conscience may not allow for the same action. And somehow, according to the wording of Resolution #6, both of these choices of conscience are completely acceptable. Though these two represent completely opposite outcomes and not simply degrees of variation, somehow both are right. Though these two represent ultimate conclusions so drastically different from one another that no greater difference can be imagined, somehow both are correct. It’s a matter of life and death…poles apart…and they’re telling us that either choice is suitable? They’re really telling us that whether the choice to deal death is good or evil is relative to the conscience of the decision maker? Are you kidding me? We’re really going to sing along with Jiminy Cricket on this one, “Let yer conscience be your guide?”

You may as well follow the bouncing ball and sing along, because if you’re looking for logic you won’t find it in Resolution #6.

It seems to me that we’ve been more influenced by pluralism than we may have realized; that we’ve been subtly warped to the point that all thought systems are equally valid and that all outcomes are correct. Or, we’ve never been taught to think in a straight line. I’m not sure which it is. And I’m not sure which is worse.

I wonder, though, how far this “conscience as our guide” idea extends in this particular application. If we’re willing to allow conscience to be the ultimate arbiter of our actions when serving secular governments, can that mean that all actions in service to secular government and allowed by conscience are permissible? After all, if one can kill with clear conscience in service to secular government wouldn’t everything else seem to be small potatoes? I assume then that one can lie in service to secular government, that one can manipulate in service to secular government, that one can deceive in service to secular government, that one can steal in service to secular government, and that one can maim in service to secular government; it would seem that all would be approved by Resolution #6…if one’s conscience allows.

If an Apostolic may serve as a combatant in uniform as long as his conscience allows, may he serve as a combatant out of uniform? May a Christian be involved in black-ops? May a Christian carry out assassinations? May he engage in torture in service to his government? May he kill civilians in such service? May a Christian serve secular governments as a spy? And if so, are the actions he engages in as a spy morally absolved as long as he acts with clear conscience? And what about those warriors we occasionally hear of who actually enjoy war? Is a Christian allowed to enjoy killing in service to his government?

Seems we may be at risk of confusing legality with morality.

It’s clear to see that using conscience as a guide in our service to the state can be a very slippery slope, and I’m puzzled that the authors of Resolution #6 didn’t think of that. Or perhaps they thought of it…and ignored it. The conscience must be informed. It must be taught. It must be guided. Conscience functions well as a fail-safe, as the mind’s court of last resort when there is simply no other way to know what’s right. But it cannot, it must not, be treated as the general adjudicator of morality. Not even for a Christian.

Taking human life violates the spirit of the New Covenant, as well as the letter. Our current Article of Faith regarding conscientious scruples accurately reflects that. We simply cannot alter this stand to suit those who may serve as combatants, whatever their individual consciences may tell them. We cannot engage in moral retrenchment because “we want those who serve to know we believe in them.” (Seriously?  That’s supposed to be reasoning?) We cannot leave such a fundamentally moral issue to personal discretion simply because we have church members who are officers of the law. The weight of the New Testament is clear, abundantly clear, on this issue.

We cannot condone the taking of human life…whatever conscience may say.

  1. Tom Brooks says:


  2. Jon says:

    Sorry it took so long to stop by your blog! Great writing! Rodney Shaw should include this with an article on both sides of the issue in an upcoming Forward? I recommend you edit it all into one and forward it to him.

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