In Paul’s writings, his definition of conscience
is not entirely clear. After looking at a few sources, a general consensus was
made apparent in regards to what conscience is and how Paul views it.
Conscience is something unseen within ourselves
which affects the way we feel about the way we act. It allows us to judge our
actions before we act, guiding us in our decision; it also allows us to judge our actions after they take place, helping us
evaluate whether it was right or wrong (Fitzmyer 45).
The word conscience comes from the Greek word
syneidesis; originally referring to ones awareness of their actions in general,
it now has the connotation of referring to morality (Fitzmyer 45). However, conscience
is not to be confused with God’s will or God’s judgment; it functions based on “internalized norms”
which may differ from God’s law (Hawthorne 154).
In 1 Timothy 1:19 Paul expresses that both the
good conscience and the impaired conscience exist (NET). The conscience may be
impaired by deliberately rejecting moral norms or, because of ones already impaired conscience; they may act contrary to moral
places a lot of value on following ones conscience. To him, differing convictions
matter not. What is more important is that they respect one another. Ones conscience should not be used to judge another’s actions.
Ones actions should, however, reflect their own conscience. (Dunn 687)
finds it important to “preserve the integrity” of a person (Hawthorne 155).
He therefore mentions many times the duty the “strong” of conviction have toward the “weak”
of conviction. In 1 Corinthians 8:7-12, Paul calls Christians to respect the
weak of conscience; in verse 8:13 he says “…if food causes my brother or sister to sin, I will never eat meat
again, so that I may not cause one of them to sin” (NET).
does not, however, disregarding Torah. In 1 Corinthians 10:23-24, he says that
although all things may be “lawful” in regards to their conscience, not all things are “beneficial”
to oneself or to others; he stresses the importance of building one another up (NET).
He also finds it important to “protect the conscience” in order that it may “fulfill its function”
of guidance (Hawthorne 154).
has a conscience and it works as a guide for ones actions. In Romans 2:14-15,
Paul points out that even those who do not have Torah, have a conscience; he explains that even those who do not hear Torah,
may obey Torah because the law has been written upon their hearts and they are therefore “a law to themselves”
stated earlier, conscience is not to be confused with God’s judgment (Hawthorne 154).
Conscience does not establish morals, rather, when “moral norms” are “internalized” the conscience
is actively utilized (Hawthorne 154). Thus, the present Catholic idea comes in
about forming ones conscience.