Saturday, February 28, 2009

the power of conscience

For the regular readers, here's a follow up on a question raised in this post.

I asked Boyd, the individual whom I quoted over at Nonviolent Jesus, what he meant by "the power of conscience."

This was his response:

What I was referring to is what Gandhi called "truth force". The strategy of nonviolent struggle is to appeal to the conscience and understanding of one's opponent, as we all struggle together toward truth. This is the Jesus I know - the one who grows in us through the power of conscience.

Here's the entire dialogue, for those interested.

I'm a big fan of Ghandi (see the footer of this page).  He followed Jesus better than most Christians.  And there is definitely truth in the power of the mind and spirit to overcome violence.  Every man is born with a conscience, and for this we praise God, for we know the depths of our own depravity and cannot begin to fathom a world where our evil bent was not checked by conscience.  Without some collective conscience (or perhaps some common root of conscience) we would not have any basis for common morality.

But to say that Jesus grows in us through the power of conscience just sounds... weak.  It sounds like weak theology.  I don't know that God talks about a 'power of conscience' at all.  I'm reminded that it is the Spirit who is to "teach us all things" (John 14:26) and it is Scripture that equips us for every good work (2 Tim. 3:17).

1 comment:

timothy flanders said...


I didn't follow all of the conversation before this, (and I've been following this blog loosely to keep on any info about your living situation), but I think that you're right.

Our Lord said "I have MANY MORE things to tell you. But I am going to the Father. But when the Spirit of truth comes, He will lead you into all truth."

Also, check out St. Paul's first letter to the Corinthians where he speaks of receiving wisdom from God through His Spirit:

(beginning at 2:6) We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we speak of God's secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. However, as it is written:
"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him" but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment:
"For who has known the mind of the Lord
that he may instruct him?" But we have the mind of Christ.

However, this being said, we know that wisdom comes from God's Spirit. However, the Church teaches that we know where the Spirit is, but we do not know where the Spirit is not. For instance, at Chrismation, when we lay our hands on a new Christ for him to receive the Holy Spirit, we know that he receives Him. However, "the wind blows where it wants to." As one of my Priests said once "God spoke out of Balaam's ass, God can do what he wants." Therefore, the Church does not make a judgment concerning the non-Orthodox, Christian or not, concerning their salvation or God's spirit. We know that salvation comes ONLY through Jesus Christ Our Lord and that the fullness of God's Truth is within the Orthodox Church, but we cannot make a judgment (it's not our place) on everyone else. Therefore, it is certainly possible, if God so desired to move people by His Spirit who may not even know Him (Ghandi) and many who are separated from communion in His Church (Protestants, Catholics). I for one will say that to me it is obvious that "the Spirit goes where He wishes" because I have certainly seen Him outside of the Church. Personally, I think God's Spirit is at work in many different places where we have no knowledge. The end of the matter, however, is that we just can't judge individuals so easily.

Ultimately, though, I think you're conclusion is good, Matt. God's Spirit "teaches us all truth." This is not some sort of humanist "self-realization" that works in us. Anything that is True that anyone does, thinks or says, is from God and is God, or else it wouldn't be True.