What it is, how to train it, and loving those who differ
As the subtitle might imply, Andy Naselli and J.D. Crowley’s Conscience is devoted to answering three questions: 1) What is the conscience? 2) How do I live my life based on what my conscience tells me? and 3) What do I do with people who disagree? In only about a hundred pages, this book unloads a whole lot of truth. Read on for more:
I especially appreciate that this book is written to the layperson — someone like me, perhaps. It’s a shorter book that doesn’t mince words, and doesn’t dive deep into Greek syntax or long-winded academic vocabulary. While being slim, the book is still theologically sound and solid. I can say that not too many people are writing books like these. Naselli and Crowley take a look at our ‘guiding compasses,’ and study them in light of God’s word and in light of other cultures.
The first two chapters of the book define the conscience, landing on the definition, “The conscience is your consciousness of what you believe is right or wrong.” Because each person has their own conscience, our consciences can differ depending on our morals. Additionally, our conscience is a guide to the truth, not the truth itself, which means it can change. My conscience may condemn something that is fine — conversely, my conscience may later change to condemn something that is, in fact, wrong. From the start, the authors work hard to define the conscience as something subject to the will of God — and not a will in itself.
“God’s will above all else,” is stamped in every margin of this book. Though Naselli and Crowley are talking about the conscience, you get the sense that they are really pointing Christians to God’s word. At the end of the day, a conscience is subject to the word of God, and that’s where the priority and emphasis of the book lies. “Consciousness of truth,” they write,” grows faster than obedience to that truth.” They paint a picture of a conscience that is soft and tender, ready to submit to corrections, and always subject to the word of God.
This general flexibility makes up the middle of the book, in which Crowley and Naselli write about calibrating the conscience, and understanding how to react when it condemns you. This sort of flexibility is welcome in a world where everything seems to be hardening into radical poles. But Naselli and Crowley aren’t for abandoning truth, just for redirecting the source of that truth. Your conscience, after all, is not infallible, nor should it be the last call for truth in your life. Instead, the authors are quick to point to God, and his Word, as the sources of truth in our lives and the prism that everything else is filtered through.
But the part of the book that makes it worth reading is the final two chapters, in which the authors talk about relating to the people around us. Issues of conscience have divided churches, torpedoed ministries, and in general, held more prominence than they should. The earlier foundation of the book stands firm when the authors dive into application, first in regard to fellow Christians, and secondly in regard to people in other cultures.
We’d be in a better spot regarding alcohol, hobbies, worship styles, and countless other issues if a few more Christians read chapter five of this book. Naselli and Crowley study Paul’s example, teaching readers to change their behavior for the sake of the weaker brother. “Paul says you have a responsibility to resist the temptation to judge the person free than you to your left and a responsibility to resist the temptation to look down on the person stricter than you to the right.”
True Christian freedom is the goal of Conscience, “the freedom to discipline yourself to be flexible for the sake of the gospel.” Again and again, the authors pull the book back around to their main point: the Word of God, and our responsibility to share it with those around us. The book does what it says on the tin: explains the conscience, explains how to train it, and explains how to love those who differ, with an emphasis on the last point. This is indeed a book written for ordinary Christians, and it compels us to ordinary action: harnessing our consciences for the sake of spreading the gospel in our everyday, ordinary lives.
Published on 13 February, 2017. Last updated on