In Conscience, Andrew Naselli and J.D. Crowley hope to help readers gain a better grasp of conscience and its effects on life, church, and missions. The authors assert that conscience is God’s gift to discern what we ought or ought not to do in the midst of the decisions we need to make every day. However, our conscience is not fixed and can shift for better or worse. For Christians, our conscience is no longer our own but should be subject to the lordship of Christ. Thus, Christians need to actively calibrate their conscience to align with God’s commands while also leaving room for disagreement on disputable matters. In the book, the authors helpfully suggest different ranking systems to help differentiate whether issues should be considered disputable or non-disputable. However, I think the authors could have expanded more on this topic as there is much discernment involved in making the correct assessment. As the authors noted, all Christians should be able to agree on core doctrines such as the Trinity and the Incarnation. However, when we encounter matters such as gender roles and baptism that are more difficult to categorize, how should Christians approach these issues?
Assuming though that we can properly assess the issue at stake, the authors provide more advice on how we should exercise our conscience. Firstly, if our conscience stops us from doing something, we are wise to take heed and not deviate from it. However, as we dig into God’s Word and listen to the Spirit’s promptings, we may find that some issues we used to hold dear seem trivial while other issues that were non-controversial are now matters of much importance. The book also touches on our interactions with others at church whose conscience may not align with ours. When this occurs, we need to exercise our freedom or restraint on an issue in relation to the opposite party’s faith. The authors point out that in dealing with disputable issues, the bottom line is that we are to glorify God while subverting our own preferences to those of our brothers and sisters. In the context of missions, the authors also provide guidance on how missionaries should aim to learn more about the culture of the people groups they are serving in order to discern whether differences in both party’s consciences are cultural or doctrinal.
I would recommend this book to all Christians as the topic of conscience is one that is hardly mentioned even in scholarly circles. An improper understanding of conscience has plagued the Christian church ever since its beginnings creating great schisms and disunity in the body of Christ. In the past few years, I have learned to be more aware of instances where I should stop and gauge whether the issue at hand is a matter of doctrine or preference. In this book, the authors have succinctly summarized the critical points in exercising the Christian conscience which is based on the three foundations of love, freedom, and gospel. When we truly love those around us, we are willing to give up any freedom or restriction on a disputable issue for the sake of the gospel and church unity. May we all learn to use the precious conscience God has given us to glorify Him and build His church.
In compliance with Federal Trade Commission regulations, I was provided a free review copy of this book from Crossway.