If Bruce Lee met Herman Bavinck on the question of the conscience and the soul.

 

01 05 2021

 This photo was taken in 1966 and it is the year I was born.   In this writing I will be talking about the conscience.  Every human being is a natural person.  you can be a Christian but you are still a natural person.  You might be from the East or the West but you are still a natural person.  As natural persons we share the same type of traits.  Today I will be working on the Old Testament teachings through Herman Bavinck’s eyes.  I have also been reading Shannon lee’s Book ‘Be water my Friend’.  From what I read Bruce Lee took his conscience very seriously indeed.  We should also take our consciences very seriously.  Bruce Lee came to this conclusion through reason.  I came to the conclusion through Scripture. By the way Shannon Lee said that Kung Fu means hard work.  So let us do some kung fu and learn from Herman Bavinck and Bruce Lee on this very important subject.

I took this picture from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Lee

Bruce Lee took his conscience very seriously and I believe it is a universal thing.  We may bury it, hide it, not listen to it but it is always there.   At the end of my writing, I took a quote from Shannon Lees book on being like water.   You might ask yourself how can Bavinck and Bruce Lee have anything in common.   Actually when it comes to conscience Bruce Lee possibly without realizing or realizing it with his ideal fits perfectly in with the teachings of the Old Testament…   If Bruce Lee lived at the turn of the 20thcentury and met Bavinck, they would have had some serious conversations.  You might ask why I say such things.  Read my article and then come to a judgement. 

 

Bavinck’s interpretation of Conscience in the Bible part 1.  Bavincks Ethics volume 1 pages 171-176

Bavinck the master theologian saying that the word conscience is not found in the Old Testament.   

“For Israel, the law fulfilled the task of the conscience; the focus of the conscience was not the acting subject, but God’s will; the norms and thus the judge of all conduct was to be found only in the law.” From Bavincks Ethics volume 1 page 171

This is very interesting because it seems to be the case that up to a certain extent the Greeks and the Old Testament were sharing some ideas here on conscience.  For example, earlier he said that the Polis and its laws was the function for the conscience.  Individual consciences were not needed until the breakup of the city states.  For Judaism God’s will and following his laws were important not the acting subject. In both cases the acting subject was not the driver of conscience but an external driver to the acting subject.

Although the word conscience is missing in the Old Testament there is another word that is used a lot; ‘the heart’!  Bavinck quotes from Oehler that the heart is the central organ that pumps blood around the rest of the body with other ramifications.

“The heart, as the central organ of the circulation of the blood, forms the focus of the life of the body. . .. But the heart is also the centre of all spiritual functions. Everything spiritual, whether belonging to the intellectual, moral, or pathological sphere, is appropriated and assimilated by man in the heart as a common meeting—place and is again set in circulation from the heart. All vital motions of the soul proceed from the heart and react upon it.” Page 171

 

When I read on his explanations of these verses, one can see that he had done his research.  I am going to follow his verses trail and I am hoping that you will have a deeper understanding of our vital topic of the conscience.

Obviously the next three verses explain to us about keeping watch over our hearts and consciences; 

23 Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. Proverbs 4:23

27 The spirit of man is the lamp of the LORD, Searching all the innermost parts of his being. Proverbs 20:27

 

6 “I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go. My heart does not reproach any of my days. Job 27:6

 

Josephs brothers sold Joseph into slavery and the guilt is coming to the surface;

21 Then they said to one another, “Truly we are guilty concerning our brother, because we saw the distress of his soul when he pleaded with us, yet we would not listen; therefore, this distress has come upon us.” Genesis 42:21

 

 

In the UK one of the greatest crimes is to commit regicide.  This has Old Testament roots because the king is God’s representative on earth.  King David before he became king felt guilty for cuttings King Souls robe.  King Soul at the time was hunting king David!

5 It came about afterward that David’s conscience bothered him because he had cut off the edge of Saul’s robe. 1 Samuel 24:5

Conscience here is literally ‘heart struck’.  We said earlier that the word conscience is not found in the Old Testament.  The NASB saw the evidence and its strength and used an equivalence that we can understand in the 21st century.  ( h3820. לֵבleb; from the same as 3824; inner man, mind, will, heart:–   )

 

31 this will not cause grief or a troubled heart to my lord, both by having shed blood without cause and by my lord having avenged himself. When the LORD deals well with my lord, then remember your maidservant.” 1 Samuel 25:31

10 Now David’s heart troubled him after he had numbered the people. So, David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.” 2 Samuel 24:10

 

44 The king also said to Shimei, “You know all the evil which you acknowledge in your heart, which you did to my father David; therefore the LORD shall return your evil on your own head. 1 Kings 2:44

 

38 whatever prayer or supplication is made by any man or by all Your people Israel, each knowing the affliction of his own heart, and spreading his hands toward this house; 1 Kings 8:38

 

The book of Job is about 400 years older than the book of Genesis.  There is nothing worse than a guilty conscience. The question is how guilty?

20 “The wicked man writhes in pain all his days, And numbered are the years stored up for the ruthless. 21 “Sounds of terror are in his ears; While at peace the destroyer comes upon him.

22 “He does not believe that he will return from darkness, And he is destined for the sword.

23 “He wanders about for food, saying, ‘Where is it?’ He knows that a day of darkness is at hand.

24 “Distress and anguish terrify him, They overpower him like a king ready for the attack,

25 Because he has stretched out his hand against God And conducts himself arrogantly against the Almighty. Job 15:20-25

 

 

4 My lips certainly will not speak unjustly, Nor will my tongue mutter deceit.

5 “Far be it from me that I should declare you right; Till I die I will not put away my integrity from me. 6 “I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go. My heart does not reproach any of my days. Job 27:4-6

 

Bavinck continues on page 172 with the following.  Take notice of Bavincks style.  As well as a master theologian, he is also a master condenser of packing so much Scripture into a small space. 

“We also take note of those psalms in which the poet declares his innocence (Pss. 17:3; 18:32) and those in which he is profoundly aware of his guilt (6:2—7; 32:4; 51) .23 It is the heart that accuses: “Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others” (Eccles. 7:22); “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron; with a point of diamond it is engraved on the tablet of their heart, and on the horns of their altars” (Jer. 17:1). The prophet Jeremiah cannot resist God’s call: “If I say, ‘I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,’ there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot” (Jer. 20:9). The same prophet signals a new covenant “with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33). Whether hearts are bold or timid is ascribed to guilty and unburdened con— sciences, respectively: “The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion” (Prov. 28:1). Luther even translated “heart” as “conscience” in Joshua 14:7 (“1 was forty years old when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh—barnea to spy out the land, and I brought him word again as it was in my heart”) and in Job 27:6 (“1 hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go; my heart does not reproach me for any of my days”).” From Bavincks Christian Ethics page 172

So, what have we discovered about the teachings in the Old Testament? The human being has a ‘heart’.  We need to with all diligence watch over it and point it in the direction of the good and not the evil way.  We ought to guard our hearts and feed it positive energy. let us keep our spiritual lamp burning bright and holy because God sees into our intentions and actions.  Always do the right thing.

If you don’t do the right thing your guilty conscience and God’s judgement can overtake one (unless for grace through repentance) Someone who commits the gravest of crimes will not escape God’s judgement except for grace.  It can be payback time for things you have done wrong. For some people, they will live in a horror movie all their days on earth never escaping the bad things they have done.  Always speak the truth and do good never evil.  Search your intentions and ask God to help you by his grace.

Reflection and preparation for part 2

The next section we will do, will be on the New Testament.   My friend I want to ask you some questions.  Have you ever thought what condition your soul is in.  For the natural man and the Christian, the conscience is very important.  Every person on earth including the Christian person is a natural person.  This is important and at this level I feel that Christians can also learn from the ordinary man walking the streets of this earth.  Why did Bruce Lee do so well in his life and work? Obviuously I grew up in the 1970s and I loved those kung fu films and I still do.   At the moment I am reading a book by Shannon Lee and she explained somethings about the tools he used.  The conscience was one of them. She says about her dad and what Bruce Lee believed;

 

 

“Conscience

Recognizing that my emotions often err in their over-enthusiasm, and my faculty of reason often is without the warmth of feeling that is necessary to enable me to combine justice with mercy in my judgments, I will encourage my conscience to guide me as to what is right and wrong, but I will never set aside the verdicts it renders, no matter what may be the cost of carrying them out.”

Lee, Shannon. Be Water, My Friend (p. 118). Ebury Publishing. Kindle Edition.” 

Shannon Lee also said somewhere in this book that kung fu literally means” hard work”. 

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