The reinterpretation of the conscience and the beginnings of the end for modern Western society in this form.


Is God part of our consciousness?

So then after Schleiermacher and into the modern era a whole new set of questions arose.  The epistemic foundations of the West have had a cataclysmic shift in which much of modern life God has been marginalized.  We see this in education through Religious Education and the changing of the laws.  If an RE teacher teaches in a confessional way, it is quite possible that he will lose his job.  In science Darwin and the movement of evolution has placed on the biological and social developments of society.  In the public spheres God and the state to all intents have been separated.  How we interpret the world has changed.  All of a sudden religious people have had a new set of secular glasses imposed on them.  This opens up a world of even more diverse voices in the political sphere. 

Yet under the surface religion bubbles away.  God cannot be pushed out for too long.  Especially when you see politicians acting as gods and fleecing peoples taxed moneys.  War has been very destructive in the West.  If one goes into a lot of old Churches, one sees the names of all who gave their lives supposedly for their country.   Each of those soldiers was in a family or was a head of a family.  It was the man who taught the Christian values to their children and in turn the values to the next generation.  A lot of this wisdom was stopped on the killing fields of battle fields across the globe.  New epistemic frames of references filled this void and abortion in the UK became legalized. 

It is a sad day for the Church, the communion of saints.  Politicians enjoy giving presents to their voters and a lot of the time voters do not see pandoras box with the poisonous snake ready to latch on to the persons who opens the lid.  This is why Herman Bavinck is so important.  He is giving us God’s wisdom on the topic of conscience and laying bare how these ideas have changed.  He has shown us how society has stripped the original meanings of conscience away until there is only the human being as subject and object.  Oh, what a sad day this is when the Creator of our humanity is pushed to one side and forcibly expunged from society.  My friends God is not dead, he is the Creator of the universe, and this situation shows just how patient God is towards us.  When we start to look at conscience now, I think that we need to be careful as Bavinck will give a modern interpretation of conscience.  We need to look on Bavinck now as our teacher and what conscience means in the modern world.

The Rationalist modern etymology of Conscience; Bavincks reading.

So, we have a new etymology for conscience as God has been written out of the picture.  The human persons becomes both subject and object.  So, for Vilmar  ‘the heart is the central midpoint of human being and living, and also the seat of self-consciousness.’ (pg 191) syneideisis is no longer being a witness with someone (God), but is now (“to be one’s own witness” or “one’s own consciousness coming forward as witness”).  Conscience is now about ‘what you know about yourself’ (pg 192) Bavinck continues… ‘Next, however, it denotes an abiding consciousness, whose nature it is to bear witness to the subject regarding his own conduct, and that, too, in a moral sense.”’ (pg 192)

Bavinck then explains the relationship of consciousness and conscience.  ‘The consciousness that judges become our conscience; it becomes an ethical judgment.’ (pg 192) these two words were then carried into the ethical world and now belong together.  Bavinck then goes into Germanic meanings and finishes this section by saying that ‘I become subject and object’ in my conscience judgements’. 


‘My conscience and consciousness are not linked now to God in any shape or form.  I am no longer answerable before a Holy Creator’.  I think this is the gist of what Bavinck is saying.  This is based on pure cause and effect. It means that there is no sin because one is only answerable to oneself.  This is how people live their lives; the individual have now become little gods making their own decisions in life without a care for eternity.   For myself I can never accept this rationalistic explanation devoid of God.   We were created in the image of God, there was a Fall, Christ came into the world to save us from our sins. We cannot save ourselves a special work of the Holy Spirit needs to kick start our salvation, planned before the foundation of the world. Whether we believe in God or not, there will be a day that we will be held accountable for our thoughts and actions.

Next time in Herman Bavinck we are going to look at the relationship of Conscience and intellect in Herman Bavincks Reformed Ethics pages 193 -195.  In this section Bavinck again looks at St Thomas’ Aquinas’ interpretation. 

You are also welcome to follow my other blog on the book of Hebrews;


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: