7. Conscience: Newman's Approach - Conscience as the voice of God

  • Created by: Alasdair
  • Created on: 26-06-17 18:59
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  • 7. Newman's Approach - Conscience as the voice of God
    • John Henry Newman (1801-1890)
    • When a person follows conscience he is simultaneously, in some mysterious way, following divine law
    • Conscience is a "messenger" of God and it is God speaking to us when we feel this intuitive moral knowledge and make decisions
    • For Christians, conscience is more than simply "a law of the mind", since it comes from God
    • Conscience does not invent truth, but at its best it detects the truth
    • "If, as is the case, we feel responsibility, are ashamed, are frightened, at transgressing the voice of conscience, this implies there is One to whom we are responsible, before whom we are ashamed, whose claims upon us we fear"
    • Augustine of Hippo (354-439) has said the same thing:
      • He also believed that conscience was to be identified with the voice of God speaking to us
      • When we listen to it, we are really  hearing the voice of God whispering to us about what is right and what is wrong
      • Urged all Christians to be concerned about conscience and to consider it most seriously
        • "Return to your conscience, question it...Turn inward, brethren, and in everything you do, see God as your witness"
    • Urged all Christians to be concerned about conscience and to consider it most seriously
    • Butler's, Newman's and Augustine's ideas on conscience are much less rationalist than Aquinas's annd rely on a more intuitionist approach whereby people are able to sense or intuit what is right or wrong, because God reveals this to them personally
    • Criticisms
      • Personal engagement has no objectivity
      • Conscience is simply personal, often self-centered inclinations
        • Can be seen in Newman's life itself
          • When he converted to Roman Catholic in 1845 he did not think about his duty to his friends and supporters
            • His conscience led him to an action that abandoned those closest to him
    • Positives
      • Newman's idea of freedom of conscience is important to modern human rights theory
        • It springs from, as Rule puts it, a conviction at:
          • '...the human person can rise, under the direction of conscience or moral self-consciousness, to a level of self-transcendence that enables the person, aided by faith, to come to the new cognitive horizon  that is God'
            • Conscience aided by faith, leads us to knowledge of God


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