Religious Perspectives of Conscience

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Synderesis - The innate 'right reason' that gives knowledge of the basic principles of morality.

Conscientia - Using the principles of synderisis, this is the ethical judgement which leads to a specific action.

Early Christian Ideas about the Conscience

  • The teaching of the Christian Bible would suggest that the conscience is something that is given by God.
  • The apostle Paul oulined his idea in his letter to the Romans when he talks about the Gentiles: '....who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law...since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also being witness....'
  • Paul's other major contibution was to say that conscience was an awareness of good and bad, but that it can sometimes be weak and therefore mistaken.
  • Saint Jerome had the idea that it enabled us to distinguish good from evil : '...the spark of conscience...with which we discern that we sin'.
  • Intrinsically important for our moral well-being and for our relationship with God to be able to discern the leading of the moral away from the immoral (sin).
  • Saint Augustine of Hippo - saw conscience as the voice of God speaking to us from within.
  • It is the law of God in our hearts that we use to understand right and wrong actions. This behaviour helps us to become closer to God, as we listen to the voice that guides our moral reasoning.
  • For Augustine, the conscience must always be in every circumstance turned towards the good and away from all that is evil.

Thomas Aquinas and Reason

  • Saw conscience as the 'right reason' - recto ratio.
  • Reason was central to the moral life…


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