Andrew David Naselli (PhD, Bob Jones University; PhD, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is assistant professor of New Testament and biblical theology at Bethlehem College & Seminary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. J. D. Crowley (MA, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary) has been doing missionary and linguistic work among the indigenous minorities of northeast Cambodia since 1994.
Buy One, Get Ten Free
Some subjects in Christianity are so fertile, so abundantly promising and useful on so many different levels, that studying them reaps a harvest far beyond expectations. It’s like buy one, get ten free. Conscience is one of those subjects. It touches on salvation, progressive sanctification, church unity, evangelism, missions, and apologetics. Yet hardly is a topic more neglected in the Christian church (Kindle 173-175).
What is a conscience and why do we have it? What are we meant to use it for? Can we sell it? Can we shape it, mold it? Should we, in the words of Jiminy Cricket, always let our conscience be our guide? Can it ever be wrong?
After we’ve answered those questions, the next test remains: since we aren’t like “Bubble Boy,” we shouldn’t keep only to ourselves, and we should live amongst other believers (and non-Christians), how ought we interact with others who have a different conscience than us? Split and form another church? How must we calibrate our conscience to how God desires us to live?
Naselli and Crowley have met a need by writing Conscience. If Paul spent whole sections on it in his letters (Rom 14.1–15.7; 1 Cor 8–10; Gal 2; Col 2), then we must consider our own consciences and the consciences of others more than we already do. It is a gift from God.
- Chapters 1 and 2 ask what a conscience is and how we define it from the NT. Humans have consciences. Animals don’t. Our conscience reflects the moral aspect of God’s image. No one has the same conscience, your conscience doesn’t perfectly match God’s commands (thus you must always be growing), and you can damage your conscience. In chapter 2, all NT verses which speak of “conscience” are written out, and afterwards a definition is produced which tells us what the conscience can and cannot do and why it matters.
The following four chapters ask four critical questions:
- Chapter 3, What should you do when your conscience condemns you?
- Chapter 4, How should you calibrate your conscience to match God’s will?
“Martin Luther believed that maintaining a good conscience was worth going to prison for and even dying for. That great Reformer discovered in the Bible” (Kindle 774-775). Here the authors look at how reliable your conscience is on it’s own, and show you how you can calibrate your conscience according to what is pleasing to God. They give plenty of examples of third-level issues (issues which many will disagree over, but they are issues that nobody should split over), and reason over why no one should be dogmatic over all of his convictions.
- Chapter 5, How should you relate to fellow Christians when your consciences disagree? The authors give 12 principles from Romans 14.1-15.7 on how Christians can disagree with one another on disputable matters. They show Paul’s solution of love that emphasizes and “magnifies the gospel.”
- Chapter 6, How should you relate to people in other cultures when your consciences disagree? It can sometimes seem like people in other cultures don’t even have a conscience. They easily offend you, and, as it turns out, no matter how hard you try, you easily offend them too! How can we live together? And how can we bring the Gospel to other cultures without imposing our own cultural “laws” on to their lives? Chapter 6 pulls out another facet of Christian liberty and the freedom to disciple yourself to be flexible for the Gospel.
The book ends with two appendices:
- Similarities Between Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8–10
- Conscience Exercises For Cross-Cultural Effectiveness
The Chocolate Milk
Every chapter is important, and I found chapter 6 interesting, especially since Mari has a bachelor in intercultural communications, and we are an intercultural couple. Even though I’m American, I’ve been abroad for 5 years, and coming back to America I have to learn a few things over again (especially with being in a Southern Baptist context). It’s all fairly familiar to me, but it can be down right bizarre for Mari. This chapter is especially important:
…….(a) if you move to a new city/state/country.
…….(b) if someone else moves to your city.
…….(c) if you are a missionary to another country.
…….(d) because, with all the incoming refugees, you can’t just assume you know how they think, nor should you generalize.
More could be listed here, but it’s important to work toward understanding those who think differently than you (and I) do. In all of this we should seek unity with our family in Christ, and, as much as is possible, be peaceable among nonbelievers.
At 160 pages, this is a seriously easy and important book for any and all Christians to read through. I tried scanning through Amazon for books on the Christian conscience, and found next to nothing (minus a book by Sproul which is free on Kindle). While I haven’t read any other books on the conscience, the lack of Christian books on conscience shows the need for more discussion on this topic. There are a number of books about the conscience on Amazon, most of them from a non-Christian perspective. If you’re going to spend your time reading a book, pick up one written by two biblically solid scholars who seek to glorify God in all that they do. Read this book, and put it into practice. You’ll need it.
- Authors: Andrew Naselli & J. D. Crowley
- Paperback: 160 pages
- Publisher: Crossway (April 30, 2016)
- Read a Sample
- 12 Principles For Disagreeing With Other Christians
- Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Your Conscience
- How Reliable Is Your Conscience?
- More from Andy Naselli’s Blog
(Special thanks to Crossway for sending me this book to review!)