“Always let your conscience be your guide.” If you are like me, you grew up singing this tune. It was popularized by the movie Pinocchio where we were introduced to this lovable little insect in a top hat. He remains a Disney staple throughout generations and continues to echo this sentiment to this day. My guess is that no one stopped to think or question whether Jiminy Cricket was right; is it wise to always let your conscience be your guide? Did Ted Bundy. Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Wayne Gacy all had consciences, I am sure that they were guiding them in one way or the other. Did Adolf Hitler let his conscience be his guide? I know these are extreme cases but you get the point.
Lately, we have been seeing and hearing the term “vote my conscience: I could not vote for (insert name) because I had to vote my conscience.” This seems to be a par excellence for doing the right thing. This implies that the conscience is the arbiter of truth, morality, and goodness as if the conscience protects the individual from doing wrong. The question is whether or not this is biblical. Any true Christian does not vote his/her conscience, they vote the mind of Christ.
Let’s start with some basic definitions.
“Conscience: A capacity or faculty of moral intuition, consciousness, or reflection. A person’s internal awareness or sense of abiding by or transgressing moral standards. An internal witness to moral obligation based on intuition or self-assessment.”
Interestingly, we see throughout the Bible that conscience is much more complex than that. Just like the English language to take complex meanings and boil them down to a simplified connotation. The Bible has much more to say about conscience than a single definition. R.C. Sproul writes about conscience:
“The Hebrew term translated into the English as “conscience” occurs in the Old Testament, but very sparsely. However in the New Testament, there seems to be a fuller awareness of the importance of the function of conscience in the Christian life. The Greek word for conscience appears in the New Testament thirty-one times, and it seems to have a two-fold dimension, as the medieval scholars argued. It involves the idea of accusing as well as the idea of excusing. When we sin, the conscience is troubled. It accuses us. The conscience is the tool that God the Holy Spirit uses to convict us, bring us to repentance, and to receive the healing of forgiveness that flows from the gospel.”
If you step back and think about it, the conscience is what prompts us toward sin, debauchery, and rebellion. Without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, our conscience is the one thing we should not count on for truth and morality. Without living a word centered life, the conscience will most assuredly lead you to vote the wrong way.
After all, the divine serpent in Genesis 3 appealed to the conscience of Eve: “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:4-5 ESV).’” The word knowing in this passage refers to the conscience of Eve; “knowing good and evil refers to divine wisdom, which corresponds with the idea of becoming like God or the gods (elohim in Hebrew).”
When we separate our conscience from God’s divine wisdom (the scriptures) we lift our understandings before God’s will and purpose. The conscience, divorced of the biblical text, is prone to self-serving greed and self-aggrandizement which works in opposition to the Holy Spirit. To say you “vote your conscience” without grounding that conscience in sound theology is a poor excuse for saying “I want it my way.”
So where does that leave us? The answer is the Bible! In the book of Hebrews, the author declares:
“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:1-3 ESV).
We have a perfect account of how Jesus speaks to us daily, through the pages of scripture. The Bible holds all the keys to living an obedient life unto Christ, this includes voting and civil obedience (and disobedience). Turn to the biblical text to guide your conscience to the voting booth. Christians vote with their brains, not their emotions!
R.C. writes: “For the Christian, the conscience is not the ultimate authority in life. We are called to have the mind of Christ, to know the good, and to have our minds and hearts trained by God’s truth so that when the moment of pressure comes, we will be able to stand with integrity.” Integrity means making the complicated decision in times of tribulation when the right answer is not always the popular one.
Therefore, in conclusion, Jiminy Cricket was wrong!