The Inner Light of Conscience

God is never my ‘inner light’. He is always that which comes to me from outside and finds me wanting. God did not speak to the heart of Israel from their conscience, but from Sinai. God’s coming to me is always from the outside in the form of this weakened and broken man Jesus. To place god within in the form of conscience or subjective experience means my God is self, and there is no more fearful god than that one.

Let’s just be clear about this, I distrust myself as a measure of the divine more than anything else. I think rightly so, we must never pursue to identify every experience we have with an experience of the divine. Even the most exalted of experiences are subject to the judgment of the Church. This is not because the Church is an autocratic body that has a right to say what it wishes, but because the Church, its scriptures, and its tradition are products of experience that have demonstrated themselves as authoritative to the Church.

Of course the above statement is hyperbolic, but it serves the point Bonhoeffer made about modern conscience. We’d rather murder justifiably than feel guilty, we’d rather excuse everything we do and know instead of bear the reality of our own guilt. I’ve found that the God who comes to me from the outside as an objective Other, makes me subject to Him, but also makes Himself a subject to me. He opens himself to me from the outside, and through the process of his self-disclosure makes room for me in Him. As this room is made for me in God, I too in turn make room for Him in me, but this space-making is the process whereby his objective love has encountered my subjectivity objectively.

In short, distrust thyself, and trust Christ. When seeking him, trust The Spirit of Him who went before, and trust his ability to conform you and I into the image of Divine Love. Without this conforming image, the inner light is the open fire consuming me through my fixation on it, as if I were a moth.

The inner light, if there is one is found to be true through the narrative guidelines known as Scripture and Christian Tradition, and ultimately what these reveal to me about Jesus. I’m free to explore all I want, within the bounds of these humble guides, whose authority I defer to. I know that because of the nature of creation, and my creatureliness as a relational animal I cannot know myself or God truly without an interactive process of growth together.

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2 thoughts on “The Inner Light of Conscience

  1. Good thoughts my friend.

    1. Bonhoeffer’s view of the conscience is intriguing. If I remember Ethics correctly, he believes it is a byproduct of the Fall – the human movement it seek unity in a broken world and divine relationship.

    2. Aquinas (you knew it was coming) says that we Faith has its material object in God and its formal aspect in God, basically we assent (or ascend) to God by God. An objective outward God with the objective Holy Spirit moving us toward God – coupled with our own effort: virtue. Charity (Love) is the form that perfects the faith.

    3. Can what you propose above happen outside the Sacrament of Holy Orders and the See of Peter?

    • First off, let me say I’m always ecstatic to see i have a reply from you. It always makes my day.

      1. you’re correct on that.

      2. agreed. aquinas just has the best words for it. almost always. but he takes the cake this time.

      3. I think it can, in part. I think it happens most fully in the sacrament of holy orders and through the see of Peter, but isn’t constrained to it. you can distrust yourself and trust in the church, and be led towards the See of Peter. I think however, that the see of Peter isn’t a necessary element in the equation. I think it tends to lead there, and becomes important, but only in the process of taking the fathers and the church seriously on its own terms.

      I think extra ecclesia nulla sallis, but on the other hand, Orthodoxy isn’t strictly limited to visible participation in the See of Peter. (this opinion is subject to change, and I’m just trying to be a bit more protestant, for the sake of argument.)

      I think, I can trust the Church, and should, and that trust will manifest itself in a deeper commitment to Peter’s see and the role of his successors as a visible point of trust. Yet, trusting the church does not always lead to this, but can and should lead to conformity with the Divine Love.

      The conformity to the via crucis is the visible unity with the see of Peter, or at least a necessary form of it. Visible communion with that see through the sacrament is desired, but not always possible. Yet, even where a unity of faith is not possible, a unity of Love is.

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