A journal of academic theology

March 2015 Editorial

“Redeeming Conscience,” the title of James Keenan’s moral note in this issue, startled me. Why would conscience need redeeming? Then I recalled Friedrich Schleiermacher’s definition of conscience: “We use the term ‘conscience’ to express the fact that all modes of activity issuing from our God-consciousness and subject to its prompting confront us as moral demands, not indeed theoretically, but asserting themselves in our self-consciousness in such a way that any deviation of our conduct from them is apprehended as a hindrance of life, and therefore as sin” (The Christian Faith §83). Thus, for Schleiermacher, conscience emerges from both one’s God-consciousness and self-consciousness. This accords with the Jewish-Christian affirmation that we humans are images of God, Indeed that all creatures, as the word implies, are images of their Creator. Surely this realization inspired Hopkins to observe how God’s grandeur oozes from creation like oil crushed—and then provokes his question, “Why do men then now not reck his rod,” not heed God’s authority in its omnipresence? This is, of course, the age-old question Plato thought he resolved in his Meno, and Rousseau supported in his The Social Contract—both against contrary evidence.

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