Human life is characterized by several natural and artificial occurrences that require both conscience and wisdom. These two virtues are correlated and go hand in hand. Conscience attracts wisdom and wisdom requires conscience. A conscientious man is a right thinking man who does prudent things as provided by nature and as per the expectation of humankind. A wise man is that kind of a person who has extraordinary conscience and insight on matters at hand whether matters of nature or artificial. These two virtues date back to the biblical times when God used the right thinking persons among the Israelites to pass His information to them. For instance, Joseph a conscientious man was made the leader of the Israelites given that he portrayed the virtue of self-respect and honour. He showed chastity when he refused to cohabit with the Potiphars wife (Ratzinger, 2007). This is the kind of conscience addressed in this paper. Israelites were a people known for stubbornness and mischief and thus required wise leadership. This is why they had King Solomon, they had Moses, they had Joshua, and they had Aaron and many others.
Conscience is what gives humankind the moral sense of right and wrong as it majorly affects ones own behaviour as wisdom makes practical the human conscience through discretionary use of human knowledge for the greatest good. A persons conscience is what guides his relation with others. Its normally the gauging scale for telling whether one is sane or insane for there are those acts that are expected of a sane person as well as those that are expected of insane persons. Wisdom is the gauging scale for a mans ability to make informed decisions from a combination of knowledge, experience and intuitive understanding; the ability to apply relevant knowledge in an insightful way, especially in different situations from which the knowledge was gained. Something that is conscientiously and wisely wrong or right according to human nature will and shall always remain wrong or right regardless of the number of people that stand by it (Zachman, 2005).
Theological Definition of Conscience
The word suneidesis originates from the root verb sunoida which means to be knowledgeable. When this is applied on ones self-assessment and self-contemplation of ones deeds, it brings about the connection with conscience. People saw conscience as something that was rooted by God as a guardian. Theology brings conscience as something that was Gods instrument to convert the humankind. It is something that is intrinsic to man. It is ones own act and characters without seeking external opinions. Pierce says that conscience gives reference to the past deeds where he postulates three alternatives; aorist which was begun and completed in the past, perfect which is as a result of completed act and the present where action begun in the past and continue in the present. In theological perspective, conscience gives reference to bad acts, conditions and characters (Elwell, 1997).
Biblical Foundation of Conscience
In the New Testament, suneidesis is majorly concerned with bad acts, conditions or characters. In this context, conscience was for causing pain to the bearer. Conscience in the New Testament never gave a forewarning of whether an action one was about to take was wrong or right. It instead makes one feel bad after overstepping our moral limits. It is that which has occurred in the past and may only be described as good if it were empty (Merkur, 2014). Conscience in the Old Testament was explained by suneidesis in Job 27:6, which says, I do not know myself that I have done anything amiss. Ecclesiastes 10:20 also says that, curse not king in thy conscience. Pierce claims the quote from Ecclesiasticus is not applicable in the Greek context of conscience because the word refers to knowing which is opposed to Greek understanding of the word conscience. The Greek understood conscience as something that is self-assessing and dealing with the past deeds as addressed in Job 27:6. In fact, in spite of the relative absence of the word suneidesis, the Old Testament recognizes the inner disharmony in a man. Anguish befalls Jacobs sons for mistreating Joseph, (Gen.42:21).
Psalms 51:2 talks of David being in constant consciousness of sin and recognizes that it is an evil in the sight of God (51:3). David further claims that his bones have been crushed by God and not his conscience (51:8). David therefore views his sin in light of the relationship he has with God. The Old Testament talks of purity and impurity in a cultic sense. Impurity and Yahweh are two irreconcilable contraries. It isolates one from worship and from Gods children. Impurity must therefore be purged out as it causes an internal stain which has to be cleansed when one comes to enable one access God (Is. 6:5; Jer. 2:22). The Old Testament did not therefore derive its own definition of conscience.
Practical Application of Conscience
Human life is governed by conscience of what is right and wrong, what is humane and inhumane, what is rational and irrational, what is valid and invalid, what is justifiable and unjustifiable. All these are possible by the second thought that runs across ones mind before embarking on a course of action. With conscience, one is able to reason well with other people regardless of their age, social class or academic level. One is able to avoid problems, solve problems and counter the problems facing human life. Conscience is what guides the peaceful correlation among human beings. And conscience is what makes the difference between mankind and other apes and animals; the ability to reason, which no other animal under the planet earth possesses (Zachman, 2005).
Theological Definition of Wisdom
The paradigms of Israelites prophecy, regional law and wisdom were distinct from other Eastern cultures in content. This part of the world was characterized by wisdom as a basic way of thinking. It was the manner in which the young were instructed to have proper conduct and morality. It was a way of answering the philosophical questions in human life. Some theological conjectures undergird the wisdom literature as addressing an individual first before addressing the nation. Wisdom is a fundamental theological complement to the prophets and the law of the land. The law and the prophets basically address the nation. The law was spoken to the nation of Israel by God; it is the same way the prophets spoke primarily to the nation (Elwell, 1997).
Wisdom Literature brings forth God as a Creator rather than Redeemer. The theology of God as a Redeemer characterize law and prophecy, this is justified through Gods redemptive acts of saving the Israelites from bondage in Egypt and offering them the land in Canaan. Wisdom describes God as Creator rather than making references to historical events. Wisdom makes religion simple by describing faith as coming from either wise decisions or foolish decisions. The temperament characterizing a wise person is summed up under the phrase, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. It shows how wisdom brings an individual to maturity (Merkur, 2014).
Astonishingly, the fear of the Lord is somehow also the end of the process. The Old Testament sometimes uses this phrase to mean religion since the Old Testament never has a specific term for religion. The phrase sometimes carries a meaning close to that of the New Testament ideology of faith in the book of Proverbs.
Biblical Foundation of Wisdom
In the Old Testament, wisdom at times is used to describe skilled arts and artisans like weavers (Exod. 35:25-26), goldsmiths (Jer. 10:9) and Architects (Exod. 35:30-36:1). At some level, wisdom referred to a keen insight in life and solutions to dealing with lifes problems. Solomons wisdom was of this sense, (1 Kings 3:1-15). Moreover, the Old Testament explained wisdom at some instances as men and woman who were orderly, socially sensitive and morally upright. In fact, the major contention of wisdom in the Old Testament was moral conduct. It was the gauging parameter for wisdom in the society. This is justifiable from the book of Proverbs telling how children should behave and their discipline (Prov. 22:6). It also talks of the golden-rule of how to treat ones neighbour (Merkur, 2014)
The primary objective of wisdom in the Old Testament was to establish an orderly and functional culture which professed Gods moral requirements as laid down in the Mosaic Laws. The books of wisdom in the Old Testament include Job, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs. Some sections of the book of Psalms also fall under the wisdom category; (Psalms 1, 37, 49, 73, 112, 127, and 128). The wisdom books address two rubrics, one addressing the social challenges of life like the anguish of the innocent like the book of Job and the meaning of life like Ecclesiastes. This is sometimes called the reflective wisdom. The second rubric is more practical like Proverbs and deals with touchy issues like integrity, family relations, sexual purity and personal industry. It is sometimes known as practical wisdom (Ratzinger, 2007).
In the New Testament, the Epistle of James incorporates some elements of wisdom in giving practical guidance to Christians. The practicality of the Beatitudes, (Matt 5:3-12) also reflects some wisdom. It is written in the gospel of Luke that Jesus grew up in wisdom and stature with favour with God and Men, (Luke 2:52). This implies the practicality of the teachings of Jesus as being quite simple and direct. It could as well mean an extensive awareness of mission and Gods reason of salvation. Apostle Paul likens the wisdom of man to the wisdom that was hidden by God and which God destined for mans glory time immemorial, (1 Cor. 2:6-7). Paul says wisdom of men was understandable compared to Gods wisdom which was hidden. Gods ultimate manifestation of wisdom was through His son Jesus Christ.
Practical Application of Wisdom
The world is today faced with diverse challenges which require vast resources to counter. These resources have to come from none other than the mankind. It is the duty of mankind to make ways for his destiny on earth. This calls for utmost wisdom in mans daily life. The growing religious differences in the world today especially between Muslims and Christians require wise and peaceful approaches to mitigate. There is need for the wise Muslim clerics and Christian clergies and other world opinion leaders like the Pope to come together and counter the rising religious acrimony between these two religions. Without wisdom there wont be any amicable solution to this (Dehaye, 1968).
In conclusion, Christians should exhibit ultimate conscience and wisdom so as to promote peace, unity and harmony in the world. States are rising against each other, for instance Russia and Iraq; citizens are rising against each other; Nuer and Dinka of Sudan, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen. All these require wise intervention or else the whole world will remain blind. With wisdom all these can be solved to get a free and interactive world; open to diversity, embracing positive criticism, engaging in constructive discourses and team building to create one strong world pillar of humanity. Wisdom will help us learn and understand that God created man in His own image and likeness regardless of the race, origin, tribe, complexion, or even economic status.
Elwell, Walter A. Entry for Wisdom. Evangelical Dictionary of Theology. 1997.
Dehaye, P. (1968). The Christian Conscience. Desclee Company.
Merkur, D. (2014). Unconscious Wisdom: A superego function in dreams, conscience, and inspiration. SUNY Press.
Zachman, R.C. (2005). The Assurance of faith: conscience in the theology of Martin Luther and John Calvin. Westminster John Knox Press.
Ratzinger, J. C. (2007). On co...
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