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Background on the Conscience, Part 1

Posted by Matt Postiff December 30, 2021 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Theology  Society 

I offer the following thoughts in support of the conscience-based COVID-19 vaccine exemption letter that I posted yesterday.

  1. Conscience operates on a case-by-case basis. It does not operate on a class or category basis. That is, if a person took some vaccines but not others, he could not necessarily be charged with inconsistency. For example, an individual’s conscience might be fine with some vaccine given that it is satisfied with the information about it, its risks to life and ability to serve God, side-effects, efficacy and longevity of efficacy, testing, length of usage, etc. But another vaccine may not be satisfactory to that individual’s conscience because of shortcomings of that particular vaccine in the aforementioned categories.
  2. Conscience operates freely and fully at a mature age. A person may have received vaccination as a child when his sincerely held religious beliefs were not yet fully formulated nor freely exercised. This does not undercut a present conscience objection to a particular vaccine.
  3. Conscience operates in such a way that a person must be fully convinced. Romans 14:5 teaches that each person must fully convinced in his own mind about his choice in which there are differences between people. The example given in the Bible is that some may choose to eat certain foods; others may not. Those choices are up to individual discretion in accordance with the conscience.
  4. Conscience operates on a person-by-person basis. Two people in the same Christian church may disagree on a particular issue, both parties being fully sincere in their beliefs. This idea is itself a Christian teaching and recognizing it is part of our free religious exercise. To reiterate: this idea—that not every person in a church has to share the same view on matters of conscience—is a matter of doctrinal importance in the Christian faith. To demand that my views line up exactly with that of my church or denomination is an impingement on my free exercise of religion. The fact that I cannot “find” a church that agrees with all my views or will support an exemption based on those views does not mean that my views are unworthy of conscience protections. It may simply be that I have different views than the church, or that the churches I have asked to help with an exemption do not want to put their names “out there” as supporting an exemption because of potential persecution by authorities.

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