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Background on the Conscience, Part 2


Posted by Matt Postiff December 31, 2021 on Matt Postiff's Blog under Society  Theology 

I offer further background on the conscience-based COVID-19 vaccine exemption letter that I posted a couple of days ago.

  1. Stated from the perspective of the church and its leadership, conscience decisions are often not uniform within a single church or denomination. In the non-religious community and even in the religious community, it is commonly thought that a particular church or denomination either has or does not have a conscientious objection to vaccines, or certain medical procedures like blood transfusion, or to war, or other such matters. While this sometimes may be the case, it is not always so. The Bible teaches explicitly that there may be within a single church some who conscientiously object to a certain practice while others do not. Two individuals who differ on a particular matter can still be members of the same church and in good fellowship with one another. From the church's perspective, these are matters of indifference that should not divide the community of Christians.
  2. There are some issues which do not fall into the "matter of conscience" bucket at all. "You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, pay taxes," etc. are not matters where conscience exemptions can be claimed. Vaccines are in the conscience category.
  3. One’s conscience can choose differently at a later time if it receives new information that impacts how it adjudicates the matter at hand. Therefore, if information comes to light in the future, a person's decision about some matters may change, without there being any validity to a charge of inconsistency. The frequency of such conscience objections can be reduced by the authorities giving good, objective, full disclosure, rather than merely making pronouncements from on high. A mandate itself grates against the consciences of some (see Part 3), and to some is evidence that the thing mandated cannot stand on its own merits.
  4. The conscience can be troubled by inconsistent information. For example, the COVID vaccine was said unequivocally to be effective. Yet we now know that it was only partially effective for a short period of time, approximately 6 months. This inconsistency is a significant input to the conscience decisions of religious citizens. Another example: general masking of the population was known for decades to be largely ineffective against airborne viruses like the influenza; so at the start of the pandemic masks were not needed according to Dr. Fauci; then masks were mandated; now on CNN we hear that cloth masks—the type most people are wearing—are not appropriate for an airborne virus. Which is it? The inconsistency throws the conscience into a confused state and weighs against a clean-conscience decision in any direction.

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