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Without Conscience: When Pluralism Means Disobedience & Rancor

James Hitchcock & David Mills

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The "Gospel of Judas" is rediscovered, which leads some people, and one famous magazine, to announce triumphantly that the entire New Testament story has been turned on its head. The Bible the Church has given us is fundamentally in error about Judas and the whole story of the Crucifixion, and this, along with the continually rediscovered Gnostic gospels, is taken as evidence that the original Christianity was a kinder, gentler, more informal, affirming, and egalitarian religion than the mainstream Christianity of tradition--a religion that just happens to be more congenial to modern tastes and desires.

This is an attack on the faith all Christians share, but each tradition suffers its own special trials from those of its own members who want to remake it. In some cases, these people have taken control of the church's hierarchy...

In each of these cases something fundamental to the tradition is being denied, sometimes, perhaps, without the people involved even realizing it.

[ ... ]

In those traditions now politically dominated by the innovators, the innovators insist that they want not pluralism so much as justice and truth, and will argue that they are (like the advocates of the "Gospel of Judas" and its peers) restoring original Christianity and indeed creating for the first time in history the kind of church Jesus would have wanted. They are usually happy to retain their more traditional members, thereby nodding to pluralism, but only if the traditionalists agree to play by the new rules...

[ ...]

The justification for this chaos is the claim about "conscience" ... held by many modern Christians of all sorts, with varying degrees of consciousness. At one time conscience was experienced as demanding, because it nagged people not to do things they wanted to do and made them feel guilty when they did them anyway. It was a gift of God that helped man understand his will and serve him faithfully. It was a gift that could be damaged and perhaps lost by repeated rejection.

Long ago that noble word was debased to mean, "I am the ultimate judge of right and wrong." It has been turned into a self-issued blank permission slip ... This kind of conscience does not nag, it "liberates." It does not warn against sin but against "complicity" in ecclesiastical "structures of oppression."

Read the entire article on the Touchstone website (new window will open).

Posted: 02-Sep-06



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