For those who might wonder what my background is and/or where I am coming from, I was raised in the First Baptist Church of Glens Falls, NY, by loving and extraordinary parents (Erma and Dean). I have three sisters and many cousins on both sides, who were also raised in various flavors of the Baptist Church. Some are Northern Liberal Baptists of the American Baptist Convention and some are persuaded more by the Southern Baptist persuasion. Because I haven’t interviewed them recently, I suppose that they all might take issue with my broad stroke of the brush.
As for myself, my father sat me down against the wall when I was 3. He sat down next to me and looking down at me, and I up at him, he said, “Now Peter, God is your real father, and he’s invisible, and he knows everything you’re thinking, and if you ever need any help, just ask him.” Somehow I already knew that, but it was good to know that he knew that too. That was Horace Dean Nordquist, who was 4 years varsity in 4 sports, and was inducted into the Odessa, NY Sports Hall of Fame. He attended the Senior Citizens Olympics in New York over the years and he passed away from undiagnosed bone cancer in 2015 at the age of 86.
Then he taught me the Lord’s Prayer and requested that I say it every night before I went to bed. He emphasized that when I got to the part in the prayer about forgiving others, that if my sister hit me or if I had a grudge against someone, that I needed to forgive her or give it up and that then God would also forgive me for my “debts.” My father taught me that only once and never again checked on whether or not I was praying.
I prayed every night while growing up: God answered every prayer I ever prayed and still does.
A few years ago I learned that the shortest version of Jesus teaching his disciples how they should pray is in the Book of Mark and corresponds to what my father emphasized.
Mark 11 (English Standard Version)
25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”[a]
Northern Liberal Baptists read the Bible, pray about it, decide for ourselves what it means, and act according to the dictates of our consciences as informed by the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This Father, Son and Holy Spirit, when interpreted as Heaven, Humanity – not only son, but also daughter – and Earth, embraces the Trigrams of Oriental Philosophy.
A few years ago when there were at least 100 members of the local church at the meeting after the Sunday service, the woman pastor took a poll on the question of whether the Holy Spirit was masculine or feminine. Half thought one way, and the other half the other way, of course. Therefore the Holy Trinity basically means that God is a Nuclear Family God – thus Adam’s 8 member family (including Adam, Eve, their 3 sons and their wives), Noah’s 8 member family and the Cosmic Family of the 8 Trigrams of Oriental Philosophy.
So there is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, that constitute the only Lord, King or Queen of any individual and act through the person’s conscience. This is the Baptist Doctrine of Conscience that defeated the notion of the Divine Right of Kings and led to the American Revolution. The Baptist Doctrine of Conscience is the idea that formed the revolution in the minds of the people long before the actual American Revolution, as John Adams famously stated.
which refers to “1750 A Discourse concerning Unlimited Submission and NonResistance to the Higher Powers: With some Reflections on the Resistance made to King Charles I. And on the Anniversary of his Death: In which the Mysterious Doctrine of that Prince’s Saintship and Martyrdom is Unriddled (1750). An Online Electronic Text Edition. Jonathan Mayhew A.M., D.D. West (Congregational) Church, Boston”
The VA Constitution of 1776 states:
“SEC. 16. That religion, or the duty which we owe to our Creator, and the manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence; and therefore all men are equally entitled to the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience; and that it is the mutual duty of all to practice Christian forbearance, love, and charity towards each other.”
The political and religious significance of conscience did not just appear out of nowhere; it has a long history that includes The 30 years War and the entire history of world religions and cultural spheres.
Here’s a note on Thomas Helwys, one of the founders of the English Baptists:
Thomas Helwys (c. 1575 – c. 1616), an English minister, was one of the joint founders, with John Smyth, of the General Baptist denomination. In the early seventeenth century, Helwys was principal formulator of demand that the church and the state be kept separate in matters of law, so that individuals might have a freedom of religious conscience. Helwys was an advocate of religious liberty at a time when to hold to such views could be dangerous. He died in prison as a consequence of the religious persecution of Protestant Dissenters under King James I.
An earlier advocate of the Judeo/Christian concept of conscience was William Perkins (1558-1602) who wrote The Greatest Case of Conscience, who in 1585 became a Lecturer of St Andrew the Great in Cambridge, a post he held until his death.
“Human laws bind not simply, but so far forth as they are agreeable to God’s Word, serve for the common good, stand with good order, and hinder not the liberty of conscience”
— William Perkins, A Discourse of Conscience (1596).
One of his students was John Robinson, the founder of congregationalism in Leiden and pastor of the group which went on to found the Plymouth Colony.
Even the Pilgrims were in pursuit of liberty of conscience and freedom of religion for everybody, already preparing the way for the American Revolution that had already occurred in their minds in the early 1600’s.
Shakespeare had Hamlet teach about conscience in MacBeth(1606):
Speech: “To be, or not to be, that is the question”
BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE
(from Hamlet, spoken by Hamlet)
To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause—there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th’oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of dispriz’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th’unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscovere’d country, from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.
Read Catherine Belsey’s “The Case of Hamlet’s Conscience.”
The Case of Hamlet’s Conscience on JSTOR
In conclusion, the conniption fits that the world is experiencing today over politics, religion, science, economics and the media, have been anticipated and solved by considering the power of the individual conscience to tap into universal law that cannot change or be broken.
God didn’t want to live in a world without love, that’s why his steadfast love endures forever.
True Love (see The Princess Bride) requires faith during the period of growing to maturity, and willing cooperation between the parties who when mature are both able to give and receive love.
Love is based further on the concepts of truth, beauty and goodness, which pursued, produce happiness and joy, fulfilling the purpose of life.
Consider Jeremiah 31:31-34 [Old Testament] which is quoted in its entirety in Hebrews 8:8-12 [New Testament]
“The days are coming,” declares the Lord,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their ancestors
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to[d] them,[e]”
declares the Lord.
“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
In my opinion this prophecy of Jeremiah, quoted also in Hebrews is speaking about the common man or woman’s enlightenment through knowing God, even the Root of a God who grew up (for Buddhists) and the purpose of Life through listening to their own infallible conscience.
[Unattributed quotes are most likely from Wikipedia about Baptist history]
Thank you for reading,
3 thoughts on “The Baptist Doctrine of Conscience: In My Opinion”
I prayed every night while growing up: God answered every prayer I ever prayed and still does.
Response from Bill :
Could you please flesh out the details on that for us? Thank you.
Answer to Bill:
One from many (E Pluribus Unum):
I was sitting on my bed on the weekend, age 7, and prayed, “God, who am I going to marry, if anyone, and what am I going to do when I grow up?” I waited for the answer for 5 minutes and had a vision. It said, while showing me pictures, “Not this girl, or this girl, but this girl, and you’re going to be a professor.”
The first girl I met in the 4th grade, Betty Genovese. She was half Japanese and half American. There was an amazing rapport between us. Even the 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Moore had the two of us stand together in a picture for The Post-Star, showing a class activity.
The second girl I met in the 12th grade, Elaine Pettigrew. She was also half Japanese and half American. She was the student math teacher, a couple years older than me. Again there was an amazing rapport between us. She attended Russel Sage and even invited me to visit her the next year when I attended RPI in Troy, NY. Yet, I didn’t because I remembered my vision from age 7.
Then in 1982 as a Unification Church member, I was matched and Blessed in Marriage, July 1, at Madison Square Garden with 2074 other couples. It was the 2nd matching I had attended, the second day of the matching, and my wife, Ikuko Tasoko from Okinawa (girl in my vision) and I were the second couple that Rev. Sun Myung Moon matched that day. We discussed the match through a Japanese translator and both decided to go for it.
We now have three amazing grown children and an amazing grandson, and I am currently wearing a new tanzen ($100) that my wife bought me recently.
I am not a professor yet, but at least have a college degree and have various noteworthy interests and accomplishments that eventually will lead to me writing about them at greater length, or even being a professor. I have at least given a couple lectures at college courses.
Peter Dean Nordquist (such that you can distinguish between myself and the famous Peter Nordquists)
A Hindu View of Conscience
“I have come across many a person who argues with that in him which is not in Himself. Some also say they have made their conscience as Guru or Master. But I am sure they have not made their conscience as their Guru but their own ego. The conscience, as described in the Shastras, is made up of four things – manas (mind), chit (deeper conscience), buddhi (cognition) and ahamkara (ego). If all these become perfectly purified, conscience will give you only correct signals.
After the purification of these things there come the higher powers. And at the same time purity has now begun all round. I hope people will excuse if I add a little more in the context that incorrect way of worship will lead to the incorrect result.
We all desire for realization, but we have no yearning for it. I pray that we all return to our original condition and see the difference between the earthly and the heavenly life!”
Ram Chandra of Shajahanpur 2/24/73
Thanks to Gavin for this comment:
Thanks Peter. I was listening to a chapter about Lincoln this morning in a book by John Meacham. Here’s a quote I heard this morning that moved me concerning the way Lincoln thought. It comes from an author Theodore Parker a contemporary of Lincoln’s. “ I asked my mother about a voice I heard. She said some like to call it conscience, but I prefer to call it the voice of God in the soul of man. If you listen and obey it it will speak, clearer and clearer, and always guide you right. But if you turn away and have a deaf ear and disobey it it will fade out little by little and leave you all in the dark and nothing to guide you “