Monday, 12 December 2011

Krauth on the Rights and Limitations of Conscience in Matters of Religion

'We concede to every man the absolute right of private judgment as to the faith of the Lutheran Church, but if he has abandoned the faith of that Church, he may not use her name as his shelter in attacking the thing she cherishes, and in maintaining which she obtained her being and her name. It is not enough that you say to me that such a thing is clear to your private judgment. You must show to my private judgment that God's Word teaches it, before I dare recognise you as in the unity of the faith. ..In other words your private judgment is not to be my interpreter, nor is mine to be yours. ..You have the civil right and the moral right to form your impressions in regard to truth, but there the right stops. You have not the right to enter or remain in any Christian communion except as its terms of membership give you that right.'

Charles Porterfield Krauth (1823-1882; Professor of Systematic Theology at Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia from 1867 and Professor of Moral Philosophy, University of Pennsylvania from 1868), The Conservative Reformation and its Theology (3rd ed., United Lutheran Publishing House, Philadelphia, 1913, p172)

Note - Not all legal jurisdictions recognise the civil right of freedom of conscience in matters of religion, and some today do not even acknowledge the moral right to such freedom. Such liberties are features of societies influenced by the Reformation's conception of the importance of conscience, beginning with Luther's symbolic stand at the Diet of Worms in 1521, when he declared:'Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Scriptures or by clear reason (for I do not trust either in the pope or in councils alone, since it is well known that they have often erred and contradicted themselves), I am bound by the Scriptures I have quoted and my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant anything, since it is neither safe nor right to go against conscience. May God help me. Amen.'


Schütz said...

You may not realise this, Pastor, but Krauth enunciates a position which is more or less that of the Catholic Church on the matter of conscience.

Pr Mark Henderson said...

I think it would be more accurate to say that the Roman Catholic church's present position on conscience is more or less that of Krauth, or more properly the Lutheran Church, since without the beneficial influence of the Reformation on the world I think we would still be having autos-da-fé.