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‘Theological Conversations’ releases ‘Seeking a Correctable Conscience’

Thompson looks closely at famous words attributed to Martin Luther: ‘Here I stand’

by Paul Seebeck | Presbyterian News Service

John L. Thompson. (Photo provided)

LOUISVILLE – In the seventh installment of Theological Conversations for 2017, the Theology, Formation and Evangelism ministry of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) presents Seeking a Correctable Conscience by John L. Thompson of Fuller Theological Seminary.

Seeking a Correctable Conscience with the provocative subheading Here I stand… but d’you mind checking my exegesis” looks closely at those famous words attributed to Martin Luther during the Reformation. Thompson’s paper is designed to create conversation about “freedom of conscience” which have been going on for centuries in the Christian tradition — ever since Martin Luther spoke of his conscience being “captive to the Word of God.”

“Presbyterians will say, ‘Christ alone is Lord of the conscience,’ to defend our opinions,” says the Rev. Michelle J. Bartel, coordinator of Theological Education and Seminary Relations. “What we often mean is that Christ’s lordship is the same thing as our opinion and viewpoint.”

But as Thompson points out, “conscience can fail us in a number of ways,” which is why Bartel, who oversees Theological Conversations, is “grateful for his paper.”

“Conscience can be a tricky thing to hold accountable,” she says. “Using our own history and theology as a denomination, Thompson reminds us, that while conscience is a guide for us, it also needs a guide. In that sense, conscience is communal.”

She says for Presbyterians that guide is the Word of God — scripture bearing witness to Jesus.

“A true understanding of scripture comes when we study it in community,” says Bartel. “That is how we hold each other accountable. Thompson does a masterful job reminding us of this.”

To download Thompson’s paper and other studies in the series, visit the Theological Conversations webpage. Each paper is also available in Spanish and Korean.

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