This review is in the February Evangelical Times and first appeared here last November
I enjoyed everything about this book. It is a great read on an issue seldom addressed in recent years. Perhaps the absence of books (as well as preaching) on this subject is the reason why some evangelicals have a superficial view of the uses of conscience, and are reticent regarding the function of divine law in the Christian life.
Be that as it may, reading Gary Brady’s book will do anyone the world of good. It is a page-turner; a mine of information, filled with wisdom from the Puritans and beyond, as well as being biblical and pastoral, to boot.
Behind the apparent simplicity of the presentation lies Brady’s deep reflection. He is never unclear. I found myself enjoying pages that I thought I would flip through quickly, such as the chapter on children and the conscience. It’s so easy to forget that ‘the child’s controversy is always with God’ (p.161).
When ‘correcting’, we need to get beyond outward issues to heart concerns. Questions of conscience do not ultimately deal with inbred values or social disciplines; rather, we are facing our ultimate moral regulator, God himself.
Brady examines his subject from every angle, beginning with some general biblical definitions. ‘When we speak of conscience, we are really speaking of an aspect of the heart or the soul, though the word is useful for speaking of a specific function of the soul, namely its moral workings’ (p.24).
Chapters present: the biblical background; the conscience bound by sin; conversion as a conscience awakening, convicting and enlightening work; and the connection with true faith and assurance.
Then follow questions concerning the function of conscience in the Christian life, good, bad or weak. If you did not know that a weak conscience is more likely to accuse you than a strong one (p.120), you had better read Brady. Light will also be shed on those chapters in 1 Corinthians about the weak and strong in relation to idol-meat.
There is a useful chapter regarding the development of conscience in the civil sphere. Perhaps a little more could have been made here of the theoretical impact of Luther and Calvin’s two reigns, and the right of private judgement in, say, Charles Hodge.
Finally, Brady correctly argues that, because conscience is a function of the soul, it is the accuser even down in hell. Moreover, its peaceful disposition will be enjoyed in heaven.
Overall, I enjoyed this book except for one thing: the title. Why did an evangelical publisher inflict this on me? Every time I saw it on my desk, I had horrible images of Elton John behind a piano! ‘Candle of the Lord’ (p.184) would have been more fitting.
Paul Wells Eastbourne
Author Gary Brady
Publisher EP Books ISBN 978-1-78397-042-1
PS The publishers are not to be blamed for the title. I did insist. I wanted to redeem the title!