MORAL CONSCIENCE Is An Internal Revelation of the Divine Image

—Harold M. Schulweis, from For Those Who Can’t Believe: Overcoming the Obstacles to Faith, Harper Collins, 1994

  ” …How are we today to understand the meaning of the Abraham story [the Akedah]? We have choices from within the tradition. Two interpretations of Abraham’s faith reflect two major, divergent views of revelation.  Conventionally the binding of Isaac confirms Abraham as the “knight of faith” whose fidelity to God transcends his love of his son. Abraham, on trial, has passed the experiment of unconditional obedience…True faith excludes the moral judgment of mortals. Conscience cannot be allowed to contradict the divine imperative.

    The alternative interpretation of the biblical account elevates the countermanding revelation of the angel of the Lord. In this reading, the angel who stays Abraham’s hand is a symbol of Abraham’s moral conscience. Abraham’s acceptance of the voice of the Lord’s angel over God’s commanding voice expresses his faith in a moral God who could not will the death of an innocent… [I]t is Abraham’s knowledge of God’s moral character that leads him to listen to the angelic voice of conscience that overrides God’s command to sacrifice Isaac.  Moral conscience is an internal revelation of the divine image…

    Despite the apparent contradictions to God’s word, conscience appeals to the God within God…Revelation is not a one-way directive from above or a human projection from below…

    Conscience is the hyphen in the human-divine covenant that runs both ways.  Conscience and commandment are not rivals but co-respondents of a moral covenant…Conscience is indispensable for the moral sanity of revelation and is not cowed by the sound of thunder and the sight of lightning…The test of the believer is not whether he believes or whether he obeys, but what he believes and what he will not believe, what he obeys and what he will not obey…

    The divine gift of conscience exercises its moral sense and intelligence before saying ‘We shall do.’ “