The Non-Conformist Conscience
One dictionary definition of a Non-Conformist is this is “a person who does not conform to an established church especially : one who does not conform to the Church of England and/or a person who does not conform to a generally accepted pattern of thought or action”. According to one well respected church historian, David Bebbington, whose insights I have often seen as being helpful, in the synopsis of his book “The Nonconformist Conscience” states: “The ‘Nonconformist conscience’ was a major force in late Victorian and Edwardian politics. The well-attended chapels of England and Wales bred a race of Christian politicians who tried to exert a moral influence on public affairs”. I can’t help feeling though that some of the woke NC ministers I unapprovingly go on about for succumbing to Marxist ideology, who emphasize social justice concerns because (in fairness) that is how their conscience has led them, but do not speak against the more concerning evil cabal that is trying to enslave us all, may be the modern day counterparts to Bebbington’s “race of Christian politicians“, but all that is an aside – we are living, after all, in extraordinary times!
While Google searches on the term often bring up the matter of political activism, as a lifelong Non-Conformist and having observed what makes many of my fellow NCs tick, conscience has often played an important part in how my (sincere) fellow NCs went about daily living which, other than what influenced the way they voted politically, was more often manifested in areas of life outside of politics, including a good deal of philanthropic activities. Much of my Christian life I have “fellowshipped” among the Plymouth Brethren and these days it is among the Strict Baptists which, in examining their earlier history, I see they paid a price for their church affiliations. It was on the matter of conscience, which they saw as so important, that enabled them to carry on as they did. One well known example is that of John Bunyan, who wrote the classic “Pilgrims Progress”, who refused to stop preaching because of his conscience and spent twelve years in prison as a result. While we are on the subject of those suffering for conscience sake, consider the trials of the persecuted church that now exists in many countries in this world, and to cite our earlier quote – makes cowards of us all.
Ironically, it is because of conscience I have fallen out with some of my NC compatriots over matters like mask and jab, for reasons given in my “Covid-19 – the story that doesn’t end” ebook. One of the considerations that inform the conscience of many NCs is the need to submit to authority e.g. “Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake” Romans 13:5. I consider the “Romans 13 argument” in my “Romans 13, 1 Peter 2 and Covid-19” blog. I should add for the sake of balance how that chapter ends up, which also ought to guide us in acting on conscience: “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” Romans 13:10-14.
But it doesn’t end there. As we see, in Romans 14, Paul expands on some of the implications from acting (or not) according to one’s conscience, specifically on the matter of eating. Paul argues it is possible to co-exist with those holding opposite views (who may themselves be acting in good conscience), and it is not a matter of arguing who is right or wrong (and it we apply pure logic, we might conclude one or neither is right) but rather recognising that the person we disagree with, in the church context at least, is a brother in Christ and ours is not to be the judge but rather that we should be looking to encourage them. It begs the question, however, for in this video: “John-William Noble – The Church, the State and a Biblical Response to Vaccine Mandates”, the presenter makes this very point but also there are things the church should have been doing but haven’t due to their compliant response to government mandates or because leaders and flock have brought into the widely pushed (by media etc. – as I write the BBC headline is Ministers consider measures to tackle Omicron surge) fear narrative that misleadingly talks about safety but in reality is all about control.
These are extraordinary days and one where Satan’s divide and rule (or conquer) strategy appears to be paying off, e.g. Archbishop Selby accusing anti jabbers of being selfish (see here). Some of which, like me, believe by taking the stand they do they are actually opposing outright evil and loving their neighbor. While I continue to fulfill my watchman remit and do what I can when it comes to “advancing the Kingdom” etc., I must also be prepared to pay the price that my spiritual forefathers willingly paid, sometimes with their lives, because they saw acting according to conscience to be of paramount importance. While for me, because of conscience, that includes not attending church services this Christmas due to the mask mandate, for many Christians facing outright persecution, it is far worse.