You Need a Trained Conscience

It promised to be a memorable day for the passengers and crew aboard Air New Zealand Flight 901 to Antarctica. Cameras were at the ready, and a party atmosphere prevailed as the DC-10 approached the white continent for a magnificent, low-level aerial view.

THE captain, a pilot for 15 years, had accumulated over 11,000 hours of flying time. Prior to takeoff, he had carefully entered the flight plan into his onboard computer, unaware that the coordinates he had been given were incorrect. Flying through a cloud at just under 2,000 feet [600 m], the DC-10 slammed into the lower slopes of Mount Erebus, killing all 257 on board.

Just as airplanes today rely on computers to guide them through the skies, humans have been given a conscience to guide them on their path through life. And the terrible tragedy of Flight 901 can teach us some powerful lessons about our conscience. For instance, in the same way that flight safety depends on a properly functioning navigational system and precise points of reference, so our spiritual, moral, and even physical well-being depends on a responsive conscience guided by correct moral points of reference.

Unhappily, in today’s world, such points of reference are quickly disappearing or are being ignored. “We hear a lot today about how Johnny can’t read, how he can’t write, and the trouble he is having finding France on a map,” said an American educator. “It is also true that Johnny is having difficulty distinguishing right from wrong. Along with illiteracy and innumeracy, we must add deep moral confusion to the list of educational problems.” She also observed that “today’s young people live in a moral haze. Ask one of them if there are such things as ‘right and wrong,’ and suddenly you are confronted with a confused, tongue-tied, nervous, and insecure individual. . . . This confusion gets worse rather than better once they go to college.”

One cause of this confusion is moral relativism, a widespread view that standards vary according to personal or cultural preferences. Imagine what would happen if pilots were to navigate, not by fixed reference points, but by beacons that moved about unpredictably and sometimes disappeared altogether! Disasters like the one at Mount Erebus would undoubtedly be common. Similarly, having abandoned fixed moral standards, the world reaps a grim and growing harvest of misery and death as families are torn apart by infidelity and millions suffer because of AIDS or some other sexually transmitted disease.

Moral relativism may sound sophisticated, but in reality its followers are like the ancient Ninevites who did not know ‘their right hand from their left.’ Practicers of moral relativism resemble the apostate Israelites who said that “good is bad and bad is good.”​—Jonah 4:11; Isaiah 5:20.

So where can we turn for clear, unambiguous laws and principles with which to train our conscience to be a safe guide? Millions  have found that the Bible perfectly fills that need. From morality to work ethic and from the training of children to the worship of God, the Bible omits nothing important. (2 Timothy 3:16) It has proved completely reliable over the centuries. Because the Bible’s moral standards were established by the very highest authority, our Creator, they are relevant for all humans. Hence, we have no reason to live a life of moral uncertainty.

Nowadays, however, your conscience is under assault as never before. How is that possible? And how can you safeguard your conscience? A good way to begin is to get to know the source of the assault and his tactics. These will be discussed in the following article.