“How do we know that we have a soul, can we feel it?” “Is what we feel God’s way of helping us through our own conscience in understanding right and wrong?” Many in the world believe right and wrong to be a matter of feeling, which connects to the conscience. Many paroemias derive from this concept. Disney teaches in the classic children’s story of Pinocchio, “Let your conscious be your guide.” Victor Hugo, French Poet, is credited with saying, “The conscience is God in man.” Many advocates of the belief likewise quote First Lady, Eleanor Roosevelt, who said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right.” Several, like the self-help author, Caroline Myss, and the spiritual teacher, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, suggest that the mind and soul exist in conflict with each other. They advocate putting aside rational thought to embrace the empowering feelings of the soul. According to them, one can feel the soul. However, if one seeks a divine authority on the subject, firstly consider the connection between the mind and consciousness as revealed by God in the Holy Writ.
God created mankind somewhat differently than His other creations. God designed the human mind to understand responsibility, orderliness, and accountability; no other creature on the planet possesses such a mind to the extent of humans (Gen. 1:26-28). In God’s final act of creation, God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen. 2:7). God gave man superior intelligence to have dominion over all living creatures, He provided humanity with the “breath of life,” which was the only creation He ever gifted the “breath of life.” God never ordained commandments of right and wrong to animals, He only bestowed them to humans because they were the only creation given the mind to understand right and wrong from the eternal consequences of the soul. No other created being of God ever wondered how the world began or worshipped a supernatural god. The extraordinary mind of the human being developed well beyond what is necessary for survival, which has acted as one of the proofs of a Divine Creator; it is called the Anthropological Argument. Unfortunately, the human soul cannot objectively be felt because if humans could unquestioningly feel the eternal soul, then there would be no atheists. If atheists could literally feel their souls, and this was experienced by everyone every day, then they could not justify the belief that there is no spiritual existence or eternal afterlife. Because one cannot objectively feel spiritual knowledge, God explained that feelings were not a source of authority, but rather authority rests in reason and revelation of God’s Word (Jer. 10:23; Prov. 12:15; 16:25; Isa. 1:18; Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 4:6). People need to use the unparalleled mind that God gifted them.
How then does the conscience help one understand right from wrong? Feelings are obviously linked to the mind of the conscience. If something doesn’t feel right, then humans associate the feelings with their conscience telling them not to do it. The problem is that the conscience does not always lead one to the truth. It cannot inherently direct one’s path to God. Paul writes, “Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day” (Acts 23:1b). Paul speaks in context to the day in which he was converted to Christ. While being a persecutor of the Lord’s church, his conscience never bothered him, “he lived in all good conscience” until the day in which he learned the truth. Paul sees this same problem in his Jewish brethren, “For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge” (Rom. 10:2). The Jewish leaders possess strong convictions in their faith in the Mosaic Law; they, like Paul, live in all “good conscience,” but the problem was that their conscience was based in ignorance and their own ideas of righteousness (Rom. 10:3,4). If people do not have the Word of God to objectively qualify their feelings as righteous, then how do they know those feelings are not based in ignorance and their personal standards of righteousness? “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus…” (Col. 3:17). Personal feelings, even deep within the consciousness, holds no authority in right and wrong.
Nevertheless, the consciousness of mankind does have a roll in living a righteous life. Recall what Paul wrote to the Christians in Rome about the Jewish Law in respect to the Gentiles before the coming of Christ. Paul explains, “For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature [i.e., long-standing tradition] the things contained in the law, these, having not the law [the Gentiles], are a law unto themselves [they made the law their own by living it]: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another” (Rom. 2:14,15). The role of the conscience in the law of God is to bear witness and to reinforce the Law in the mind of the follower. When the Gentiles practice the things contained in the Law of God over a long period of time, the works become “written in their hearts” meaning the practices of the Law of God become second nature to them; the practices of the Law grow into something that feels comfortable and right. The conscience bears witness to this fact by making the Gentiles feel uncomfortable when they sinned or did something contrary to what they had always done. The conscience can be trained to either good or bad. When a follower of God trains his/her conscience by doing what God commands over a long period of time, then violating that pattern of righteous behavior will throw up a red flag in the consciousness. People do not like to violate their conscience, it makes them feel uncomfortable; thereby, making sin feel uncomfortable. The Gentiles bear witness to their long-standing obedience to God by showing sin to be uncomfortable and a violation of their conscience. A person may not always understand why something is wrong (the individual can study on it later), but if the person has a long history of obedience, then the conscience can be a powerful tool to help the Christian stay away from sinful situations (2 Cor. 1:12; Heb. 13:18;1 Peter 3:16, 21). The conscience is not the source of right or wrong, but it can reinforce the teachings of right and wrong in the mind by making sin feel bad and righteousness feel good.