Helmut Thielicke on the conscience

thielicke-3‘The conscience is not serene or troubled according to what we have done or not done. Peace of conscience depends solely upon what we are, i.e., on whether we believe – and the extent to which we believe – in the boundless unconditioned mercy of God … It is theologically wrong to try to pacify a conscience-stricken person by talking away his sins. To do so is to try to cure him by means of the “outer tent.” But there is no healing here, and cannot be. In fact the heart of his problem is that he is still loitering in this forecourt. The only way we can help is to point him to the εφαπαξ that which took place once-and-for-all for him in the crucifixion of Jesus Christ’. – Helmut Thielicke, Theological Ethics Volume 1: Foundations (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1979), 310.


  1. One thing about this quote: no trying to pacify a stricken conscience by talking away his sins—is much of our gospel preaching just that? Rather than the full declaration of the supreme act of God in Christ we attempt to convince a person of sins and then mollify that sinful sensitivity by proclaiming the fruit of the gospel (the forgiveness of sins). The true preaching of the gospel, especially the exaltation of Christ to the Father’s right hand will both arouse a true conviction of sin and also speak true peace where there is no peace.


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