The Constant Conscience

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December 29, 2012 by bradcharlesbeals

In Sophocles’ play Antigone, the conscience of each character is fixed with the same message: submit to the gods, it says. The drama begins with this assumption,and then builds through two dynamics: 

1) All the characters are called to respond to the same moral dilemma; and…

2) Each character has a different ability to hear the message of the conscience. One hears it just fine. One is too fearful to hear it. And one is too prideful. 

Antigone, the central character (though not the tragic figure–that’s reserved for one of the more confused) hears it clearly and acts as a sounding board for everyone else. As pressures are applied to the conscience-challenged characters, each is forced to come to terms with the disconnect between actions and what he or she knows is right. Both see the truth too late, but with drastically different consequences.

Sophocles was onto something. Like his characters in Antigone, we too have consciences with a fixed message: obey God, they say. And because our story is also a tragedy, we too have other things obscuring the message. 

But where the play’s characters are able to respond freely to their circumstances–one repeatedly ignores pleas to reason; the other, out of guilt, embraces the message of her conscience–we are not so free. Our ability to heed this particular message is dead, and only a work from God will animate it. 

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” ~Ephesians 2:8,9


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