Another couple paragraphs from Ted Peters’ wonderful Sin Boldly!: Justifying Faith for Fragile and Broken Souls. This comes from the chapter on “Consciousness and Conscience”, in which he explores the ways we conflate conscience with justice, and God with conscience; or rather, how we instinctually restrict our image of God to that of lawgiver.
The conscience is tricky. It projects an image of God as judge, God as enforcer of the moral universe. Our functional image of God becomes the conscience writ large. To be sure, the true God is not fooled by our intra-psychic manipulations. In contrast to our image of God, the true God is self-defining. The true God challenges and even judges our image of God as judge… What we get from the divine Word, says Luther, is the announcement that God is gracious. Without this revelation through the Word, the deity we imagine will look like a dispenser of justice, judgment, and condemnation… But according to Luther, this risks idolatry. (pg. 157-158)
The comprehensive way in which the conscience spreads the horizon of our moral universe hides a truth, a truth about God. God is not co-extensive with our moral universe or even co-terminus with metaphysical justice. God is gracious. God is present to us in ways that cannot be accounted for by a justice calculus. (pg 153)