There is no denying the fact that, even though we have never seen it on earth, each of us innately recognizes a perfect standard of absolute justice, truth, and moral purity. Moreover, we have something we call a “conscience” that tells us when we have violated that standard. We can learn to turn a deaf ear to this inner voice or pervert it, but it is there nevertheless. Once again, the conscience can only be explained on the basis that there is, residing in these physical bodies, a nonmaterial spirit made in the image of a person Creator who is a Spirit and has impressed His standards upon us. And it can only be from Him that the obviously spiritual capabilities we possess originate.
The God who inspired the Bible claims to have written His moral laws in every human conscience:
For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show 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. (Romans:2:14-15)
The consciousness of having broken an unseen but not unknown perfect standard of right and wrong goes beyond culture and cannot be explained in terms of learned behavior. We can reason about what is right and wrong and decide upon behavior totally at odds with our upbringing and presumed conditioning. This fact is proved again and again as generation after generation rebels against the standards they have been taught. The hippies of the sixties are but one example.
Sin is defined in the Bible as coming short of that perfection for which God created us in order to reflect His own glory. As C. S. Lewis put it, “We are mirrors whose only brightness, if we are bright at all, depends entirely upon the sun that shines upon us.” Sin is rejecting God’s light, refusing to let it guide and energize us in obeying our Creator’s will. We know when we are guilty of that, and that disturbing sense of coming short is what troubles the conscience.
Conscience? Yes, we all have an undeniable inner recognition of right or wrong. The man who complains about injustice of a court decision need not be referring to a violation of any legislated law. In fact, far from accepting every law passed by legislative bodies, we often complain about their injustice. The man sitting in court and observing what he considers to be improper procedure and conclusion is really demanding that the court itself adhere to the innate standard that he knows exists and believes the court has violated.