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I believe Wyschogrod's unique Orthodox appreciation of conscience has a high moral purpose: to provide an Orthodox theological justification for allowing Christians to be Christians. He does this not by a relativism which would sacrifice the absoluteness of God's revelation but by carefully providing room for individual conscience within it. Consequently those who cannot read its message as others do may still claim the right to go their deviant way. Some years back, John Courtney Murray, the noted Roman Catholic theoretician of democracy, mounted a similar argument which Vatican Council II made official church teaching.

Wyschogrod then seeks to situate conscience in contemporary Orthodoxy by arguing that the willingness to remain Orthodox today must be made against the crowd and thus may be said to arise out of a significant exercise of autonomy. To be sure, should the promptings of the halakhah and one's will conflict, one must sacrifice one's selfdetermination, our personal version of the binding of Isaac. Since this overcoming of self can occasionally be sensed taking place, one has a phenomenological indication of autonomy's reality within Orthodoxy.

Nonetheless, progressives esteem autonomy in principle because they believe the human self always mediates what we know of God. Hence each individual's quest for God concerns progressives as much as does what the past or the present community discerns as God's reach toward humankind. This alliance of self and communal spiritual experience becomes the foundation of a religious life that enshrines democracy because it fundamentally esteems individuality. By extension, the same contrast in attitude toward democracy may be seen with regard to government generally.

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