Whether a psychopath, too, can be saved.
Discuss theological implications of psychological theory that psychopaths do not have a conscience.
First, it is difficult to see how no conscience whatsoever can exist in a psychopathic person. Evidence for this exists in the form of the psychopathic “burnout” in a person’s middle age. If someone can "grow" a conscience when they are faced with the reality that they are not omnipotent, was a form of conscience always there? Additionally, the common sense phrase “honor among thieves” comes to mind. C.S. Lewis uses this argument when he talks about the universal understanding of morality. If psychopathic people are able to feel rage at being slighted, are they not able at some level to understand morality? While the conscience can be so hardened as to allow for incredibly heinous actions, I’m unconvinced from a theoretical and biological standpoint that no conscience whatsoever exists in psychopathic people.
Having said that, let's assume that some people have absolutely no conscience: is conscience (an empathic 'feeling with') necessary for repentance and faith?
Arminian view – A person must have a conscience in order to respond to God’s offer of the gospel. He must know experientially (as a feeling) that he is a sinner and choose to come to Jesus for salvation. It would probably be argued that God must provide a conscience to every person in order for them to have a chance to respond to the Gospel. An argument similar to that of universal salvation for infants (age of accountability) might be generated – all psychopaths go to heaven because there is no way for them to respond in repentance to the free offer of salvation.
Calvinistic view – Theoretically a person need not have a conscience in order to be among the elect, however, the absence of a conscience could itself be construed as evidence of the unregenerate state. The effects of the fall are not fair and we each have proclivities that incline us toward sin (i.e., the genetic influence on homosexuality). Further, since God works in covenant families, and there is some evidence that psychopathy is in some ways inherited, this can be a case of the sins of the father being visited to the third and forth generation of those that hate God. In Calvinistic theology, there is no need for the declarations of God to be “fair” according to human understanding. God has authority to have mercy on some and to damn others to hell.
Roman Catholic (Sacramentalist) view – Salvation is possible for those who have no conscience if they are willing to confess their sins and receive absolution, receive the Eucharist and remain in that state of grace at the point of death. Certainly there would not be much internal motivation for those who are without conscience to confess their wrong-doing, save self-preservation if they were taught a strong message of the Law.
Lutheran view – We are all dead in sin until the quickening power of the Holy Spirit makes us alive through the Word. In this way the very moral person and the psychopath are exactly on equal ground. As the law is faithfully preached, the objective nature of sin would be revealed to both. The Holy Spirit uses the law to restrain evil in the world, to convict souls of their sinfulness and to point people to Christ as their hope. He alone can move the soul to acknowledge guilt and fly to Christ as the redeemer. Repentance is not necessarily a sense that I have "hurt God’s feelings" or empathically taking the victim’s perspective ("against you only have I sinned"), but rather a continual recognition of our sinfulness and a turning away from it. God uses objective means of grace to confer his salvation to his people; these are the Word, and the sacraments. Since no work can save, the psychopath would be a good example of the fact that God has done all the work for our salvation through the blood of Jesus. Since salvation was accomplished for all on the cross and applied to believers objectively through Word and sacrament, it is possible for psychopaths to be among the saints.