Confusion and a Weak Conscience (8:7-8)
"But not everyone knows this. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat such food they think of it as having been sacrificed to an idol, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. (8:7)
You know these things, says Paul, but brand new believers who grew up in idol worship don't understand how you can eat in pagan temples the food that has just been dedicated to pagan gods.
Here Paul introduces the conscience, Greek syneidēsis, "the inward faculty of distinguishing right and wrong, moral consciousness, conscience." Some people see the conscience as "God's voice in the soul." But that's too simplistic. The conscience can be educated to include what we believe is right and wrong -- taught from an early age by our parents and society. A conscience can be taught untruths. A person with a "weak" conscience is someone who believes something is "wrong" to do, even if is not, in fact, wrong or unrighteous.
But to force or shame someone into acting against his or her conscience is extremely harmful. Paul says that such a conscience is "defiled."The person now feels morally compromised, and may just give up trying to live righteously and return to their former pagan way.
Paul acknowledges that what we eat is, in itself, neutral. It doesn't defile us, nor does it make us spiritual.
"Food does not bring us near280 to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do." (7:8)
Elsewhere, to people who were hung up on Jewish dietary laws, Paul said something similar:
"For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit." (Romans 14:17)
Nevertheless, in spite of their "superior knowledge" that idols have no real existence and that what you eat is irrelevant, Paul insists that participating in a feast in a pagan temple is wrong!