Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

8/10/2012 (3 years ago)

Catholic Online (

It is important to consider not only the existence but the insistence of God

We commonly speak about God's existence.  By "looking out" into the world we can rationally establish God, that He is.  These proofs all rely on the underlying assumption that the created world is true, and our senses are adequate to it.  Not only does God exist as may be rationally demonstrated, one can also say that God "insists."  To say that God "insists" is to suggest that we can find a proof of God, and that He is, by "looking in," specifically, by looking at our conscience.  This is what I mean by the "insistence" of God.


By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (

8/10/2012 (3 years ago)

Published in Living Faith

Keywords: conscience, existence of God, proof God exists, faith, Christian maturity, formed conscience, Andrew Greenwell

CORPUS CHRISTI, TX (Catholic Online) - We commonly speak about God's existence.  The word "exist" comes to us from the Latin words ex ("out of") and sistere ("to cause to stand").  Catholics believe--indeed, are required to believe--that God's existence can be rationally demonstrated from the things that are made.  As the First Vatican Council stated in the document Dei Filius, "The one and true God, our creator and Lord, can be known through the creation by the natural light of human reason."

Traditionally, of course, all manner of rational "proofs" were thought up by Catholic thinkers to show that it was reasonable to believe that God exists.  We have, for example, the famous "five proofs" of St. Thomas Aquinas. 

Using proofs such as these, by "looking out" into the world we can rationally establish God, and that He is.  These proofs all rely on the underlying assumption that the created world is true, and our senses are adequate to it.  As Pope Benedict XVI put it in his book Jesus of Nazareth, "The world is 'true' to the extent that it reflects God: the creative logic, the eternal reason that brought it to birth."  The truth of the created world is therefore a witness to uncreated Truth.

Not only does God exist as may be rationally demonstrated, one can also say that God "insists." 
The word insists likewise comes from Latin, specifically the words in ("into" or "in") and sistere ("to cause to stand").  To say that God "insists," then, is to suggest that we can find a proof of God, and that He is, by "looking in," specifically, by looking at our conscience.  This is what I mean by the "insistence" of God.

There are perhaps no two better guides for exploring God's "insistence" than St. Augustine and Blessed John Henry Newman.  At least as far as I have found, nowhere do we find the notion of God's "insistence" better explored, or at least more beautifully expressed. 

Blessed John Henry Newman, of course, might be called the Doctor conscientiae, the Doctor of Conscience.  Newman understood conscience to be something more than a sense of propriety, or convention, or feeling, or opinion, or taste, all of which he would have referred to as "counterfeit" conscience. 

Newman believed that conscience properly understood was "the echo of God's voice."  Authentic conscience had the "prerogative of commanding obedience," of enjoining upon us a moral duty, a prerogative which convention, opinion, feeling, or taste do not have.  In describing conscience, it is difficult, even in the vast annals of Catholic thought, to encounter words as beautiful as these which come from Newman's Letter to the Duke of Norfolk:

"The rule and measure of duty is not utility, nor expedience, nor the happiness of the greatest number, nor State convenience, nor fitness, order, and the pulchrum [beautiful].  Conscience is not a long-sighted selfishness, nor a desire to be consistent with oneself, but it is a messenger from Him, who, both in nature and in grace, speaks to us behind a veil, and teaches and rules us by His representatives.  Conscience is the aboriginal Vicar of Christ, a prophet in its informations, a monarch in its peremptoriness, a priest in its blessings and anathemas, and, even though the eternal priesthood throughout the Church could cease to be, in it the sacerdotal principle would remain and would have a sway."

The Second Vatican Council embraces this concept when in Gaudium et spes (No. 16) it taught that "Conscience is the most secret core and sanctuary of a man.  There he is alone with God, whose voice echoes in his depths."

Because conscience--again, not "counterfeit" conscience, but authentic conscience--is a witness to truth, it, like the created world, can be a witness to Truth, namely, God and that He is.  In his Grammar of Assent, Newman expanded on his belief that the sense of duty or command that he discovered in his conscience was proof of what I have called God's "insistence," of God, and that He is.

"If, as is the case, we feel responsibility, are ashamed, are frightened, at transgressing the voice of conscience, this implies that there is One to whom we are responsible, before whom we are ashamed, whose claims upon us we fear. If, on doing wrong, we feel the same tearful, broken-hearted sorrow which overwhelms us on hurting a mother; if, on doing right, we enjoy the same sunny serenity of mind, the same soothing, satisfactory delight which follows on our receiving praise from a father, we certainly have within us the image of some person, to whom our love and veneration look, in whose smile we find our happiness, for whom we yearn, towards whom we direct our pleadings, in whose anger we are troubled and waste away . . . and thus the phenomena of Conscience, as a dictate, avail to impress the imagination with the picture of a Supreme Governor, a Judge, holy, just, powerful, all-seeing, retributive."

Elsewhere, in his Apologia pro Vita Sua, he put this concept in these words:

"I am a Catholic by virtue of my believing in a God; and if I am asked why I believe in a God, I answer that it is because I believe in myself, for I feel it impossible to believe in my own existence (and of that fact I am quite sure) without believing also in the existence of Him, who lives as a Personal, All-seeing, All-judging Being in my conscience."

Many centuries before Newman, St. Augustine was also keenly aware of what Newman so well described.  In his Confessions, St. Augustine described in what manner God may be found in a person, and so "insists."  Within man, St. Augustine finds God as the "eternal internal," the internus aeternus.  As Blessed John Paul II summarized it in his apostolic letter Augustinum Hipponesem, St. Augustine believed that, in this "eternal internal," this internus aeternus, "God is in the depths of each one of us." 

God is found in us through the witness of our conscience, which contains within it the natural moral law, a law "written in men's hearts, which iniquity itself cannot blot out," as St. Augustine said.  This law which is writ in the heart and which is accessible in conscience is itself is nothing less than a creaturely participation in the eternal law.  The eternal law is nothing less than God himself.   "And your law is the truth, and the truth you."  Et lex tua veritas, et veritas tu!  (Conf. 4.9.14) 

So St. Augustine is consistent with Newman's insight.  From our conscience, we learn the commands of an internal law, a law that commands, that imposes a duty.  For St. Augustine, like Newman, the human conscience is, in the words of Thomas Brooks, "God's deputy, God's spy, God's notary, God's viceroy."  The source of that command, that duty, points to the eternal law of our Creator, and that law is truth, and that truth God. 

By looking "inside" us, by recognizing that there are interior moral commands in the form of law, we find the "eternal internal" is us, and therein find evidence of God, and that He is.  Like Newman, St. Augustine believed that God "insists."

To be sure, God exists.  To be equally sure, God insists.  And if God exists and insists, we may be assured that God assists

Ahh.  But the assistance of God takes us from nature to grace, from reason to revelation.  And if we are going to dwell on God's assistance, we shall have to await another day and another article.


Andrew M. Greenwell is an attorney licensed to practice law in Texas, practicing in Corpus Christi, Texas.  He is married with three children.  He maintains a blog entirely devoted to the natural law called Lex Christianorum.  You can contact Andrew at


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More Living Faith

Come together this Thanksgiving with a beautiful prayer Watch

Image of Each year thousands of families celebrate Thanksgiving, but make the food their priority. This year, make God and all He has given us your priority.


Each year, millions of people across the United States rush to grocery stores and prepare to visit their families in celebration of Thanksgiving. Visiting loved ones and enjoying a specially prepared meal are both wonderful parts of celebrating, but don't forget to ... continue reading

Pope Francis: Jesus is weeping over a WORLD AT WAR

Image of Pope Francis mourns a world at war.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis has made it clear, Jesus is weeping over a world at war. It has become obvious that this is a time of extreme danger for all people around the globe. No population is safe from terror. The threats aren't just from terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al ... continue reading

Oxford to begin study of Catholic relics. Here are 5 macabre relics people venerate from around the world Watch

Image of The skull of St. Thomas Aquinas.


The veneration of relics in the Catholic Church has been one of the most debated practices in the faith. While such veneration is actually common in the human experience -even Communists did it with the body of Lenin, the veneration of relics in the Church is the ... continue reading

Nine bishops, one abbot, dine and dialogue with peace activists Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

During the recent U.S. Catholic bishops' fall assembly in Baltimore, several bishops and one abbot, decided to skip dinner at the downtown Marriott Waterfront hotel, and walked several blocks to an inner city parish to share a simple meal with about 30 peace ... continue reading

Woman turns her cancer over to Jesus Christ - survives, thrives Watch

Image of Heather King shares her struggles in her new memoir,

By Mary Rezac, CNA/EWTN News

Heather King never cared much for doctors. Los Angeles, CA (CNA) - It's an attitude she partly inherited from her mother, "who classified ginger ale as a medicine, considered Novocain a snobbish extravagance" and somehow managed to avoid a visit to the doctor's office ... continue reading

Top 5 ways to find joy Watch

Image of Find happiness in spite of the darkness.


It is easy to fall prey to depression and sadness with everything that has been going on in the world these days. The trick to maintaining a positive attitude and living in the joy God has for us is as easy as following five simple steps. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading

Want to lose the War on Christmas? Surrender Advent Watch

Image of What millions of Christians do a day after expressing thanks for what they already have.

By Marshall Connolly, Catholic Online (THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Want to lose the War on Christmas? Surrender Advent. We Christians have gone out of our minds, arguing about Starbucks cups and greeters who (correctly) say "Happy Holidays" in place of "Merry Christmas." In all the bustle of the season, we have forgotten that Advent ... continue reading

Cardinal Sarah releases new book, 'God or Nothing,' on civilization's fall from grace Watch

Image of Without God, the cardinal said,

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

At the presentation of his new book, Cardinal Robert Sarah said that Western society is rapidly forgetting God, and expressed his desire to help people rediscover him through both prayer and witness. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - "I would like to help people ... continue reading

Holy Door in St. Peter's basilica to open for first time in 15 years for Holy Year of Mercy Watch

Image of The rite of the opening of the Holy Door is intended to symbolically illustrate the idea that the Church's faithful are offered an

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

Hidden since the Jubilee of 2000, the Holy Door in St. Peter's Basilica was revealed Tuesday as the brick wall covering it was removed in anticipation of the Holy Year of Mercy launching next month. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - Cardinal Angelo Comastri, the ... continue reading

5 powerful Bible verses you need when fear and terror strike Watch

Image of


Fear is a powerful thing. Fear can completely cripple the body and soul. Since the terrifying Paris terrorist attacks last week the news has been full of death, terrorists, murder and fear. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Those not in power are left wondering ... continue reading

All Living Faith News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • Prayer For Courage HD Video
  • The Miracle Prayer HD Video
  • Daily Readings for Thursday, November 26, 2015
  • How to balance compassion with security concerns with influx of ...
  • UPDATE: Did the U.S. military actually know they were bombing the ...
  • St. John Berchmans: Saint of the Day for Thursday, November 26, 2015
  • BIGGER THAN ISIS - There's a hidden power behind ISIS and it's so big ...

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Daniel 5:1-6, 13-14, 16-17, 23-28
1 King Belshazzar gave a great banquet for his noblemen, a thousand of ... Read More

Psalm, Daniel 3:62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 67
62 Bless the Lord, sun and moon, praise and glorify him for ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:12-19
12 'But before all this happens, you will be seized and persecuted; you ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 25th, 2015 Image

St. Catherine of Alexandria
November 25: St. Catherine of Alexandria, Virgin and Martyr ... Read More