Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

8/10/2012 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

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.

Highlights

By Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq.

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

8/10/2012 (2 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 agreenwell@harris-greenwell.com.

---


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


Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for May 2015
Universal:
That, rejecting the culture of indifference, we may care for our neighbours who suffer, especially the sick and the poor.
Evangelization: That Mary's intercession may help Christians in secularized cultures be ready to proclaim Jesus.


Rosaries, Crosses, Prayer Cards and more... by Catholic Shopping .com


Comments


More Living Faith

The Church Needs to Be Baptized Afresh in the Holy Spirit Watch

Image of Do I still believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are available for ordinary Christians? You bet I do! I believe that Pentecost still happens. I KNOW it still happens. We can ALL know it still happens because we can experience its effects in our own lives. We should not be afraid of the Holy Spirit! In fact, we should regularly seek to be filled with more and more of the Spirit.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We need to pray for a New Pentecost for the Church in this hour! We need more of the Holy Spirit for the New Evangelization of the Church - so that a renewed Church can engage in the missionary task of the Third Christian Millennium. We need to be baptized afresh ... continue reading


Brotherhood of the Belt: Struggle, Trouble and Failure in the Christian Life Watch

Image of The Martyrdom of Peter

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Peter's wrong choices were not the end of the story of Gods plan for his life. Peter's denial crippled Peter emotionally and spiritually. He lost his way. That was until he encountered the Risen Christ. There, in that encounter, he allowed the belt of ... continue reading


The Purpose of Pentecost is the Birth and Ongoing Mission of the Church

Image of The purpose of Pentecost is the birth - and continued rebirth - of the Church.

By Deacon Keith Fournier

The Church was empowered by the Holy Spirit to live differently in the midst of a world awaiting the fullness of redemption, to live as a new people to lead the world back to the Father, in and through the Son. Through their experience of the Holy Spirit the early ... continue reading


Top 5 Roman Catholic colleges in the United States Watch

Image of

By Atarah Haely (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What constitutes being the best university is oftentimes subjective and usually in adherence to one's beliefs and practices. Choosing a college is one of the biggest decisions many people are making. Some opt for those that offer the best training in the fields of ... continue reading


Don't take your children 'hostage,' Pope tells separated couples Watch

Image of Christian communities, Pope Francis says

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In discussing the role of parents educating their children, Pope Francis in his General Audience, advised separated couples to "never, never, never take the children hostage!" LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The Pope spoke on the role of parents in the ... continue reading


A Baltimorean's reflections on the Baltimore riots

Image of

By Tony Magliano

"The God of peace is never glorified by human violence," wrote the famous Trappist monk Thomas Merton. Whether it's on an individual, city, national, or international level, violence always dishonors God, and makes bad situations worse. The recent Baltimore City riots ... continue reading


8 encouraging Bible verses to lift you up Watch

Image of

By Abigail James (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Sometimes getting up in the morning can be the hardest thing you'll do all day. When life's worries press down on you and take your soul hostage, the most important thing you can do for yourself is turn to God. He will always be there for you, through the good times ... continue reading


Pope Francis tells bishops to act more like pastors - and not 'pilots' Watch

Image of The meeting between bishops will last until May 21. At that time, bishops will discuss how their faithful have received Pope Francis's apostolic exhortation, The Joy of the Gospel, and look at ways to implement its teaching.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Addressing bishops in Italy, Pope Francis told them to act more like pastors than "pilots" telling the faithful what to do. The pontiff said that bishops need "Ecclesial sensitivity." They should remain bold in denouncing cultural trends that offend human ... continue reading


Five-year-old boy brings people to tears with heartfelt act of kindness Watch

Image of

By Talia Ramos (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

During his meal at a Waffle House restaurant, 5-year-old Josiah Duncan's attention wandered to the man outside the establishment. The man, dirty and holding a plastic bag, became the center of the young boy's curiosity and concern. After learning from her mother that ... continue reading


Amazing 'Bulletproof' cross under construction in middle of Christian-hostile Pakistan Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Everything changed for a Pakistani businessman, trying to build one of the world's tallest and first "bulletproof" cross, after God appeared in his dreams. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - Parvez Henry Gill, a real estate businessman, claimed  God gave ... continue reading


All Living Faith News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Acts 2:1-11
1 When Pentecost day came round, they had all met ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 104:1, 24, 29-30, 31, 34
1 Bless Yahweh, my soul, Yahweh, my God, how great ... Read More

Gospel, John 20:19-23
19 In the evening of that same day, the first day of ... Read More

Reading 2, First Corinthians 12:3-7, 12-13
3 Because of that, I want to make it quite clear to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for May 24th, 2015 Image

St. David I of Scotland
May 24: David, the youngest son of Scotlandís virtuous queen, (Saint) ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter