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 March 2015
Universal:
Scientists: That those involved in scientific research may serve the well-being of the whole human person.
Evangelization: Contribution of women: That the unique contribution of women to the life of the Church may be recognized always.


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


Comments


More Living Faith

6 types of men Christian women should dismiss for marriage Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Women, and men, should be wary of whom they shall live with for the rest of their lives. Marriage is not a temporary commitment, it lasts for a lifetime no matter how you will put it --- two people still shared the same vows to cherish one another through a sacred ... continue reading


Pope Franics to host major conference on climate change Watch

Image of

By Nikky Andres (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Pope Francis will host a major summit on April 28 entitled "Protect the Earth, Dignify Humanity: The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development." MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - The conference will feature famous American economist, ... continue reading


Can Catholics Practice Yoga and Transcendental Meditation?

Image of

By Deacon Ian VanHeusen

Among many Christians who are honestly seeking to deepen their prayer life, there is a genuine concern about erroneous forms of prayer. People should be careful to accept practices which diverge from the faith they have received, whether through the family or in a ... continue reading


Is there a war between feminism and the Catholic Church? American nuns' 'radical feminist themes incompatible with the Catholic faith' Watch

Image of The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has ended an investigation into radical feminist ideals held by the U.S.'s largest nun group, warning the organization to fall in line with Catholic orthodox stances.

By Matt Waterson (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The year-long inquiry into American nuns by the Holy See's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has concluded, and will not take any action against the Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), the body that governs around 80 percent of nuns in the ... continue reading


Passionate pastor attempts to fix the missing spiritual link in churches across the U.S. Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Reverend Percy McCray suggests that leaders of faith should undergo in-depth training programs to better deal with cancer-stricken patients and their hurting families. According to McCray, as it stands now, most churches across the United States lack the proper ... continue reading


Dialogue: an essential ingredient for peaceful relationships Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

According to the New York Times, during a White House luncheon in 1954 Winston Churchill said, "To jaw-jaw [talk-talk] always is better than to war-war." While clearly not a pacifist, the United Kingdom's World War II prime minister had seen upfront the absolute horror ... continue reading


Pope Francis risks international outrage by using term 'genocide' to describe Armenia massacre Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Risking international opinion and possibly stirring up anger throughout Turkey, Pope Francis used the word "genocide" to refer to the mass killings of Armenians a century ago under the Ottoman Empire. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - "In the past century, our ... continue reading


Pope Francis: Children 'can never be considered a mistake' Watch

Image of

By Elise Harris, CNA/EWTN News

Pope Francis said Wednesday that children are never a mistake, and called adults out for building faulty systems that leave children exploited and abandoned, rather than treated as the blessings they are. (CNA/EWTN News) - "Brothers and sisters, think about this ... continue reading


Easter around the world: 10 amazing photos that caputre Easter celebrations

Image of Easter vigil

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Christians all over the world observed the Lenten Season and ended with the celebration of Easter Sunday, the symbolism of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Across the globe, believers from different countries celebrated in various ways. With the use of social media, ... continue reading


5 wonderful ways to remind yourself Jesus is always with you Watch

Image of

By Hannah Raissa Marfil (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

All our troubles and hardships may sway us from the idea that Jesus is always with us, no matter what we're doing or what we're currently going through. If anything, our hardships should bring us closer to Him. We sway from Him because for most of us, Jesus is just a ... 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 3:13-15, 17-19
13 It is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 4:2, 4, 7-8, 9
2 Children of men, how long will you be heavy of ... Read More

Reading 2, First John 2:1-5
1 My children, I am writing this to prevent you from ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for April 19th, 2015 Image

St. Alphege
April 19: Archbishop and "the First Martyr of Canterbury." He was born in ... 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