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

FULL TEXT: Family synod prayer vigil, Pope Francis's full address Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Presiding over a prayer vigil in St. Peter's Square, Pope Francis led the beginning of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family, at the Vatican. Drawing tens of thousands of the faithful, many were present in the Square since the afternoon for a ... continue reading

Vatican issues statement in regards to monsignor's declaration of homosexuality Watch

Image of


The director of the Holy See press office has issued a statement in response to Vatican official Msgr. Krzysztof Charamsa's declaration in a recent interview that he is homosexual and has a boyfriend. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - Msgr. Charamsa, 43, granted a ... continue reading

Guardian Angels are always by our sides, Pope Francis says Watch

Image of Pope Francis explained that when Adam and Eve were expelled from the Garden of Eden, God could have left them to fend for themselves. Instead, as an act of love and mercy, the Lord sent with them an angel to guide and protect them.


Each of us has a Guardian Angel who, acting on behalf of God, advises us and protects us from evil, if we only listen to him, Pope Francis said during his homily at Mass on Friday. Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - "May we ask the Lord for the grace of this ... continue reading

Top 5 Bible verses to turn to when you're angry Watch

Image of What does the Bible have to say about anger?

By Kenya Sinclair (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

What makes you angry? Maybe you don't like the way your boss talks to you at work or your spouse spends too much money. What do you do when you feel anger coming on? Who do you turn to? LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - When we get angry we can say or do things we ... continue reading

Megachurch Pastor's new book tells people to 'get over themselves' Watch

Image of Pastor Kyle Idleman (YouTube).


Megachurch Pastor Kyle Idleman claims that to live life, "everyone simply needs to get over themselves" to truly "experience abundant life with Jesus," a theory he promotes in his new book The End of Me: Where Real Life in the Upside-Down Ways of Jesus Begins. LOS ... continue reading

Parents of St. Therese of Lisieux to be canonized by Pope Francis Watch

Image of The canonizations of the married couple will coincide with the Synod on the Family, to be held on Oct. 4-25.


Pope Francis approved, earlier this year, the decrees necessary for Blesseds Louis and Zelie Martin - known for being the parents of St. Therese of Lisieux - to be declared saints. VATICAN CITY (CNA/EWTN News) - The two blesseds will be the first couple ever to ... continue reading

Phoenix bishop encourages Catholic men to 'step into the breach' Watch

Image of Calling on all Christian men to take a stand in the Church's spiritual battle, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix asked men in his diocese to courageously pursue their vocations as friends, fathers, and spouses.


Calling on all Christian men to take a stand in the Church's spiritual battle, Bishop Thomas Olmsted of Phoenix asked men in his diocese to courageously pursue their vocations as friends, fathers, and spouses. Phoenix, Ariz. (CNA/EWTN News) - "Men, do not ... continue reading

Interview with Archbishop Chaput puts U.S. papal visit in perspective Watch

Image of Archbishop Chaput offered his take on the historic papal trip, the challenges facing family in the U.S., and the upcoming Synod of Bishops in Rome.

By Michelle Bauman, CNA/EWTN News

Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia hosted Pope Francis in his highly anticipated first visit to the United States. As the dust settled after the departure of nearly one million participants in the final Mass for the World Meeting of Families, CNA had the ... continue reading

Pope Francis speaks truth to power Watch

Image of

By Tony Magliano

From celebrating Masses at Havana's Revolution Square in Cuba, Washington, D.C., New York City and Philadelphia, to addressing the U.S. Congress and the United Nations - and with lots packed in between - the 78-year-old Pope Francis tirelessly proclaimed the Gospel ... continue reading

Pope Francis tells young people Jesus 'has so many things to say to each of you' Watch

Image of His Message for the 31st World Youth Day in Krakow 2016 invited young people to reflect on mercy and to visit the Divine Mercy Shrine in Krakow.


With World Youth Day coming up next year, Pope Francis has a question for young people: "Do you realize how precious you are to God, who has given you everything out of love?" Vatican City (CNA/EWTN News) - "You, dear young man, dear young woman, have you ever ... 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

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 4th, 2015 Image

St. Francis of Assisi
October 4: Founder of the Franciscan Order, born at Assisi in Umbria, in ... Read More