reason for living

Gaining knowledge

Notes about different ways of “knowing” something

At present this paper contains notes only.  It is not intended to be a discussion document and its teaching value is limited.  This paper exists because among people interested in spiritual matters, certain methods are often described as acceptable forms of gaining spiritual knowledge or having communion with God.  Some of these methods are listed below, each having a comment indicating whether and how the process is described or used in the Bible.  Where a word is placed in quotation marks, then it is the actual word (rather than the process it describes) that is being commented on.

The acronym NIV means the “New International Version” which is an English language translation of the Bible.

"Intuition" & derivatives
Not used
"Feel" and derivatives
In the NIV, the word is never used to describe a process by which knowledge is acquired or a decision taken.
"Instinct" & derivatives
Used 3 times in the NIV; only one of these is in the context of knowing: "Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals - these are the very things that destroy them." Jude 1:10 (NIV)
Not used.
"Guess" (in the sense making a supposition i.e.: "I guess (I suppose) he chose ...  "
Not used
"Suppose" & "Supposing"
Twenty three occurrences; 20 of these are used to present a hypothetical situation where the word could be replaced by "imagine" i.e.: "Suppose such and such happens" could be rephrased as "Imagine such and such happens".  Two use "supposing" to describe a speculative assumption about events actually in progress.
Other derivatives of "suppose" Three occurrences: Two having the sense of "reputed", and one in the sense of having an obligation or prearrangement.
"Reason" & derivatives
Sixty-eight occurrences of which only nine refer to the gaining or dissemination of knowledge: Isaiah 1:18 "Come now, let us reason together.", 1 Peter 3:15 "...  everyone who asks you to give the reason for your hope...", Acts 26:25 "what I am saying is true and reasonable.".  In the form "reasoned" there are six relevant occurrences.  Four of these describe what Paul did in the synagogues as he travelled, one is part of Paul's description of his childhood activities ("I reasoned like a child").  The sixth occurrence refers to Abraham who "reasoned that God could raise the dead." The final variant occurs when God tells Job that he has listened to his reasoning. 
"Sense" and derivatives when used to declare detection by intuition.
One occurrence: in Acts 27:27 "the sailors sensed that they were approaching land."
"seek" in the sense of discovering something by exploring for it.
Used several times in the context of acquiring knowledge in the form of seeking counsel, information or wisdom.  The sources from whence the advice or information come include God and Spiritists.
Instruction given by God
Not yet checked.  cf Acts 8:26 - "...  an angel of the Lord said to Phillip ...") and Acts 9:4 - "...  he heard a voice saying ..."
Instruction given by other spirit persons
Not yet checked. 
Instruction given by people
Not yet checked.
Vision, in the sense of having a mystical dream-like experience.
Not yet checked.  CF Acts 9:10 - "...  the Lord said to him in a vision ...".  King Abimilech(?) had a vision from God (Genesis 20??)
Voice of the Lord
Not yet checked but many occurrences known.  Especially the calling of Samuel.
Through obedience to the known will of God.
Not exhaustively checked but many occurrences known, particularly through the book of Proverbs.  Also Romans 12:1-2 where Paul exhorts his readers to present themselves as living sacrifices, be transformed by the renewing of their minds and thus be able to discern what the good and perfect and pleasing will of God is.
Drawing lots
The eleven apostles drew lots to know who God had chosen to replace Judas Iscariot.  Acts (1/2)
The urim and thummin
Book of Exodus
Only the Mormons claim to know what the Urim and Thummin actually were and, as with most of their claims, they are utterly unable to produce any supporting evidence.
Aarons jewelled tunic
Exodus.  Moses was given instructions about a tunic that Aaron was to wear. When he wore it he would be able to know the will of God. 
Astrology is generally spoken of in derogatory terms (see, for example, Isaiah).
However, there is the incident of three wise men following a star to Bethlehem and, somewhat later, Jesus mentions that there will be signs in the sky.  Both of these examples could be considered to be astrological if the word is used in a very wide sense.
Mediums and spiritists (that is people who communicate with the souls of dead people)
Condemned in the strongest possible terms; under the Mosaic covenant, people involved with such activities were to be put to death immediately and without mercy.

Other key words to consider for addition to above list:

*** NB must also assess derivatives and negations ***

Comprehension, consciousness, realise, cognition, insight, awareness, learning, experience, learning, study, education, acquaintance, familiarity, seen, heard, sensed, superstition, tutored, perceived, thought, inspiration, perception, discernment, common sense, the nature of things, imagine, speculate, assume, surmise, suspect, presuppose, prophesy, seer, clairvoyance, astrology, legend, myth, dreams, observe, notice, scrutinise, research, enquire, investigate, seek, search, hunt, experiment, hearsay, facts, logic, rationalism, predication, sixth sense, impulse, divination, insight, calculate, prejudice.


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