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
- "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
- "seek" in the sense of discovering something by exploring for
- 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
- 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
- Astrology is generally spoken of in derogatory terms (see, for
- 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
- 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,