The motivation for this question basically comes from reading the discussion around the question Is it necessary to Biblically support arguments within discussions about Christianity? and a question at Philosophy Stack Exchange, Kierkegaard and the Tripartite Theory of Man in which the bipartite view (only mind and body) of man is distinguished from the tripartite view (spirit, soul and body).

In science, we know things through empirical methods, and in logic/mathematics, we know things through logical proofs. We use combinations of these methods to know various facts in daily life. Yet 1 Corinthians 2:14 says that "...the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God..." and uses the phrase "spiritually discerned" in reference to the things of the Spirit of God. Now in the book "The Spiritual Man" by Watchman Nee, which takes the tripartite view, there is reference made to "The Soul's Faculty of Intellect or Mind" (in Volume 1, Part 1, Chapter 2), hence apparently making a connection between "mind" and "soul".

Hence all this leads to the obvious question: Are there true statements that inherently are unknowable by empirical means or logic and simply require "spiritual discernment"?

Perhaps the second question is: What is a man to do then?

Of course, I realize that this whole tripartite view might not even be widely accepted in the first place, nor might the book I mentioned be well-known. I myself do not claim expertise in all these matters. I'd just be happy to hear views and generate discussion. Thanks!

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    Now, I'm on record as not liking to migrate questions, but if ever I'd nominate one for hermeneutics, it would be this. This is a great question that gets to the core of epistemology, but I think the answer you are looking for is not restricted to Christian doctrine. Mar 24 '12 at 23:44

10 Answers 10


The short answer to your question is yes.

Matthew 7:28-29

28 And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine:

29 For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.

What do you suppose it means, "as one having authority, and not as the scribes"? (Think how the scribes learned what they knew of the law.)

Galatians 1:12

12 For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.

Cool how Paul learned the gospel, isn't it? The disciples describe similar experiences thus:

Luke 24:32

And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?

The burning of the bosom is a sensation described multiple times in scripture as a possible way to know/recognize spiritual truth.

Paul describes the process of revelation by spiritual means to know God:

Ephesians 1:17-18

17 That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:

18 The eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints,

Clearly, it is by spiritual means that a personal testimony is gained.

Jesus directly told the disciples that the Holy Ghost will teach them/us all things:

John 14:26

26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

Also, Romans is instructive:

Romans 8:16

16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

How is this spiritual truth learned? Spirit to spirit. I believe this is the only way to gain a true understanding and/or testimony of certain doctrines.

So what are we to do?

Jeremiah 29:13

12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.

13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

This promise is perhaps one of the most oft-repeated promises in all of holy scripture (for example, see Luke 11:9 or Matthew 7:7), and I think many, if not all, Christian faiths abide by this.


The passage that immediately comes to mind in answer to your question is 1 Corinthians 2. It's a lengthy portion, but there is a lot in this.

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person's thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.

12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:6-15 ESV

This passage would seem to suggest that there are, in fact, truths that are spiritually discerned--specifically spiritual truths. When believers sense the presence of God, that is true, but it is not something that can be empirically proven. When an unbeliever senses the Holy Spirit drawing their hearts, that is very real, but, again, not something that can be tested. As believers, we feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit when we sin and that is very real as well.

By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; 20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God; 1 John 3:19-21 ESV

So, it seems there is at least some biblical evidenced to support the idea that there are, in fact, spiritual truths that can only be known through spiritual means.


I see the answers already posted disagree widely. So let me say something different still.

What do you mean by "spiritual means"? If you mean, "can only be known by revelation from God", I would say the answer is yes.

There are many ways to gain knowledge.

Science has certainly proven to be a very powerful tool. Science works by experiments and observation. The power of science is that it can close questions and move on. For example, if someone told me that he doubted the theory of gravity, or Newton's laws of motion, I could point him to the experiments that have been done to prove these theories true. If he claimed the physics book I showed him was lying or mistaken, we could perform the experiments together until he was convinced. Compare this to debates about philosophy, where we continue to debate the same questions today that Plato discussed.

So why don't we use science to solve these philosophical questions? Because powerful as science is, it simply cannot be used to attack some problems. If my hypothetical friend from the previous paragraph said that he doubted that George Washington was ever president of the United States, I could show him a dozen history books saying he was. But what if he claims those books are all lying or mistaken? There is no experiment we can perform to prove that George Washington was president 200 years ago. It is a one-time event that is claimed to have occurred in the past. There is no experiment I can perform in the present to prove it true or false.

So consider a question like, "What is Heaven like?" How could we possibly answer such a question other than by revelation from God, or something of the sort? There's no experiment you can perform to study Heaven, because we cannot readily get there to study it. Anyone who claims to have been there and come back would be classified as discussing a "spiritual" experience by definition. I suppose we could make deductions about what Heaven must be like given what we know about the nature of God. But most of what we know about God is known by revelation, i.e. the Bible. (If you want to claim some other book to be divinely inspired, fine, whether any given book is inspired is another question.) Perhaps we could draw some conclusions by starting with what theologians call "general revelation", that is, what we can learn about God by studying the universe around us. Then go from there to conclusions about Heaven. But by that time I think any conclusions would be extremely speculative and tentative.


Short answer, no, you can't have truth that is only known through spiritual means.

You can have truth known through spiritual means, but that "only" in the question makes all the difference.

longer answer:

Human understanding is based on experience, observation, sometimes reason, emotional frame of mind, and a whole host of other factors. What we believe to be truth is shaded by what we observe around us and how we've been conditioned to interpret what we observe.

So, from a purely logical perspective, the answer is "No. There can not be a truth that we know only via spiritual means". Anything we " know" has already been filtered out by our thought process, using logic applied to past experience and observation.

The fact that we've evaluated the thought to determine if it's true already has nullified the "only" in your question.

That's from a purely logical perspective. Moving on to a "Christian" perspective:

The big question is "how do you determine what is truth? What is your plumb-line - your test for determining if something is true?" Is it something tangible? Is it reliable?

To better answer your question, I'm going to compare my viewpoint - one that holds the Bible as the ultimate authority on truth to the proposed viewpoint: the idea that spiritual discernment is the ultimate authority on truth.

From my view, Scripture is the plumb-line. Any doctrinal truth must be traced back to one of the following:

  • A direct, clear statement from Scripture on a subject
    • example: Theft - thou shalt not steal
  • Logical reasoning that takes it's base supporting argument from Scriptural statements.
    • example: racy movies based on what Scripture teaches about lust, and particularly the verse "I shall set no evil thing before my eyes". The Bible doesn't mention movies, but using the Bible as a plumb line, it's not hard to come to that conclusion.

Now on the other hand, if spiritual revelation is an equally valid "plumb line", then there is no such thing as truth. I can have a spiritual revelation that says that racy movies are actually holy because God created our bodies for enjoyment. I can claim to have divine revelation or the "leading of the Holy Spirit" that led me to understand that there's nothing wrong with theft, or that it's OK to lie.

In short, I can believe whatever I want.

Such a viewpoint would be patently un-Christian. Since this is a site about Christianity, I have to assume that you want a Christian perspective. Christianity, whatever flavor, is based on the God of the Bible.

There may be disagreements about certain teachings in the Bible, and varying opinions on the inerrancy, authority and reliability of the Bible, but if we take away the Bible's authority, we're left with nothing upon which to base our Christian claims of faith. W're left with simply "I believe" with no frame of reference, no plumb line, so we can believe whatever we want.

If we allow spiritual discernment or personal revelation to take co-equal status with Scripture, then we may as well decide to worship smurfs and sacrifice rodents to our "god" because we'll no longer be worshiping God as He revealed Himself, but instead we'd be worshiping gods that we made with our minds - idols.

This isn't to say that there is no Spiritual revelation, or that Spiritual revelation doesn't have its place. What I'm saying is that even true, honest spiritual revelation must meet certain tests, as laid out in Scripture.

The three key passages that come to mind are:

1 John 4:1 (KJV) Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

2 Timothy 3:16 (KJV) All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:

John 4:24 (KJV) God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

No doubt these false prophets either intentionally deceive, or else they honestly believe what they're teaching. We're told to test the spirits and see if what they are saying lines up with Scripture.

Therefore, even if there is "truth" that is spiritually known, we are commanded as Christians to test it to see if it meets the standard - does it agree with the rest of Scripture? Does it directly contradict Scripture?

And because of this command from Scripture, the Biblical answer to your question is a resounding "no". There cannot be truths that are only known through spiritual means. They must be known through spiritual means and via logical comparison to existing known doctrinal truth as revealed in Scripture.

  • I am quite stunned on how much we agree. Had to happen eventually, I guess. But: there is a small problem - it could be argued that it is "spiritually discerned" that scripture is divine revelation (there is no empirical/etc basis for that claim). Inerrancy is even trickier, as there are lots of places where scripture outright fails, IMO (but that is not a discussion for here/now). Mar 24 '12 at 8:45
  • @Marc Gravell - That's funny! I'm actually not surprised at all. I hope you don't find this insulting, but I actually truly respect and agree with your method of reasoning, and find no fault with your logic 99% of the time. Usually where I disagree with you is not a matter of how we use reason to determine what truth is, but rather upon what are we basing our logic. I think we come to opposite conclusions because we start with different "axioms". This question is probably the only one I've seen where you and I have the same "starting point" - the need for a plumb-line. Mar 24 '12 at 13:45
  • David - I would argue this (and have below). If you constrain God to natural revelation, then you inherently constrain him to the judgement of man. Better to say that he is not a contingent being and that he is not bound by our methods of fixer ing truth. He is the Truth- but like a fish in water, it may not necessarily be that we can use every kind of Truth to understand the Truth. Rather, the way in which he reveals himself is the Truth that we use understand him. Mar 25 '12 at 11:44
  • @David it was to he in cheek :p any thoughts on the divine revelation point, though? Mar 25 '12 at 17:34
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    You say "two key verses" but then give three. As a programmer, you should know that 2 != 3. ;) Mar 26 '12 at 14:31

First, I'll answer the common objection that empiracle evidence is required in order to make true statements.

My great grandfather either did or did not wear a carnationion his wedding day, but all records of the event are lost. If you guess, you guess could be true. If you happened to guess right, you would be making a statement of truth without having used either empirical or logical means. Therefore, empiracle evidence and logical deduction are not the only way to arrive at a true proposition. Of course, the truth of the proposition is not immediately verifiable bu empiracle means either, but that doesn't make it less true.

Second, I'll answer the objection that Spiritual means are less reliable than other means.

Consider two blind men who are arguing about the color of a vase. One says it is blue. Another says it is red. Then a third man enters and claims that it is green. They ask how he knows, and he claims that he can see. They disagree - and argue that blind people can never accept the word of a so-called sighted person because they have no means to verify the truth of their statements.

If some people can "see" spiritually, you would expect (1) them to agree on what is true, and (2) for there to be indirect evidence for at least some of what they say. Christians argue both of these are the case.

  • Somebody seems to want to -1 any answer that says there are truths that aren't empirical. I've +1'd this great answer, bringing it to 0. I'd love to know who the downvoter is, so that a counter case could be made. Mar 25 '12 at 16:35
  • I think you did a good job answering the first piece of the question, "Are there true statements that inherently are unknowable by empirical means or logic...", but that wasn't the entire question - it continues with, "... and simply require 'spiritual discernment'" Your vase analogy presents a hypothetical scenario, but not an argument about reality.
    – Jas 3.1
    May 9 '12 at 2:10

I think the question is circular:

Are there true statements that inherently are unknowable by empirical means or logic and simply require "spiritual discernment"?

If it is unknowable by empirical means or logic, how would you possibly be able to say that it is "true"? Answer: you can't. If we accept "yes" for that question, then any non-falsifiable statement is acceptable. Russell's teapot, for example, or the invisible undetectable pixies that push things downwards.

If we look to non-empirical means, and imagine two claims (one valid, one invalid): the invalid claim has exactly the same pedigree as the valid claim; neither can be said to be true. Regardless of whether you subscribe to the valid one, invalid one, neither or both: there is no meaning to saying of either of them "this is true". Spiritual discernment is, by defintion (given the lack of empirical data or robust logic) an arbitrary and personal elective: "I choose to believe (want?) this to be true".

Or a more useful comparison: a spiritually discerned truth of Christianity has no different pedigree of that of Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, Norse, Sikh, Zoroastrian or Taoist origin, and are usually incompatible (unless we mean very vague societal things of the form "don't be a total jerk to folks"). There is no mechanism to say that one "spiritual truth" is more true than another "spiritual truth", and a truth that is strictly personal is not a truth at all.

  • You know, I think you summed up almost my entire answer with the statement "I think the question is circular", and you did it without rambling on like I did. Nice answer! Mar 24 '12 at 13:15
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    I don't see how that follows. Maybe it's a matter of definitions. If I read in a history book that Julius Caesar led a war in Gaul, that statement is objectively true or false. But there's no way I could prove it empirically or by logical deduction. As it happened in the past, it is too late to perform any experiment to study it. And it is not a mathematical or philosophical proposition that could be deduced by logic.
    – Jay
    Mar 24 '12 at 18:10
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    Oddly enough, Marc, I think we agree too. It is circular. I just don't take that circularity as non-falsibility. I would argue the falsibility of my great-grandmother's existence is as great as that of God's. In both cases, I accept the words of others that point to the observable effects of others. (The fact I am born is related to the fact she was - but in both cases I have to accept non-eyewitness testimony of each. ) Mar 25 '12 at 11:48
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    @Affable your comparison is of two things: one mundane and everyday, and one literally extra-ordinary. The "reasonable evidence" for each is very different. Mar 25 '12 at 17:32
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    @Jay yes, such a statement might (or might not) be true, but it would be impossible to say (/know) that it was true. Which makes it (as a statement) useless, as it is completely indistinguishable from a similar (or even identical) statement that is entirely false. The question involves "be known". In such a scenario, regardless of truth/false, nothing is "known". Mar 28 '12 at 5:25

There is no empirical truth to the statement, "that was a touchdown." it simply exists outside of the realm of science. It is a language construct, defined epistemologically by the rules of American football. Put more plainly, a touchdown is only a touchdown because people have agreed what a touchdown is. There is no natural essence of "touchdown" that could be arrived at without reference to the definition. Light, on the other hand, exists independently of the definition and can be studied using empirical methods. American Football can not.

One could use science to calculate the speed, trajectory, and position of the ball (though not all three with certainty at the same time :)), but there is no empirical natural phenomenon known as "goal."

I say that to point out that not all truths are science, nor are they empirically testable. Spiritual truths, such as the morality of an action or the existence of a a Creator fundamentally require a different system of proof.

Certain topological conunumdra do not have solutions in Euclidian geometry, but do in non-Euclidian ones. So too it is with matters that not empirically based. I love my wife, and while you might be able to observe certain physiological changes, you'd be hard pressed to prove it using Science.

When asked to name himself, God sidestepped a lot of this. He simply named himself "I am". In Hebrews 11:6, it goes on to give a truth that cannot be understood outside this frame of reference. It simply says that those who would draw near to God must believe (ie have faith / have trust) that he exists and that he rewards those who love him.

That is not a testable truth. (See, I agree with Atheists when I can!) it requires spiritual perceptivity to evaluate the truth of the statement. It is thus not at all intended as an insult or a put down to claim as Paul does, "the Gospel is veiled to those who are perishing." Once a believer chooses to put their faith in the words of Scripture, (and no, im not saying which one) one is able to use spiritual means to evaluate the statement. That said, opening oneself up to that kind of proof inherently biases one towards its acceptance.

In the end, you can't prove faith without faith. If that sounds circular, so be it. That said, one can't really know love until one has experienced it as well. The mere fact that a thing doesn't submit to rationality, empiricism, or our current form Of logic doesn't render it invalid.

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    I disagree with your premise; a "touchdown" or "goal" is indeed a description for a set of conditions (involving the ball, field, players etc) that, once defined, can absolutely be empirically measured and evaluated as "touchdown" or not. It is perfectly normal in science to use names (not usually "touchdown", granted) for such things. "a rock", "a class M planet". That is merely classification, but is entirely testable. Your example does not work as an analogy to "spiritual discernment" (entirely not testable). Nouns are just convenient names for observable conditions. Mar 26 '12 at 21:46
  • But exactly to your point, you accept it is the definition that gives the thing it's essence. In order to discern the truth of the statement you must use a way of knowing that is not empirical. The point is simply that there are ways of knowing that are not empirical. Mar 26 '12 at 22:03
  • Spirituality is only falsifiable within the constraints that it defines for itself. Spirituality merely claims that there is a being who lacks physical substance but does have personality. If we can reasonably ascribe personality to this non corporeal entity, then we have an equally testable thing. Mar 26 '12 at 22:05
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    No, I said the exact opposite; defining it doesn't give it essence; the fact of something is the same either way; naming it gives us a convenient way of referring to it, is all; that it exists (or not) is separate. Also, I'm not sure how personality of a non-corporeal entity is "easily testable". Mar 27 '12 at 5:47
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    Aka "that which may be asserted without evidence may be dismissed without evidence" Mar 28 '12 at 18:39

The Meaning of Spiritual

I would argue that the tripartite view is wrong, and that when the New Testament uses the adjective πνευματικός it is almost always referring to the Spirit of God, though sometimes to evil spirits. Thus, like Jay, I take "spiritual means" to indicate a revelation from God.


  • I agree with a number of the other posts here (though I don't know whether their authors would agree fully with me).
  • Everything by Cornelius Van Til (who is badly misunderstood most of the time)
  • Francis Schaeffer on the Nature/Grace dichotomy in Thomas Aquinas (Escape from Reason; also in How Shall We Then Live? and the development of the result of this in The God Who is There)
  • Søren Kierkegaard on the problems of Socratic maieutic method and the need for regeneration (Philosophical Fragments). (Please forgive me for referencing Van Til and Kiekegaard at once.)
  • Two thousand plus years of philosophical history that have yet to arrive at any sort of satisfactory or certain conclusions

Holistic Approach to the Question

The unbeliever is so wrong about everything that he is said to have "no knowledge" (because in his being he is in antithesis to God, not because he can form no concept of 2 + 2 = 4):

They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. —Isaiah 45:20

Further, this is not a state he can rescue himself from:

He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?" —Isaiah 44:20

His state of rebellious ignorance (Romans 1) is so severe that he has no ethical ability to stop it (his will is free ontologically, but is ethically enslaved).


Thus, there are not only some truths that must be spiritually discerned, but it is not even possible to have any profound understanding of any ethical or ultimate questions without the supernatural action of the Holy Spirit in the heart of a regenerate person.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. —Proverbs 1:7

Biblically, knowledge has little to do with proofs and empirical evidence. It has to do with a person being brought into relationship with the Triune God. In a systemic and not an atomic sense, it is not even possible for the unregenerate man to know e = cos θ + i sin θ; he does not understand it in light of the glory of Jesus Christ, with which it is loudly crying out, and though he can conceptualize the math (perhaps much better than I can), he is still "living on borrowed truth" as he is in antithesis to God in the totality of his being.

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    There is a problem in answering this particular question using just the Bible as authority; assuming the Bible as an authority here makes it automatically circular, as the Bible is itself only literally true if spiritually discerned. So the entire answer comes down to "if you already believe (x) without evidence, then (x) is itself true" Mar 30 '12 at 17:01
  • @MarcGravell Astute observation. Ultimately, there are only two ways to argue: in a circle or in an infinite line. Something must be taken as given, and if I don't take the Bible as a given I contradict my own argument. If what I'm saying is true, though, the problem is solved by supernatural intervention: i.e., my starting point is not arbitrary.
    – Kazark
    Mar 30 '12 at 18:11
  • that doesn't "solve" anything - it keeps the argument internally consistent, but does not progress/demonstrate it any. Mar 30 '12 at 18:39
  • @MarcGravell Just to clarify what I meant by "arguing in an infinite line," I'm referring to an infinite regression of argumentation.
    – Kazark
    Mar 31 '12 at 17:37

Short answer: Yes!


It depends (of course) on who you ask;

  • If you ask a naturalistic atheist, of course they will say "no", or "N/A", or something to this effect, because they presuppose the exclusive supremacy of natural reasoning.

  • Based on the cause, wording, and citations of your question, however, I am assuming you are seeking a Christian perspective. (I will answer from scripture, because we believe this is our "textbook" for doctrine, given by God for our utilization in answering questions!)


Example 1: Internal Awareness of God

Romans 1:18-21 teaches clearly that everyone has an internal awareness and knowledge of God, which He Himself gave them. God's existence, power and nature are clearly seen and understood by all - and it is by an act of God. We saw this in the testimony of Helen Keller, a woman blind and deaf from infancy, who upon finally learning to communicate, informed her teacher that she was already aware of God's existence, but never knew His name until she heard the gospel!

Example 2: Creation Account

The Genesis 1 account of the Creation Week (through verse 26) was not a human eyewitness account! For a Christian, this account represents an historical narrative, revealed to the writer by God - the only eyewitness to the event. (The only alternative is that the writer made it up!) Likewise, consider John's opening statements:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being." John 1:1-3

This could only be known through divine revelation, whether directly to John, or via Jesus.

Example 3: Prophecy

Throughout scripture we see prophets predicting future events by the supernatural "word of the Lord", or "by the Spirit".

Now a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to another by the word of the Lord, “Please strike me.” But the man refused to strike him. Then he said to him, “Because you have not listened to the voice of the Lord, behold, as soon as you have departed from me, a lion will kill you.” And as soon as he had departed from him a lion found him and killed him. 1 Kings 20:35-36

How did the first prophet know the word of the Lord concerning this occasion? How did he know what would happen to the other prophet? Clearly not through natural reasoning!

Example 4: Personal Revelation

In Matthew 16:15 Jesus asked His disciples who they thought He was. Take note of Jesus' response to Peter:

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 16:16-17

Example 5: Spiritual Sight

In 2 Kings we have an amazing story of God opening a man's eyes to see into the spiritual realm. Elisha was protected by the very armies of God, but this was not knowable through natural reasoning.

when [Elisha's servant] had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So [Elisha] answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:15-17


As we have seen, there are at least some instances where divine revelation is required in order to know a truth. We have just seen examples concerning knowledge of the past, present, and future.

In contrast, science and logic cannot tell us anything definitively about the past or the future, and as we have seen from philosophy, there is a lot of evidence that reason cannot tell us anything definitive about the present either! ("Do we exist?", "Can we know anything for sure?", etc.) Just consider how you would go about explaining the following passage using only the mechanics of nature and laws of arithmetic!

Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate [as much as they wanted] and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children. Matthew 14:19-21

(5 loaves) + (2 fish) - (as much food as thousands of hungry adults want) = (12 baskets full of leftovers)

What To Do?

When seeking truth, it is always wise to start by sincerely seeking God.

For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Matthew 7:8

  • @Jas your "because they presuppose" is missing the point; to the critical thinking perspective, a random thought is not "known". You say "... and non". In the "and non" case we must omit the Bible from consideration, so your answer doesn't say anything about this aspect; as such, do you have anything to support your claim that non-Christians are confused on this point? Or is it simply: they disagree with you? A non-Christian is not "confused" simply because they do not pre-suppose Biblical traditions. May 9 '12 at 6:24
  • I'm a little confused that you consider my answer "circular", but don't see the circular nature of "spiritual truths are sound - it says so in the Bible; and I know the Bible is true (despite empirical or historical evidence) because of a spiritual truth" May 9 '12 at 6:27
  • @MarcGravell I am aware that my answer does not address the perspective of a non-Christian - I stated up front that I understood the OP to be seeking a Christian perspective. I do not argue that non-Christians are confused according to themselves, only that they are confused according to the Christian perspective. Indeed, if the answer to the OP's question is "yes", they are confused, and I am arguing that from a Christian perspective, the answer is definitely "yes".
    – Jas 3.1
    May 9 '12 at 15:54
  • @MarcGravell I do consider your answer circular (according to the same reason and logic that you stand on.) However, whether a person considers my answer circular according to reason alone is irrelevant, as I am stating that the Christian perspective is that reason alone is inadequate when seeking truth such as the answer to this question! Again, consider the Matthew 14 passage I cited. Also, for the record, the "despite empirical or historical evidence" is false, and is a jab at Christianity, but I won't argue that here.
    – Jas 3.1
    May 9 '12 at 16:04

Yeah, there are truths that can be known through spiritual discernment.

If you've ever been asked, "what do you want to do when you grow up?" you may have encountered this.

The question is about vocation (calling), and it hits to the core of what it is to be a human being. Everyone is called by God to do something with their lives. Everyone is called to figure out what that thing is. If it truly is what your calling is, then you've discovered it and it is wholly the Spirit leading you to that place.

Priests have to answer this call, some do, some don't some never were called and respond, some only find their calling after years and years of searching, some might even say they "lost their calling".

At Mass a priest says the following:

Peace be with you

to which the people respond

And with your spirit

The reason behind this (it is a very recent change in the English translation, but consistent with ancient texts and modern Latin), is because it is the Spirit with which the Priest received his orders which we greet. This isn't something you should say in a prayer service with a lay person... There is a Spirit which rests on each priest and gives him the power to consecrate the Body and Blood of Christ. I don't know what it means, but this is certainly a spiritual reality and so are the rest of the sacraments.

Those are all private spiritual truths, subjective and not really an answer to this question. But it does lead to one big spiritual truth (at least for Catholics). How is the Pope determined?

  1. Dastardly masonic plot
  2. Darts
  3. Popular vote in college of Cardinals.
  4. Holy Spirit

If you answered 4.) then you may believe what I'm about to say... The Pope is a man who truly has a calling. In almost 2000 years of the papacy, he's never managed to subvert the Catholic Church's teaching on faith and morals. This isn't a proof, it's only an example - because there is no proof only staggering hosts of counter examples.

The entire field of apologetics is to mass the counter examples to those who deny dogmas. Unfortunately you said "are" in your question, which means skepticism is the only concrete answer and faith is the conciliatory answer. But, if you had asked, "has anyone ever been able to refute the existence of spiritual truth?" I could say, "not if it's Catholic dogma".

  • 1
    You may be over-romanticising the morality of the pope. Also, your claim to some inherent calling in everyone, while noble-sounding, is highly questionable - the only evidence you can present for this is itself (the evidence) discernment. Mar 26 '12 at 21:39
  • @Marc, discernment isn't the point, you don't know when you're called. But the nature of the office of the Pope seems to be that it's a true calling. I'm not sure if that's Catholic teaching or not but at least it's based on some evidence besides feeling.
    – Peter Turner
    Mar 26 '12 at 22:02

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