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My question is motivated by the following excerpt from William Lane Craig's Reasonable Faith article The Witness of the Holy Spirit:

Plantinga's model involves crucially what is usually called the inner witness of the Holy Spirit. In his model the Holy Spirit functions on the analogy of a cognitive faculty, producing beliefs in us. I myself prefer to think of the Spirit's witness either as a form of literal testimony or else as part of the experiential circumstances which serve to ground belief in God and the great truths of the Gospel. In either case His deliverances are properly basic.

I have characterized the witness of God's Holy Spirit as self-authenticating. As I explain in Reasonable Faith,

By that I mean that the experience of the Holy Spirit is veridical and unmistakable (though not necessarily irresistible or indubitable) for him who has it; that such a person does not need supplementary arguments or evidence in order to know and to know with confidence that he is in fact experiencing the Spirit of God; that such experience does not function in this case as a premiss in any argument from religious experience to God, but rather is the immediate experiencing of God himself; that in certain contexts the experience of the Holy Spirit will imply the apprehension of certain truths of the Christian religion, such as "God exists," "I am condemned by God," "I am reconciled to God," "Christ lives in me," and so forth; that such an experience provides one not only with a subjective assurance of Christianity's truth, but with objective knowledge of that truth; and that arguments and evidence incompatible with that truth are overwhelmed by the experience of the Holy Spirit for him who attends fully to it.

Notice the sentences in bold "experiencing the Spirit of God", "the immediate experiencing of God himself" and "the experience of the Holy Spirit". It is evident that William Lane Craig believes that God can be directly experienced by Christians in a self-authenticating, veridical and unmistakable manner.

Question: Are there other well-known Christian authors who hold similar views to William Lane Craig regarding the supposed ability of Christians to have access to a direct, truthful, and unmistakable self-authenticating experience of God?

Also, is this a fringe view or a common view among Christians?


Related: What are ways in which God reveals Himself to a Christian in the context of a two-way, one-on-one relationship?

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    What kind of Christian would believe God can't be experienced?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 0:03
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    @curiousdannii - I'm talking about this life, not Heaven (of course everyone will experience God in Heaven). Having said that, there are Christians who are skeptical of spiritual experiences, HTTR referenced an example in this question.
    – user50422
    Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 0:13
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    +1 I would push on what WLC means here by 'self-authenticating', in particular "that in certain contexts the experience of the Holy Spirit will imply the apprehension of certain truths of the Christian religion, such as [...] and so forth" It depends on how far WLC wants to go in enumerating specific beliefs. 'God exists' is one thing, but 'Christianity's truth' is another (and also vague). Commented Oct 2, 2022 at 19:18
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    I can't speak for a wide survey of denominations, nor am I convinced that all denominations have a defined, single view on the matter, but this seems like a useful question, upvoted +1 Commented Oct 3, 2022 at 1:18
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    Yes, most Christians teach this to varying levels of unmistakability. The argument from Religious Experience is a common apologetics argument.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 8, 2022 at 23:47

2 Answers 2

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Here is a well known Christian author who is certainly not on the fringes of Christian thought:

If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son. Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life. - 1 John 5:9-13

And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in wickedness. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life. - 1 John 5:19-20

Know: to perceive by any of the senses, to turn the eyes, the mind, the attention to anything, to experience any state or condition

How unexpected it would be (given all that Jesus promised regarding the sending of the Holy Spirit to live in each believer and the role of that Spirit in testifying, teaching, reminding, and guiding that same believer) if no self-authenticating, veridical and unmistakable Spirit of God were experienced by the believer.

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Yes, there are many other Christians who have taught on this matter, here are three:

Bruce R. McConkie:

If the sole source of one's knowledge or assurance of the truth of the Lord's work comes from reason, or logic, or persuasive argument that cannot be controverted, it is not a testimony of the gospel. In its nature a testimony consists of knowledge that comes by revelation, "for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy"...Logic and reason lead truth seekers along the path to a testimony, and they are aids in strengthening the revealed assurances of which a testimony is composed. But the actual sure knowledge which constitutes "the testimony of Jesus" must come by "the spirit of prophecy". This is received when the Holy Spirit speaks to the spirit within men; it comes when the whisperings of the still small voice are heard by the inner man. Those who have it can use logic and reason in defending their positions and in bearing their testimonies, but it is the promptings of the Spirit rather than reason alone that is the true foundation upon which the testimony rests.

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Any accountable person can gain a testimony of the gospel by obedience to that law upon which the receipt of such knowledge is predicated. This is the formula:

  1. He must desire to know the truth...
  2. He must study and learn the basic facts relative to the matter involved...
  3. He must practice the principles and truths learned, conforming his life to them...
  4. He must pray to the Father in the name of Christ, in faith (Mormon Doctrine pp. 785-786, italicized emphasis in the original, bolded emphasis mine)

Harold B. Lee:

I admonish and bear you my humble witness, to the extent that we love God and lead virtuous lives we will draw close to Him till we can feel His very presence...so that we can commune with Him and interpret and feel things that could only have come from a divine source. (The Teachings of Harold B. Lee p. 422)

Joseph Smith:

It is the privilege of the children of God to come to God and get revelation....God is not a respecter of persons; we all have the same privilege (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith p. 132)

God hath not revealed anything to Joseph, but what He will make known unto the Twelve, and even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to bear them, for the day must come when no man need say to his neighbor, Know ye the Lord; for all shall know Him...from the least to the greatest [see Jeremiah 31:34] (ibid p. 268)


This would not be considered a fringe view by anyone who has experienced the Spirit of God or believes, based upon the promises of the scriptures, that it is possible to do so.

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