B: Suppose that the only way anybody could discover truth was through scientific means; that is, through the senses and logical reasoning. Then since nobody has ever come up with irrefutable proof that God or any spirit exist, there would be no opinion or theory about spiritual things that could be more credible than any other. We’ve already noted that man, of himself, cannot determine any eternal truth. In whom, or what, would we know to trust? And if we can’t determine that, how would we know what we need to do during this life to be prepared for the next (i.e., become “saved”)? If God didn’t provide a way for us to find this out, how could He possibly hold us accountable for actions made during this life? And wouldn’t this reduce life to purposelessness again? If so, the knowledge that we can learn spiritual knowledge becomes as important as the assumption that there is a God.
If life is to have any purpose, there must be a way to discover that purpose and anything else we need to know to fulfill the purpose. Well, fortunately, there are instructions to follow, and they’re provided for us in holy writ 1. You’ll notice that these scriptures actually promise that spiritual knowledge will be given, and there are no conditions to fulfill except a person be sincere and ask “in faith.” Well, what does it mean to be sincere? And what does it mean to ask in faith?
When you say that you are “sincere,” you really mean it wholeheartedly. A sincere effort, for example, would be one given with every ounce of effort that one can possibly muster. And is there anybody who cannot give their own best effort?
B: True. I would think that God, being the perfectly loving and understanding Being that He is, would have compassion on people who are truly unable to give their own best effort, and compensate for them somehow in the next life. One can think of whatever it is such people do as being their own best effort. And most people can learn (even through the Spirit, without even knowing the Source!) how they can improve upon the efforts they give. But don’t think that you can just claim that you gave it your all when you didn’t really; i.e., lie to God. He can see right through you, and knows just as well as you do when you haven’t tried your best.
As for asking in faith…my belief is that this simply means to inquire purposefully, or to be willing to take actions God may require of us to receive the knowledge and blessings He intends for us to have.
The knowledge promised is thus potentially available to everybody, regardless of their status in life, prior knowledge, wealth, race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. – for this, the only thing that really matters is attitude, which really is the beginning of faith. God would not merely deign to acknowledge a lifelong criminal experiencing a change of heart in His direction – in stark contrast, He would come running to meet him.
This whole process can be conducted as a scientific experiment: every time somebody truly humbles himself to become sincere and asks in faith, he will come to know eternal truth. This experiment is as foolproof as any conducted in the usual manner; i.e., through the scientific method. I defy anybody to try this experiment for himself and find otherwise. It is nonetheless not an experiment that can be replicated on demand in the way scientific experiments can. Remember that we’re dealing with a highly intelligent Being, Who wants to keep the experience personal and “sacred,” which it may no longer be if it was broadcast to the entire world.
A: Why would He want to keep everything under wraps like that?!
B: Recall the importance of faith.
If a person exerts every effort he knows of to discover the truth, and yet does not feel that he has ever received an impression of the truth from the Spirit, he should recognize that there may be yet more work to be done, instead of concluding, “the whole thing must be a crock,” or “apparently I’m not spiritually ‘talented’ enough.” For this is how God extracts every last bit of effort from us: by not immediately removing our trials upon our requests for it – even despite our desires, difficulties, and dedication – He is able to push us to our “uttermost farthing” of our own wills, thereby enabling Him to change us into His own likeness. Possibly that person will be given the desired gift of the Spirit later on in his life, and in view of this possibility, he shouldn’t just resign himself to the idea that he will never know the truth from the Spirit.
Another possibility for the confused person is that the person does not “know that he knows” the truth. Consider the following example, from the world of math education, of all places. As a math teacher, I have seen many a student hmm and hah his way through a problem, obviously unsure of what he’s doing, and yet he ends up doing it correctly. In other words, the student knew how to do the problem, he just didn’t know that he knew how to do the problem. Likewise, a person may know the truth already. He may have felt an impression of truth from the Spirit, and yet he didn’t know it was from the Spirit, much like those referred to in this verse.
Fact is, Marilla, you never went to no dang ball.
The fact is, Marilla, there are grades of knowledge and understanding, and even belief. Suppose, for yet another example, that two people say they believe in God. But suppose further that the first person doesn’t change anything about the way he lives his life; i.e., he doesn’t try to serve or love his neighbor, does whatever he feels like doing at any time, regardless of whether God may want him to do it, breaks the law and God’s commandments regularly, etc., even though he knows darn well what he’s supposed to be doing as a believer. Finally, suppose that the second person, on the contrary, is constantly concerned with pleasing God, prays regularly to Him, goes to church, serves His neighbor, is a reputable citizen, etc. Which of these two would you be more inclined to think believes in God more than the other? The second, of course; and this indicates that there is more than just mere profession in how one can express his belief. One shows what he believes, and how – far more emphatically, I would say – by how he lives, not just by what he says. It may even be, incidentally, that when “belief” or “believe” is used in the scriptures, it means the more active type of belief, as exemplified by the second person in the example above, rather than the mental thought or a simple declaration.