On a recent thread, RT made the following comment:
I think the Spirit rarely gives propositional knowledge; it instead gives experience and comfort. The Spirit primarily reveals God as a being, we get to know God and Jesus Christ through the Spirit, as the New Testament suggests â€” note that the phrase is know as in become acquainted with, not know about as in have propositional knowledge regarding. Knowing someone involves joint emotional experience and the development of empathy, not the acquisition of true sentences. The Spirit likewise is called the Comforter because we receive Godâ€™s love, compassion, and comfort through it. Again, none of these involves propositional knowledge. (RT in this comment)
RT asks us to imagine a scenario in which a person has feelings which are spiritually meaningful, but carry no content with respect to propositions. After some time and effort, I have been unable to imagine such a scenario.
The sticking point for me is that these feelings either mean something or they donâ€™t. If they do mean something (which RT seems committed to), then the meaning can be stated in terms of propositions. For example, consider the proposition
(1) God exists.
Either the feelings of the spirit confirm this truth or they do not. Perhaps there is no God and the good feelings we associate with the spirit are explainable in some other way. It is an open question. Now, if the feelings of the spirit can be legitimately interpreted to support the proposition that God exists, then they do, in fact, convey propositional knowledge. RT seems committed to this when he says that â€œthe Spirit primarily reveals God as a being.â€ That can be stated as a proposition. In fact, I canâ€™t think of any knowledge which cannot be stated as, or be shown to rely on, propositions.
It does not stop there, however. If the feelings of the spirit are given for the purpose of helping us to know God in a genuine relationship with â€œjoint emotional experience,â€ then they must convey more content than the mere existence of God. They must be teaching us something about the character of God, something about his attitude toward us, and even enough about Him that we can rely on him for somewhat grandiose promises (resurrection, life eternal, etc.). To have the kind of relationship suggested by the scriptures, we need to add propositions like the following:
(2) God is good.
(3) God loves me.
(4) God is able to save me.
Notice that these are foundational propositions. If these weighty propositions can be communicated through the spirit, then why not lesser ones like the veracity of the Book of Mormon? I see no justification for calling the statement â€œthe Book of Mormon is an ancient documentâ€ a proposition while denying that propositional value of the statement â€œGod is good.â€ Both are propositions and both can be confirmed or denied by the spirit, unless there is no such thing as the spirit, in which case, neither can be confirmed or denied by the spirit.
The analysis thus far has been considering whether there can be such a thing as propositionless knowledge. I have explained why I am having a hard time imagining propositionless knowledge. Please correct my thinking on this as necessary.
In addition (and as a final point), I have a hard time seeing how RTâ€™s view of the role of the spirit can be supported in the context of Mormonism. Later in his comment, RT says that â€œthe Spiritâ€™s essential purpose is to provide a personal experience of and connection with God, rather than propositional knowledge.â€ And yet, the Mormon Church was founded because a young Joseph Smith asked God which of all the churches was true. He received an answer. Nearly the entire D&C stands as a witness to the fact that God can communicate propositional knowledge through revelation. It was a theme of Joseph Smithâ€™s ministry that the revelations of God were available to everyone. It seems odd, at best, to suggest in this context that we cannot approach God with deeply held concerns over our eternal status and receive an answer from God. As always, I am open to correction on this final point as well.