How can we communicate with God?
Could it be that we possess the capacity for direct knowledge of God, meaning without reliance on the body and its senses? If so, our knowledge of God would operate differently than our knowledge of other persons. Conceivably, a spirit-God could use a kind of direct intuition to communicate to people, in a process governed by different rules, for God doesn’t need our bodies to access our minds. As Tennyson wrote in a poem, “closer is He then breathing, and nearer than hands and feet.”
The Counselor Provides a Direct Path of Knowledge
Jesus clearly hinted that after his death a new way of knowing would open: not the normal process of an isolated brain forming pictures of reality but an internal and direct path of knowledge. “When the counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me,” Jesus said. “But when he, the spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth.”
Every creature on earth has a way to connect to the environment around it, a means to pick up and process what is out there. I will call this mechanism correspondence. In some cases, the animal’s correspondence can far exceed our human abilities. Bats detect insects by sonar, eels stun their prey with electricity, pigeons navigate by magnetic fields, bloodhounds drink in a world of smell unavailable to us.
Like All God’s Creatures, the Spirit Awakens Our Instinct
Perhaps the unseen world requires an inbuilt sense of correspondences activated through some sort of spiritual quickening. God is not “out there” in the material world, and we can only perceive him by gaining a new ability to correspond. “The man without the spirit does not accept the things that come from the spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned,” said Paul. “Now this is eternal life,” said Jesus: “that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” At the heart of the Christian story lies the promise of direct correspondence with the unseen world, a link so profound as to be likened to a new birth, and the key to life beyond organic death.
The Seen and Unseen World
As the pathway into the unseen world, the Bible presents faith, which the book of Hebrews defines as “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Moses “saw him who is invisible,” that chapter goes on to say, indicating an unusual correspondence at work. From the first page to the last, the Bible renders an account of another reality operating simultaneously to, but usually hidden from, the material reality of earth.
The invisible world may sometimes “borrow” the visible world in an attempt to communicate, as with the burning bush that Moses saw with his physical eyes. Except in these unusual instances, we humans rely primarily on “means of grace,” such as the church, spiritual disciplines, and the sacraments, to correspond with the unseen world. Prayer, for example, operates somewhat like breathing: it keeps us alive spiritually. As Evelyn Underhill observed, “we are creatures of sense and spirit, and we must live an amphibious life.”
According to the Bible, the greatest distinction between human beings is not based on race, intelligence, income, or talent. It is a distinction based on correspondence with the unseen world. The “children of light” have that correspondence; the “children of darkness” do not. One day we will achieve a complete, rather than partial correspondence with that world. As the apostle John said, “dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”
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Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3:5-8)
We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.However, as it is written:
“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him—
these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.
The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments,for,
“Who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:6-16)
Reaching for the Invisible God by Philp Yancey