How do we know we experience the Holy Spirit?

My question is how can we be sure that the presence of the Holy Spirit is not simply a placebo or delusion that we have created for ourselves?

I find this question comes to mind especially when discussing other faith systems. For example Mormons will always say they experience conformation from the spirit, yet we know their faith is built upon false teaching. We both claim the same experiance of feeling the spirit in our lives despite the falsehood of Mormonism.

Is there a way we can know we are the ones that are not living a delusion, outside the practice of examining the evidence for or against both faith systems worldviews? Is there argumentation that can be made to show we do in fact experiance the Holy Spirit yet these false Faith’s do not?

You’ve got a great question.  If we are saying that the Mormons can be self-deceived such that they think the Holy Spirit has represented to them the truth of Mormonism then why can it not be the case that we are self-deceived about our experience of the Holy Spirit?

The experience of the Holy Spirit is taken to be a properly basic belief by both Christians and Mormons.  We claim to know the truth of who God is through our immediate experience of the Holy Spirit.  This makes it a basic belief, since it is apprehended directly rather than as a conclusion from reasoning through other beliefs.  It is “proper” because one is justified in believing in what one experiences in the absence of a defeater.

Properly basic beliefs are defeasible, however.  We experience this all the time with our memory.  Sometimes we realize we have mis-remembered something, and with new information we revise our beliefs.  In the same way, first-person religious experiences are defeasible.  If there are defeaters for the belief then we ought to revise those beliefs.  Many authors have written on some of the defeaters of Mormon theology, which would constitute a defeater for the Mormon’s claimed religious experience.  In the same way, if someone produced the body of Jesus Christ then that would be a defeater for the Christian’s religious experience.


Matt Bilyeu