Romans 1:19 This is because what is known about God should be plain to them because God made it plain to them. (CEB)
There has always been a debate in terms of how we learn. The two fundamental ideas are those of nature vs. nurture. While some propose that certain knowledge is natural, meaning that man is born with this knowledge, others sustain that it is through nurture that we gain an understanding of our environment. Western philosophy has embraced the concept of “Tabula Rasa” or the blank slate. The theory is essentially that individuals are born without mental content, and that all knowledge comes from experience and perception.
But what about the knowledge of God? Do humans learn about the existence of God from their parents or are we born with a natural tendency to want to seek God? To be able to answer this question, we need to ask another question first. If the Bible and the scriptures did not exist, would we know about God?
Every civilization on earth has and has had a moral code to guide them. You cannot find a civilization that considers things like murder, theft and deception as moral. A common thread is found that links all of human civilization to a certain moral code and an understanding of what is right and what is wrong, what is good and what is evil. These concepts, though learned through ancestry, eventually lead to the conclusion that they must have originated somewhere in the past and then passed on to future generations. In other words, we know the difference between right and wrong because we learned it from our parents and them from theirs. If you go further back to grandparents, great grandparents, and so on, going back through history, we get to the very beginnings of humanity. Where did they learn their concepts of right and wrong, of good and evil, of morality? Something or someone must have put it there. That someone is God. God has put those concepts in every human being. This is where the nature argument comes into play.
It is a natural thing for humans to want to worship a deity. We are designed with the knowledge that there is good and evil, right and wrong. We are drawn toward a supreme being that is all good. We understand this Supreme Being as God and we are drawn to His qualities of good, right, justice, and morality. As we grow and mature we experience life and our concept of God is transformed by our experiences and by what we learn from others. This is the nurture part of the equation.
Our human experience either draws us to or repels us from God. This is why there are theists and atheists. The experiences and perceptions of atheists have led them to the point where they reject the very existence of God. They have learned their version of how the universe operates and base their lack of faith on that knowledge and their experience. The fact that they reject God is evidence that they, at some point, had an understanding of God. This understanding of God comes from human nature. Atheists have simply chosen to go against their natural instincts of worshiping God because they don’t see it as natural but as learned and thus can be unlearned.
Similarly, theists, or believers in God, have a certain set of experiences and perceptions that draws us to embrace the existence of God. We view the universe and the world as a complex and intelligently designed product and can see that only a supreme creator could have created them. We have embraced the natural instinct that compels us to worship God and we draw upon that instinct to satisfy our curiosity about Him. Each of us, at varying degrees of intensity, desire to know more about God and the more we learn about Him, the more we want to know. We learn more about God through nurture because we have embraced the nature that is within us to seek God.
Human beings know about God by our very nature and we know of God from the nurture of our experiences, insights and ancestors. The knowledge of God has been made plain to all human beings. We can conclude, then that the source for our knowledge about and of God is from both nature and nurture.