Along with the theological studies, I’ve been doing a bit of psychological study recently and just turned in the first essay last weekend. Ye olde ‘nature versus nurture’ kind of stuff.
I didn’t really have an answer. I don’t think anyone has an answer. I padded that out for 2000 words as best I could.
However, I discovered whilst reading my textbook, that there is some research out there on the heritability of religious conviction, or depth there of. The research doesn’t look amazingly conclusive. However, there is suggestion in at least one study I’ve come across, that genetic predisposition does play a role in our religious behaviour.
This is simplified by the pseudoscientists to ‘the God gene’. Even from my very limited study of neuroscience, I can tell you that this is a really simplistic – and ultimately wrong – way to view brain function.
However, it does lead to a lot of (unanswered) questions as to whether the genetic makeup we are given causes us to lean towards religious or spiritual beliefs. Or away from them. Or neither.
We may yet discover that there is a genetic tendency towards religion. However, for the Christian, I don’t think we should be getting overly hung up on this one. ‘Religiosity’ is not necessarily a good thing.
I think of the times in The Bible when God says he is sick of the Jews’ highly religious behaviour because they are just bringing him sacrifices that are in no way connected to their heart. They don’t actually have any real concern for God, they are just mechanically moving through a ritual. Then going and doing whatever they want afterwards.
In the end, it’s not nature or nurture, but God’s divine surgery that makes us his:
“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.””
Our genetic makeup may give us a predisposition to religiosity, but that is not salvation.
Only God can do that.
Yours in padding out non-answers,