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Intuitive Knowledge and the Image of God, Part 4 of 4

A recent study determined that many people display a purely intuitive resistance to biological evolution. An alternate paradigm—God’s image in every human—accounts for this resistance by explaining that we are able to perceive creation’s “testimony” to the Creator’s existence (Psalm 19:1–4; Romans 1:18–20). Part 4 of this series explores the basis in the Greek text for the Amplified Bible’s rendering in Romans 1:19 and examines a logical corollary that explains the intuitive resistance to evolution detected by the researchers.

In part 1 of this series, I described recent work1 that examined reasons for the resistance that many people display towards biological evolution.2 The researchers found that the greatest resistance was due to a “feeling of uncertainty,” an intuitive (gut) feeling that evolution was not true.3 I then considered an alternate paradigm, that these intuitive feelings against Darwinism arise from God’s image in man (Genesis 1:26–27). His image or likeness within human beings enables us to be receptive to the “testimony” of His existence through creation.

In part 3, I discussed how theologians recognize our intuitive knowledge of God’s existence as a characteristic of His image within us.4 In my opinion, this intuitive knowledge is essentially what the researchers indirectly detected in their survey. From Romans 1:18–20, we also saw that the Creator’s handiwork5 is evident to even unrighteous individuals such that they perceive it subconsciously, though they consciously disregard it. They thus have a subconscious awareness of God, even while they sin (vv. 18–23). The Amplified Bible confirms this inference in its rendering of verse 19: “For that which is known about God is evident to them and made plain in their inner consciousness, because God [Himself] has shown it to them.” (For more details, see part 3, especially regarding biblical references to and clear evidences for the existence of the subconscious or “unconscious mind.”)

The Rationality of the Amplified’s Rendering
But what is the rational basis for the Amplified’s rendering of Romans 1:19? Some may reasonably wonder why it speaks of the “inner consciousness” while other Bible versions do not. The Amplified translators reflected the fact that the most basic or primary meaning of the Greek preposition en is “in, inside, within, a marker of a location, usually without any connoting of motion…”6 En is rendered as “in” in such verses as Luke 17:6 (“in the sea”) and Romans 8:9 (“the Spirit of God dwells in you”). In Romans 1:19, en is translated as “within” in the NASB (“evident within them”) and as “in” in the NKJVKJVASVDouay-Rheims 1899 American EditionThird Millennium Bible, and 21st Century King James Version (“manifest in them”), in Kenneth Wuest’s The New Testament: An Expanded Translation (“plainly evident in them”), in the Bible in Basic English (“seen in them”), in addition to the Amplified’s rendering (“made plain in their inner consciousness”). (Since the Greek autois is normally translated as the personal pronoun “them,” the Amplified’s phrase is technically a paraphrase of “in them,” but in this context, the paraphrase is understandable and appropriate, derived from the most basic meaning of en.)

Some may notice in other translations that en is rendered as “among” or “to” in Romans 1:19, but generally, the most frequent English rendering of en is “in.” En was translated in the KJV as “in” 1,874 times, as “among” 117 times, and as “to” so infrequently that the “to” rendering was grouped together with various miscellaneous renderings.7 Of course, en is translated appropriately as “among” or “to” in certain contexts.8 But I believe that the basic, or primary, meaning is most reasonably inferred in Romans 1:19—as reflected by the Amplified and other translations mentioned in the paragraph above.

A Corollary
A corollary then follows: since we are intuitively aware of God on a subconscious level, we tend to intuitively reject a theory that minimizes or ignores His existence, such as unguided, Darwinian evolution. To those unfamiliar with biblical theology or apologetics, this intuitive rejection may simply be perceived as a “gut feeling” without apparent rational explanation. But God is the Source of it; His image that He placed within us enables us to detect and appreciate His handiwork9 in creation—and to sense that something is wrong when His evident existence is ignored.

In their paper, the researchers voiced opposition to this intuitive rejection; they proposed inventing new strategies in an attempt to overcome it.10 How, then, would they be able to overcome what God has done? A similar question is: how are some individuals able to disbelieve? Scripture teaches that God gives us the free will to suppress truth and rationalize away our intuitive awareness,11 sometimes to the degree that an individual professes atheism—as I did as a teenager after learning and thoroughly assimilating the tenets of Darwinism. I told myself, “Science can explain everything; there’s no need for God!” In retrospect, I recall making a conscious decision to abandon the instinctive belief I had in God, even as a child. But the Lord didn’t let me go; He drew me to Himself years later.

For these reasons, and even though these researchers believe they’ve stumbled upon an unexpected psychological phenomenon, their findings are more consistent with the Bible’s picture of man and with God’s image that enables even children to discern His existence12—something that is very expected from a biblical point of view. (Matthew 11:25–26; 18:1–4; 19:14; Luke 18:16–17; 1 Peter 2:2) And it will continue to be expected: His image will forever remain an integral part of our nature; it cannot be eliminated or extracted.

This article has been reviewed by RTB biochemist Fazale Rana.

Roger Bennett

Roger Bennett is an apologist and former amateur astronomer. He has also studied chemistry, physics, theology, and biblical Greek.

  1. Minsu Ha, David L. Haury, and Ross H. Nehm, “Feeling of Certainty: Uncovering a Missing Link between Knowledge and Acceptance of Evolution,” Journal of Research in Science Teaching 49, no. 1 (January 2012): 95–121.
  2. The paper pertains to unguided, naturalistic, Darwinian evolution as taught in most schools and universities.
  3. Ha, “Feeling of Certainty,” 110, 114–15, 117; “FOC” stands for “feeling of certainty,” the intuition that a concept is true or not true.
  4. See Psalm 33:5; 50:6; 97:6; 98:2–3; 119:64; Isaiah 6:3; Habakkuk 3:3; Acts 14:16–17.
  5. Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, and R. K. Harrison, eds., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995), Logos Research Systems, Inc. e-book, s. v. “Image of God”; Kenneth Samples, 7 Truths That Changed the World (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012), 167–69; Fazale Rana with Hugh RossWho Was Adam? (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2005), Logos Research Systems, Inc. e-book, chap. 5, see esp. “What Is the Image of God?”
  6. Samples, 7 Truths That Changed the World, 167–68; Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2000) Logos Research Systems, Inc. e-book, 543; Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, When Critics Ask (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1995) Logos Research Systems, Inc. e-book, 475–76.
  7. Youngblood, Bruce, and Harrison, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, e-book, s. v. “Image of God.”
  8. Samples, 7 Truths That Changed the World, 167–69.
  9. Rana with Ross, Who Was Adam?, e-book, chap. 5.
  10. New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995), Logos Research Systems, Inc. e-book.
  11. For a description of the Creator’s handiwork (or creation’s “testimony”) that His image enables us to perceive, see part 2 of this series of articles.
  12. E. Margaret Evans, “Cognitive and Contextual Factors in the Emergence of Diverse Belief Systems: Creation Versus Evolution,” Cognitive Psychology 42, no. 3 (May 2001): 217–66, as quoted in “Feeling of Certainty,” 99.
  13. See endnote 11.
  14. See endnote 11 and Ross, “Astronomical Evidences for the God of the Bible”; “New Astronomical Proofs for the Existence of God”; “Strengthening the Case for a Cosmic Creator,” parts 1 and 2; Rana, “AAA+ Biomolecular Motors Provide A-1 Evidence for Design”; “Bacterial Flagellum Structure Stacks the Case for Intelligent Design”; “The Provocative Case for Intelligent Design: New Discovery Highlights Machine-Like Character of the Bacterial Flagellum”; also see Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos, 3rd ed. (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2001) and Rana, The Cell’s Design (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2008).