What is the Biblical basis for the argument that it is possible for someone to learn limited (non-salvific) information about God without learning about him from the Bible or another believer, such as from nature?
Well you have two questions here and there are opposite answers for each. Can you know about God without the Bible or other believer? Yes according to the Bible you can.
For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
1 The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. 2 Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they reveal knowledge.
But then comes the title question. Is it possible to KNOW God from nature? The answer is no. Just like you can learn some things about my intelligence by looking at the way I code programs, you could never KNOW me just by looking at my code. In fact you could get the wrong idea about me completely if you only look at the actual code and don't read the comments in it! You've got to come to where I am if you want to know me. That's just logic, but what does the Bible say about that? How would we 'come' to God?
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
So you can know about God without help from the bible, but I don't think you can say you could KNOW God without either the Bible, or others who know Him, because in order to KNOW God you have to have faith in Jesus, and while the heavens openly and obviously declare the glory of God, they don't obviously announce the person of Jesus Christ. However, that doesn't mean that if no Bible or christian is available you can't ever know Him, God said in several places those who seek Him will find Him. For example:
But if from there you seek the LORD your God, you will find him if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.
But if there is scripture or other christians available and you don't consult them, how could you claim to be seeking God with all your heart and soul?
It is possible to envision the idea of God by looking to creation as you've said. It is written:
24How many are your works, LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
26There the ships go to and fro,
and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.
27All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
28When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
29When you hide your face, they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
30When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.
(Psalms 104:24-30, NIV)
But if you want a non-biblical argument there are also philosophical arguments.
For example, Aristotle in his works metaphysics explains about the absolute substance, the "unmoved mover". He deduced this idea by observing the nature.
One of the substances he describes is that of an "unmoved mover" which, he argues, exists by necessity and is eternal. For something to be eternal, it is neither created nor destroyed, but always has and always will exist. For something to be a substance, it exists by virtue of itself ("kath'auton") in the sense that its existence is not dependent on anything else
Another philosopher, Descartes, by observing that in nature there are different degrees of perfection in the created beings, he deduced that there must be one perfect being. If that being could not exist, then that being could not be perfect. This is known as Descartes ontological argument.
The argument goes like this (quotation from the article)
- I have an idea of supremely perfect being, i.e. a being having all perfections.
- Necessary existence is a perfection.
- Therefore, a supremely perfect being exists.
This philosophical idea has received criticism during the 20th century. But my point was to show that during the centuries, men have found themselves so amazed by nature that they could rationally conceive that God is the creator and that he is perfect.
Although, by mere rational argumentation one cannot grasp important facts about our Lord such as his Love for mankind, or to experience his love embrace and his transforming power in our souls. I think of two reasons: the first is the imperfection of the human mind, as it is written:
For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength. (1 Corinthians 1:25, NIV)
and the second, that there are clear limits to human understanding, and that most of it is vanity of vanities; as it is written.
16I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.
18For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
the more knowledge, the more grief. (Ecclesiastes 1: 16-18, NIV)