The Attributes of God – Omniscience

Yesterday my family and I read in our after breakfast Bible reading time the section on God’s omniscience, His knowledge of all that it is possible to know, in Chapter 12, “The Character of God: ‘Communicable’ Attributes (Part 1),” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994). Because of my disagreeing with some of what Grudem says about God’s omniscience in the section, in our family reading of it I added explanations of why I disagree with those things. Here I’ll share from our reading just what I agree with. Then I’ll state my two main reasons for my disagreeing with some of what Grudem says about God’s omniscience.

John asserts God’s omniscience in 1 John 3:20, “He [God] knows everything” (ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV).

It includes knowledge of all creation, Hebrews 4:13’s saying, “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

It includes knowledge of our thoughts, Psalm 139:1-4’s saying, “O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether.”

And it even includes knowledge of what would have happened if circumstances were different, Jesus’ saying in Matthew 11:21, 23: “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes….And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.”

One reason for my disagreeing with some of what Grudem says about God’s omniscience is that as a Calvinist he believes that God foreordained in the beginning everything that would happen and thus knows everything that is going to happen besides everything that has happened and everything that is happening. However I think that God gave humans a free will, with which they determine some things that happen. A reason for my thinking this is that the Bible reveals that God holds humans responsible for some things that happen but He can do so justly only if they cause those things to happen. Realizing this Calvinists redefine “free” in such a way that it is compatible with being determined, but their doing so gives it an unnatural meaning and thus I can’t accept their solution. But if humans determine some things that happen, part of the future is uncertain and thus impossible to know. I’ll consider this matter again in my posts on Chapter 16, “God’s Providence,” of Systematic Theology. Until then see my “God’s Omniscience and Man’s Freedom” post of February 16.

The other main reason for my disagreeing with some of what Grudem says about God’s omniscience I’ve already referred to in my “The Attributes of God – Eternity” post of September 27. I understand God’s being eternal to mean that He is everlasting, without beginning or end, but Grudem understands it to also mean that He is timeless, seeing the past, the present, and the future in an eternal present. In “The Attributes of God – Eternity” I demonstrated that the Bible shows God’s acting within time and acting differently at different points in time and concluded that the Bible pictures God as being everlasting and acting within time rather than as being everlasting and timeless. In that case God doesn’t see future events until they take place and thus what He knows about the future is limited to what He determined in the past or determines in the present will take place in the future. I also suggested seeing my “From Everlasting to Everlasting, Thou Art God” post of February 23 for a fuller explanation of how God is eternal.

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