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Is God Omniscient?

posted Apr 12, 2014, 10:59 PM by hbchurch org

   Man’s efforts to describe God’s ways have led to much speculation. What we actually know about Him is revealed through creation (Romans 1:20) and His Word (the Bible). When men go beyond these two sources, they are in grave danger of erring like Augustine, John Calvin, and other men.

   Simply stated, Augustine asserted that an all powerful God has unrestricted knowledge, otherwise He could not be the all-powerful God. And since He supposedly knows everything that is going to happen before it happens, God even knows or has predetermined who will be saved and who will be lost (Calvin’s claim). This position was not widely held until after the 5th century Augustine/Pelagian controversy. Justin Martyr’s  (160 A.D.) understanding of this matter is representative of the precontroversy thinking:

“Lest some suppose, from what has been said by us, that we say that whatever occurs happens by a fatal necessity, because it is foretold as known beforehand, this too we explain. We have learned from the prophets, and we hold it to be true, that punishments, chastisements, and good rewards, are rendered according to the merit of each man’s actions. Now, if this is not so, but all things happen by fate, then neither is anything at all in our own power. For if it is predetermined that this man will be good, and this other man will be evil, neither is the first one meritorious nor the latter man to be blamed. And again, unless the human race has the power of avoiding evil and choosing good by free choice, they are not accountable for their actions.”

      The Bible clearly reveals that God can choose not to know about all future actions of men (Jeremiah 7:31; 19:5; 32:35). Even Jesus (God the Word) has chosen not to know the exact day of His return (Matthew 24:36). Remember, just because God can do something does not mean that He must do it. He could have continued creating, but He stopped after six days (Genesis 2:1-2). Likewise, God’s ability to know the future does not require Him to know it. But this in no way suggests that God is inferior. His ability to choose what He wants to know about the future is consistent with what the Bible says about Him being “no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). God can choose not to know some things and leave man free to make his own choices.

   Consider this insightful statement by Richard Rice in The Grace of God and Will of Man, pg. 137:

“The standard criticism against those who reject absolute foreknowledge is that their view detracts from God’s power. But those who maintain that a denial of absolute foreknowledge imposes an unacceptable limit on God face an interesting question. Is it within God’s power to create a world whose future he would not know completely in advance? Can he create beings with a capacity to surprise and delight him, as well as disappoint him, as they choose, and not know in advance what all their choices will be? If he cannot, then there is something significant that God cannot do. And this means that his power is limited.”

    It is easy to get locked in to concepts and terminology that we have heard all of our lives. Omniscient is a good example; the word is NOT found in the Bible!  Speculating about God’s thoughts and ways is not our prerogative (Isaiah 55:8; 1 Peter 4:11). Handle the word of God accurately (2 Timothy 2:15) and make the right choices.

Ken Dart