God is Omniscient – Doctrine 101

Standard

Discussion:
a) In what ways are God’s omnipotence and his omniscience inter-related? If God did not know everything (past, present and future) would he be able to control everything? If God was not in control of everything, could he know all that was going to happen?

Actually, I am tempted to define omniscience in a parallel way to omnipotence, as in “God knows everything necessary to accomplish His will.” A Platonic definition of omniscience as “God knows everything” leads to the same sort of paradoxes as defining omnipotence as “God can do everything.” Another possible definition is that “God knows everything there is to know, and He needs to know.”

b) In what ways is God’s omniscience a crucial part of his promise to bring about justice in the world?

Most injustice relies to some extent on keeping secrets, and avoiding both scrutiny and accountability. It is hard (but powerful!) to believe that God will bring all that to account.

Journal:
If God knows everything there is to know and is so wise that he is able to take every possible eventuality into account, what are the blessings of that for us as believers?

Homework:
Read RCS #15 (incl. Bible passages).

Written work:
1. Write out Psalms 139:7-10 and Romans 11:33-36.
2. Summarize the conclusions to the class discussion questions above.
3.Complete your answer to the Journal questions above.

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Doctrine 101: Learning about God
Worksheet 6 – God’s Knowledge

1. Read paragraphs 4 and 5 on p. 45 (p. 46, PDF). Why is what R. C. Sproul says here so important for the issue of truth?

Well, it is partly true. Yes, it is important to realize that our logic is analogous to how God’s mind works, so that we can often make reliable logical inferences. But it is only an imperfect mirror. Frankly, the universe does not (always) operate according to Aristotelian logic, so there’s no requirement that God must either.

2. How does Gen 1.26 help prove what Sproul is saying (in these two paragraphs) must be the case?

Again, it demonstrates that our logic can in theory reflect God’s logic. But only partially; moreover, there are more types of logic than medieval theologians dreamed (Aristotelian, Cartesian, quantum, fuzzy, etc.). I worry about us insisting that a particular human construct must reflect the thought processes of God.

3. Write down the first full sentence at the top of p. 46 (the last sentence in the 6th para. on p. 46, PDF).

Because God is rational, even He cannot reconcile contradictions.

Can you think of other attributes of God that also explain why He cannot reconcile contradictions? Explain how each attribute you suggest supports this conclusion.

This really bugs me. The law of non-contradiction is simply a feature of certain systems of classical logic, and is violated all the time by quantum systems. Certainly, some systems obey the law of non-contradiction. But which ones? Under which definitions? This whole discussion seems off-topic, or at least poorly constrained.

4. Read the first full paragraph on p. 46. (This is the para. starting on p. 46 and continuing on p. 47, PDF.) Explain why the statement, “God knows all because He has created all and He has willed all” is accurate.

It is accurate within context — much like the phrase “God can do anything.” It is important to realize that this is our attempt to explain God using human metaphor. From a time-based perspective, it is fair to talk about God ‘having created’ everything. However, I suspect the reality is closer to ‘our very existence is contingent upon the fact that God holds us in His mind.” Either way, the consequence is the same.

5. A bit later in the same paragraph Sproul writes, “It is impossible for God to know all without controlling all.” Do you think this is correct?

Again, contextually accurate, but technically incomplete.

If so, discuss why it is. If you do not think it is accurate, write down your reason(s).

As usual, it depends on the definitions. Does “know all” simply mean “knowing everything that can possibly be known?” One can at least hypothesize an open theism universe where God’s character constrains Him from micro-managing specific actions, yet still allows Him to ensure His will carried out. It may not be true — but I’m not sure it isn’t.

6. Would you agree that God really does control all? Why or why not?

How did we end up back at omnipotence? I do believe He can control everything necessary to accomplish His will — well, most of the time.

7. Write down two ways God’s omnipresence helps explain His omniscience.

I have a hard time slicing things that way. I find it more accurate to recognize that God simply is all-in-all, and that omnipresence and omniscience are two human terms we use to characterize different aspects of that omni-being.

Psalm 139.1-4 will help. It is commenting on both ways. Match up the statements in these verses with the two ways.

The concepts appear to be that God observes all that I am currently doing, and also knows me so well as to predict my future behavior. That would seem to incorporate both omnipresence and immensity, respectively; which may be different than what they are asking about.

8. Why will the fact that God is omniscient be so important at the end of the world?

Certainly, God can’t perfectly judge all without knowing all, both external acts and internal motivation.

What does the statement in Heb 4.13 add in this regard?

A wonderful picture of perfect understanding and total knowledge.

9. Ps 147.5b (NASB) says, “His understanding is infinite.” To what aspect of God’s knowing does the word “understanding” refer in particular? You may use an English dictionary to help you think about this question and answer.

In context, it seems to focus on His ability to take care of His beloved. He understands both our inner hurts and the external circumstances necessary to heal them.

10. Ps 139.1-3 and 139.23 are even more explicit in describing what it means for God to understand. What sense do you get from reading these words?

Intimacy. God is deeply concerned with knowing me inside and out.

11. While Heb 4.13 was written centuries after David died. But David obviously knew the truth Hebrews is presenting. How does this passage offer the rationale for David’s prayer in Ps 139.23?

Well, if God knows everyone intimately, then we can easily infer that God knows David. Though David’s prayer is rendered somewhat redundant, it expresses David’s desire to consciously live under God’s knowledge — and judgement.

12. Look at Rom 11.33-36. What implications does the fact of God’s omniscience have for us according to these verses?

The strongest implication I get is the need to worship. He knows everything — but we don’t — so we need to devote ourselves to giving Him glory.

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