Is God all knowing? CQ#3

In my continuing series of questions about Christianity, here is my third.

PastorSZ said something interesting in one of their replies to my first question. It was:

Omniscience has come to mean “knows everything,” which is not entirely the case, since God has chosen not to know certain things.  On the other hand, the more accurately translated definition of Omniscience would be “sees everything,” which seems to apply a whole lot better.  Either way, “Omniscient” actually is not in the Bible, but is a term applied to God by theologians after Scripture was written.

If that is in fact true and God doesn’t know everything. Doesn’t that mean that God may change his mind on things that come about?
If that’s the case then doesn’t that mean he would basically send more prophets to “add or edit stuff”?

It certainly adds an interesting spin on things and could explain a lot.

What about instances where people avoid certain death because they didn’t take that road they were going to take, because they “accidentally” missed the exit and in turn avoided whatever calamity may have killed them on that road. Pure coincidence or divine hand ?

If the latter is what you believe, then God must have known what was going to happen.

We hear stories like this all the time.

So which is it, does God know everything or not? If God chooses not to know everything but only certain things, how does that play in?

0 thoughts on “Is God all knowing? CQ#3

  1. He is all knowing.  He just chooses not to tell you.

    Its easy to surprise us…
       but pretty hard to surprise him… so he chooses to see all, and at our judgment day, he knows all.  And that there is nothing you can hide from. 

    thats what i think anyway.  I can’t prove it.  It’s just one of those feelings.

    But I honestly have to say, as a Buddhist…its almost similar to the belief of Karma. 
    yeah…in a strange way really…I can’t explain i said i just think…haha

    yeah…but you actually stumped me on this one…

  2. I feel like I shouldn’t answer this, because I KNOW I’m going to take flak from people no matter what I say. So before I respond, I need to ask you two questions:

    1. Do you WANT me to answer your questions to the best of my ability? I don’t want to monopolize the conversation like the first one I replied to, so that is why I’m asking this question.

    2. Can I give scripture references to back up the points I make? And will you take them at face value as evidence of what I’m saying, or will you dismiss it entirely? I don’t think I can accurately answer the question based upon my opinion alone, because its one of the things the world doesn’t seem to concern itself with.

  3. @roxics – Okay. I think God sees everything. In fact, I know God sees everything. He wouldn’t be in control if He didn’t see everything, which I believe He is. The main passage, I believe, in the bible that backs this up is Revelation 20:11-15. God would not be able to judge the wicked if He didn’t know what was going on in their lives, correct? And believers have the Holy Spirit dwelling inside them, guiding and directing them as they walk through life. It would be pretty much impossible to have something dwelling inside you and trying to keep something from them, don’t you agree? Its what non-believers and believers alike refer to as our conscience. That little angel standing on one shoulder and a devil on the other, for lack of a better mental image. How could the Holy Spirit guide and direct us if He didn’t know what was going on? And considering what I believe to be God’s ultimate plan for the universe, it would make sense that he would have to know what’s going on in that universe in order to achieve His end goal. It would be like a football coach only knowing what is going on in one corner of the field. He couldn’t accurately tell his players what to do or where to go, and they would probably lose the game. I hope this helps.

  4. Roxics,

    When I wrote that, I wondered if you might make it one of your questions.  Now that it’s up for discussion, let me elaborate.

    I believe God stands outside of time, making all times “now” for Him (This can be demonstrated Scripturally, but it gets a little heady, and I’d rather not make it the point of discussion).  If that is the case, it makes it interesting when God say something like “I will forget,” or when Jesus says God will say “I never knew you.”  See, if God is not bound by time, then His memory is not temporal, meaning that in order to forget or not know something, He would have to wipe it from His mind entirely.  It’s a pretty crazy concept.

    I do believe that God sees all, and that cannot be avoided or rejected by anyone who holds to Scripture.  What He does with what He sees is where most of the debate lies.

    Now, you also addressed the idea of a changing God, so let me touch on that:

    There are some aspects of “change” in God that I’d really like to explore, and I hope I’m not boring anyone.  There are several places in Scripture- mostly the OT- where God says one thing, and then changes the command later.  The Sacrifice of Isaac is a big one.  Jonah in Nineveh is another.  Now, from our perspective, the change of a command can only mean one of two things: 1) God changed His mind, or 2) God wasn’t serious about the first bit.  Unfortunately, for most people 1 presents the issue of a changing God, and 2 suggests a lying God.  I don’t have the answer to which it is- I suspect it’s neither, but is instead something greater which cannot be understood, but naturally since I don’t understand it, I can’t explain it to you. 

    What I do know is a third topic, and that is that Scripture tells us our prayers are heard and answered.  Jesus in Gethsemane is where I’d like to focus here.  Jesus knew God’s will (or most of it, at least) and He knew what was going to happen, and yet He prayed that God would lift the cup.  Now, we know how the story ends- God does not lift the cup, but Jesus wins anyway- but how it ends has very little to do with how it unfolds.  If we believe that Jesus is God- and I hope no Christian is arguing that, though I’ve encountered some who would- then we have to believe that He understands the nature of God.  So even by praying that prayer, it suggests that God Incarnate believed that God Excarnate was capable of changing His mind.  What most modern theologians- and many of the notable ones from the past- would suggest is that what is important for God in the realm of change is that His nature or essence remain unchanged.  I can be the exact same person and change my mind about something.  It doesn’t change me or my character in the least if I decide some day to let my son go to a friend’s house, even though I had previously said he was grounded that night.

    However, there is only so far a changing mind can go.  When Jesus came, He presented God’s will for his people.  Rather, He didn’t so much present as He did explain.  All of the law and the prophets lead up to Christ, who got to the heart of what it was all about (that love thing I talked about in Question #2).  That is not going to change, because it’s been God’s will from the start.  The Garden of Eden- real or figurative- was about a loving communion between God and man.  The Law of Moses was about God calling His people to love Him.  The Prophets urged people back toward God’s Love.  God Incarnate explained that Love of God- and neighbor- was what it was all about.  And the Revelation, which is about the end of times, suggests that the “rules” aren’t suddenly going to change.

    I apologize for being longwinded.  Perhaps you’ll repay me if I ever blog about something that you’re passionate about ;)

  5. A lot of this gets into “Open Theism.” You’re going to get an array of answers on this sort of stuff because there are differing opinions. Good books for this are G-D of the Possible by Gregory Boyd and The G-D Who Risks by John Sanders.

    Essentially, he’s right. G-D seeing everything is more compatible with scripture than G-D knowing all that is, was, and will be. I’d say he knows all that was, is, and can be. He’s sure of what he plans, and can not be thwarted. Though, he does change his mind. Moses argues with G-D and gets him to change his mind as do a few others in scripture). He created reality as we know it and functions within our reality (so he doesn’t totally blow our minds) and so we can respond. If a giant multi-colored and multi-dimensional shape-shifting orb showed up and spoke to you in your mind and quivered your liver, it would be hard to respond. So, G-D operates within the realm that we can understand (which is why we have revelations of G-D through scripture that culminate in Jesus. It’s like a child learning who his Father is and how to interact with him properly).

    Christ was the final true revelation of G-D. Since him there are people who have acted similar to prophets, who have the gift of prophecy and so on. G-D is always interacting with us. Like I said in my last comment (on the last post), this is a story that moves forward. I think G-D still performs miracles when we are willing and faithful. I think he speaks to us and guides us.

  6. @musterion99 – That’s not entirely true.  For one, you’ll see that a lot of the prophecies are “if-then” statements.  “If you don’t turn back to me, I will…”  For another, as TheGreatBout said, God is able to make plans, and see that His plans are not thwarted.

    The concept of “foreknowledge” is dependent on a God bound by time.  If he’s not bound by time, then He can see all presents at once, and thereby tell those in the past what’s going on in the future.  That’s not a guess, that’s a statement of fact based on what He sees right now.  At the same time, God relates to us in our temporal lives, and presents things in such a way that we are able to understand them within the realm of time.  There are further topics within this realm which I’d get into, but I’m not sure that addressing them on the blog of someone seeking to understand Christianity is the best idea.  They are confusing things that I don’t comprehend, and would just provide roxics with more questions

    @TheGreatBout – Let’s put a limit on Open Theism though- at its heart, Open Theism is the idea that God responds.  It begins with prayer- if God listens to and answers prayer, it means that prayer is able to “influence” God.  Moving from there, if prayer influences God, then other things must as well.  However, as you suggested, when God plans He cannot be thwarted, so there must be a limit to man’s influence.
    BTW, I spent 5 years of my life writing “G-d” because of some messianic Jews who were near and dear to me.  It’s nice to see that others still do it, even if not for the same reason.

  7. @musterion99 – If an all powerful G-D, who is stronger than his creation (and outside of it), wants to make something happen within that creation (like Jesus raising the dead or calming the sea), he can make it happen. He knows what he’s going to do (like having the Messiah come from a certain lineage and town). I think that’s a safe way to say it. It’s not so much knowing every detail of the future of his creation as it is knowing how he will move within creation. At the same time, with how much he knows and how well he knows his creation, guess the future might as well be knowing the future. At the flood he regrets making mankind. If he knew he’d regret it, he may not have created.

    Roxics: It’s important to remember the Bible is an book written in the Ancient Middle East. This is an eastern piece of literature and essentially, an eastern “religion” in origin. Too often we want to read the Bible and understand G-D solely with a western new century mind. That’s not how history has revealed him though. Rather, that’s not entirely how G-D has revealed himself through history.

  8. @PastorSZ – That’s not entirely true.  For one, you’ll see that a lot of the prophecies are “if-then” statements.

    #1, that doesn’t mean or prove that God doesn’t know what will happen, and #2, not all prophecies are if/then statements.

    He can see all presents at once, and thereby tell those in the past what’s going on in the future.

    Which means he does know everything since he can see everything at once.

  9. @TheGreatBout –  – If an all powerful G-D, who is stronger
    than his creation (and outside of it), wants to make something happen
    within that creation (like Jesus raising the dead or calming the sea),
    he can make it happen.

    That’s right but that doesn’t also mean that he doesn’t foreknow it. One does not correlate to the other.

  10. @musterion99 – Yes, but my point was concerning the idea of “foreknowledge.”  The word means, quite literally, “knowing before.”  In order to know something before it happens, the knowing has to be done within the boundaries of time.  From our standpoint, it might look like Knowing before, but that’s not really how it’s playing out.

    Also, one of the first things they teach you about the prophecies is that they are not “foretelling” they are “forthtelling.”  That is to say, the are spoken to the people of that time and that place for a reason, and they provide those people with a concept of God’s plan.  I know it may seem like a miniscule difference, but it really is a difference, and an important one.

    Like I said, trying to understand a timeless God within a temporal framework is tough, and I’d probably go so far as to say impossible, but there are nuances which are generally missed by Western thought, which would have been common to Eastern thought.  That’s basically what I was trying to detail, but since neither you nor I fully understand the idea of prophecy, and what we do understand differs in some way, we will likely continue to debate over something that has pretty much no impact on the Kingdom of God.

  11. @PastorSZ – God is outside of time but also works within the time that he created. Isaiah 46:10 says – “Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.”

    God could not declare the end and things that are yet done, if he didn’t already know them.

  12. @musterion99 – seriously, can we drop this?  I didn’t say He doesn’t already know them, what I did was illustrate a different perspective on what that knowledge is- namely, that it is not “foreknowledge” in our understanding of the word.  That is all.  You seem to want to prove me wrong on something that we agree about.  The only difference between us is our understanding of How, not our believe in What.  I will say again: since you nor I fully understand, and what we do understand differs in some way (perspective), we will likely continue to debate over something that has pretty much no impact on the Kingdom of God.

    I believe God knows the future, you believe God knows the future.  The only thing we disagree on is how He comes about that knowledge.  If you continue to press, I will respond, but I ask that you do not.

  13. I think what the fellow meant was that God “chooses” not know sin.

    This is a common Christian theology game, like guessing the number of angels that can fit on the head of a pin. To Christians it’s a done deal and doesn’t count for anything. A non-believer might think it’s a big deal whether or not God knows everything, but this type of mainstream believer assumes (or has faith) that God knows everything, and also that sin is everything and anything opposite of God. Then one gets into the futile question of what God knows or doesn’t know about sin. You also touch on questions of the “perfect will of God” versus free will, and predestination. For those who believe in a personal God along mainstream Christian theological talking points, there is no chance of catching them in a logical conundrum, since faith and logic are incompatible devices for determining cosmological questions and answers.

    For the record my own beliefs about God fall outside the realm of this discussion. This sort of discussion does bore me and I am not in the least bit interested in what your other readers have posted, but I am interested in helping non-Christians understand Christian beliefs better.

  14. @PastorSZ – Time being the forth dimension I too would agree that God would need to exist outside of it. Time as we know from a scientific point of view is relative. It changes depending on where you are in relation to something else.

    I always sort of imagined God as an animator. Similar to stop-motion animation and clay figures. Moving each object one frame at a time. When watched at full speed, all of the characters and objects on the screen appear to move on their own. You would never know that between each frame a hand enters the scene to insert something or move something. Neither would the characters whose lives play out on that film ever imagine that there is actually an animator stepping in and touching them nearly every frame of their life.

    In this sense, God see’s every frame. The world as a series of still shots with nothing moving until he moves them.

    As someone who started doing stop-motion animation myself when I was twelve, I think what I just explained is a pretty concept and something I can relate to. I know that as I moved my characters along I wanted to them to get to a certain place or do something, but I would sometimes change my mind about how they would get to it.
    I certainly had a plan and knew what I wanted to happen, If I really wanted it to happen it would, since I was the one in control of the scene. However problems did arise from time to time that were even out of my own control and I too was limited by gravity and my own time. Plus none of my characters ever really had free will, even if I would have made them believe in their lives they did.

    Perhaps it’s possible that God also is an animator with just a different set of rules and great number of dimensions to work within.

  15. @roxics – I like that you’re able to draw on your own experiences.  The outside time thing is a tricky topic.  In order for the analogy to work, though, you’d have to have an animator who can literally bring the characters to life, and who is watching the beginning, middle, and end of the movie all at the same time.  He could pause, reach in, and adjust any time He wanted to, but for the most part He lets things unfold the way they’re going to anyway.

    @dirtbubble – God choosing to forget is certainly a part of it.  God appearing to change His mind is another (I’m the “fellow,” mentioned, btw).  Faith and logic are by definition incompatible.  Faith is “being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  We believe in a God who is not bound by time or space, or by any of the laws of the universe, which He created, why should logic be exempt from that?  At the same time, God has chosen to present Himself in a way that fits somewhat within the realm of human understanding, so you might say He chose to be logical.  In the case of God’s will vs. free will, it’s really not that difficult to comprehend- God desires for the world to do one thing, but permits us to make our own choices, and so we constantly do the other.  It’s the difference between a programmer telling a robot what to do and a father telling his child what to do.  In the first case, if the robot doesn’t listen it means the programmer did something wrong.  If a child doesn’t listen to his father, that doesn’t automatically reflect poorly on the father.  I had a fantastic dad, and I sitll disobeyed him quite a bit.

    And the angels on the head of a pin is actually a Rabbinical (Jewish) argument that has no impact on life.  Understanding the concept of God somehow choosing to forget sins, on the other hand, is a mind-boggling idea, and how a person comes to understand it has a great impact on his or her relationship with God.

  16. @PastorSZ – Your refutation concerning the origin of angels on a pin still supports my point. I do not think your mechanical approach to understanding salvation is useful or practical. Behavior, not faith or belief, is all that counts, and this includes our thoughts, as Jesus pointed out. Right thinking. Right actions. etc (please refer to the eightfold path of Budhhism). These are the keys.

  17. @dirtbubble – I don’t see how my statements indicate that I have a “mechanical approach to understanding salvation.”  Biblically, actions were always considered to be an indication of belief.  To divorce one from the other is simply impractical.  For whatever reason, people have done precisely that with Christianity, claiming that a person can believe and still not act accordingly.  If I said I was a Buddhist, but did not live out any of the teachings of Siddhartha Gautema, people would say “no, you’re not a Buddhist.”  But when someone claims to be a Christian and does not live out any of the teachings of Christ, people are prefectly content saying “yep, he’s a Christian,” because they seem to think the Bible indicates belief- not actions- is all that matters.  It’s a poor interpretation of a Scriptural Truth.  The Truth states that faith in Christ is all that is necessary for salvation.  However, and this is a BIG however, there is overwhelming Scriptural evidence that those who truly have faith in Christ will live in a certain way.  Yes, you can say our actions don’t save us, and that’s an accurate statement, but it would be remiss of anyone to mention that part without also saying that those who truly have faith in Christ will live according to His commands.

  18. @PastorSZ – I won’t dispute your response here. I think we are in general agreement. Since I am indeed not certain what exactly I meant by “mechanical” (I may have been mixing threads) I retract it.

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