Wednesday, March 8, 2017


Is God omniscient? If He is, then there is no reason for Him to change His mind, since He already knows everything.

The issue of God’s omniscience impacts us directly. It means that God already knows us completely. This means that He will not turn away from us because of changes we might go through. It also means that He will not revise His promises to us because He has learned something new that will tilt His thinking in another direction.

However, there are many verses that suggest that God was blindsided by events. However, there are many other verses that explicitly inform us that God is perfect in His knowledge:

·       You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O LORD. (Psalm 139:3-4)

·       Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Hebrews 4:13)

But are future events “hidden from God’s sight?” Evidently not!

·       Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit. (Psalm 147:5)

If His understanding has no limit, then His knowledge of the future would also have no limit.

·       “See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you." (Isaiah 42:9)

To declare them, He must know them. But does He know all future events?

·       Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come-- yes, let him foretell what will come. (Isaiah 44:7)

He declares that none are like Him able to declare “what is still to come”:

·       “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” (Isaiah 46:10)

When He claims that He makes “known the end,” it doesn’t seem that there are any details left out:

·       “For I knew how stubborn you were; the sinews of your neck were iron, your forehead was bronze. Therefore I told you these things long ago; before they happened I announced them to you so that you could not say, 'My idols did them; my wooden image and metal god ordained them.'” (Isaiah 48:4-5 (NIV)

God wouldn’t leave any room for the idols to fill in the missing blanks, because God had no missing blanks of foreknowledge to leave out.

However, there are a number of verses that seem to suggest that God is not perfect in foreknowledge. God had given Moses a song to teach to Israel which prophesied her future rebellion, but this song includes a curious detail:

·       "I will hide my face from them," he said, "AND SEE what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful.” (Deuteronomy 32:20)

This verse seems to suggest that God does not know what will happen to Israel, and that He will have to play “wait and see.” However, when we read the rest of the song, we find that God does know precisely:

·       "I will heap calamities upon them and spend my arrows against them. I will send wasting famine against them, consuming pestilence and deadly plague; I will send against them the fangs of wild beasts, the venom of vipers that glide in the dust.” (Deuteronomy 32:23-24)

·       Rejoice, O nations, with his people, for he will avenge the blood of his servants; he will take vengeance on his enemies and make atonement for his land and people. (Deuteronomy 32:43)

How then do we explain “and see?” Perhaps God is merely using language as a human might, as if to say: “Then my words will be vindicated in the seeing,” or simply, “We shall see.”

Some verses even seem to suggest that God had changed His mind. For instance, God informed Samuel that

·       It repenteth me that I have set up Saul to be king: for he is turned back from following me, and hath not performed my commandments. And it grieved Samuel; and he cried unto the LORD all night. (1 Samuel 15:11; KJV; All other verses in the NIV)

The KJV makes it seem that God has changed His mind based upon new information about Saul. However, in the same account, the Prophet Samuel confidently claims that God does not change His mind and that there is no reason for God to change His mind:

·       Samuel said to him [Saul], "The LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors--to one better than you. He who is the Glory of Israel does NOT LIE OR CHANGE HIS MIND [“repent” in the KJV]; for he is not a man, that he should change his mind." (1 Samuel 15:28-29)

The same Hebrew word is used in both sets of verses. In 15:11 it says that God does repent, but then Samuel says that He doesn’t repent. How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction?

Words are often used differently. In regards to the first verse, the NIV translates the Hebrew as “It grieved God,” not that He changed His mind but only His course of action according to His plan. In fact, He had always planned that the kingly lineage would come through Judah and not Saul’s tribe of Benjamin:

·       The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until he comes to whom it belongs and the obedience of the nations is his. (Genesis 49:10)

God’s perfect omniscience is not an academic matter. It is a matter of our food - our peace and trust. If God is not omniscient and therefore might change His mind in our regards, we have no basis for peace. He might later change any of His promises. He might even decide that He no longer wants me. We cannot have a joyful confidence about such a God or any assurance about our salvation or place in heaven.

The laws of physics are another indication that God will not learn some new facts and change things around. Instead, as far as we can tell, the laws are immutable, elegant, and universal. God gives us no hint at all that He is monkeying with the laws as new information comes into His lab.

It is also alleged that God didn’t know how Abraham would respond and whether or not He would be able to fulfill His covenant through him. As Abraham was ready to plunge his knife into Isaac, the sacrifice that the Lord had required of Abraham, the Angel of the Lord intervened:

·       "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. NOW I KNOW that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." (Genesis 22:12)

The Angel of the Lord then renewed the covenant with Abraham. However, it seems unlikely that the Lord didn’t know the outcome of this trial. For one thing, He had earlier unconditionally promised Abraham that he would be a blessing to the world (Gen. 12:1-3). Later, He indicated that Abraham’s obedience was a foregone conclusion:

·       Then the LORD said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? Abraham will SURELY become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth WILL be blessed through him. For I have chosen [“known” in the Hebrew] him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him." (Genesis 18:17-19)

Abraham’s future obedience was clearly foreknown by the Lord and so too the fulfillment of His covenant. How then are we to understand “NOW I know” in light of God’s apparent foreknowledge? Perhaps in this manner: “Now I know with my eyes.”

In any event, God’s foreknowledge is inseparable from the entire biblical revelation. Everything that He has promised us depends upon His perfect knowledge and ordaining of the future.

God often expresses Himself in anthropomorphic language, language that we humans use and, therefore, is understandable to us. Here is a good example of this. God had promised Noah after the flood that He will remember His covenant:

·       Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will REMEMBER MY COVENANT between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. (Genesis 9:14-15; Leviticus 26:42, 45; Ezekiel 16:60)

Even those who deny that God knows the future acknowledge that God remembering does not suggest that He had temporarily forgot or that He has to make an effort to recall what is no longer in His mind. In view of the many verses that proclaim that God’s knowledge is perfect, we have to interpret this saying as God’s attempt to speak to us in language we understand. Likewise, this suggests that when we read God say, “now I know,” that we shouldn’t take this to mean He hadn’t known before.

Jesus assured His followers that they need not worry about their needs as do the unbelievers because of God’s foreknowledge:

·       Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:8)

We can only rest assured in Him because He knows ALL things.

Also, the Bible assures us that the “Lord knows those who are His” (2 Tim. 2:19), and that we are His solid and unmovable foundation. In order to give us the assurance that nothing will ever separate us from Him (Romans 8:38-39), He must have perfect foreknowledge. In fact, to give us any assurances, He must have perfect foreknowledge. Without this, He would always be learning new things, and with this new knowledge, there would always be a likelihood that He would have to revise His plans. Heaven forbid!

A Philosophical Challenge to God’s Foreknowledge

It has been claimed that if God is omniscient – this means that He has perfect foreknowledge – we cannot have freewill. Why not? Because if God knows how we will act, we must act according to His foreknowledge. This seems to suggest that we cannot have freewill. Let’s express this “contradiction” in logical form:

1.    If God has perfect foreknowledge, the future must happen the way that God knew it would happen from even before He created the world.

2.    Therefore, the only choice we will make is the one that He foreknew that we would make.

3.    CONCLUSION: Since we will not act otherwise, we lack freewill.

However, the conclusion doesn’t follow logically from premise #1 and #2. Although, as a Christian, I accept premise #1 and #2, the second part of the conclusion does not logically follow from them.

Similarly, I know what my wife will do when she feels dirty. She will shower. Does this mean that she doesn’t have freewill? Of course not! My foreknowledge about this decision does not mean that she didn’t make a freewill choice to take a shower.

Although I WILL act as God foreknows I will act, it doesn’t follow that I COULD NOT act otherwise. I could have acted otherwise, but I simply chose not to, as God foreknew! Consequently, God is perfectly omniscient, and yet we still freely choose.

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