On Omniscience

Rey wonders out loud: “Where in the Bible does God declare that he is omniscient?” He then answers his own question: Nowhere. God never declares himself to be omniscient, or all-knowing. So we have to ask ourselves, must God declare something about himself for it to be true about himself? And, must something directly appear in the Bible for it to be true about God, or is it acceptable to deduce it from related Scriptures and/or natural theology?

Before we dive into these questions, it must be stated that I believe in the plenary inspiration of Scripture: that the Bible we possess is inspired and inerrant, and sufficient for all of the activities listed in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. The problem in this entry is that Rey, the target of the criticism that I will present, doesn’t believe in inerrancy, nor does he believe in the plenary inspiration of Scripture. Rey cherry-picks verses as inspired and uninspired to fit with what he believes about God. This is idolatry of the highest order.

That means that this criticism will likely fall under heavy fire from Rey in the form of rejecting the verses that I use as inspired.

It is not, mind you, that Rey rejects inspiration. He rejects plenary inspiration. He doesn’t believe that all of what we possess of the Bible is inspired, but he has yet to explain his system for accepting or rejecting verses.

Before offering my caveat, I posed two questions. The first question is, must God declare something about himself for it to be true about himself? I think that the Trinity serves as an example for this, for nowhere in the Bible does God declare, “I am a Trinity!” More to the point, no writer ever declares that God is a Trinity, either. Yet no orthodox Christian would deny that God is a Trinity.

So why is the Trinity an orthodox doctrine? Answer: Because it is one of the best supported doctrines inferred from other Scriptures. The writers of the New Testament assume that God is a Trinity as they write. Indeed, the Father and the Son often speak of themselves interchangeably; and the Son often refers to the Helper or Comforter as if the Son will be that Helper. Yet they also refer to their individual ministries as though they are separate people. Therefore, it is concluded that the Father, Son, and Spirit are one in ontology and three in personhood.

The second question is, must something be directly stated in Scripture for it to be true, or is it acceptable to deduce it from related Scriptures and/or natural theology? Again, we refer to the Trinity as our example. Not only is this doctrine readily distilled from Scripture, but nature speaks to it as well. In nature, we see great diversity in life, but we also see unity within each ecosystem. We see great diversity in individual ecosystems, but unity of ecosystems when the planet is considered as a whole. The same, therefore, must be true of the planet’s designer.

In considering the unity of the natural world, the designer must be a single entity. Numerous entities would create chaos. If there were no entities, the world would default to chaos.

In considering the diversity of the natural world, the single designer must himself be diverse, otherwise why bother to create any diversity at all? The designer of anything works with what he knows, and if the designer of the planet is not diverse within his singleness, then it follows that the world he creates would not display the diversity that we clearly perceive.

The only deity that fits the bill of a unified yet diverse entity is the Holy Trinity described by Christianity. As the apostle Paul put it, the natural world testifies to God alone, and men are without excuse for knowing of his existence. Men cannot claim that they were simply ignorant of the God of this world, for he has left enough breadcrumbs to lead any reasonable person to him. This we can deduce from natural theology with minimal reference to Scripture.

Finally, a third question may also be posed. What is omniscience? After establishing that God need not declare something about himself for it to be true and deciding that it is acceptable to deduce doctrine from related Scriptures and natural theology, we come to the very core of the issue: the nature of omniscience itself. A good definition to work from would be the one offered by dictionary.com:

having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things.

Let’s latch on to that last phrase, perceiving all things. It seems to me that omniscience is nothing more than an extension and consequence of omnipresence.

Before we explore that concept further, let’s return to Rey. Rey’s epistemology for declaring weather something is true of God is that God himself must declare it. It is fortunate for us that God declares himself as omnipresent in Jeremiah 23:23-24:

Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD.

God is everywhere at once. Rey cannot dispute this since I have used his own criterion to prove it: God has declared that he is everywhere in heaven and on earth. Rey has also forcefully argued in the past that God is capable of thought, of processing information, and of changing his mind based on the input that he receives. I press this point only because it is important to understand that Rey believes that God senses his environment. Since God is everywhere at once, it follows as a natural consequence that God knows everything that can be known, based on the sensory input he receives, about this planet. Therefore, God is all-knowing without having to declare himself as such.

We have established only that God has perfect knowledge of the present, however. What we need to establish is that God also has perfect knowledge of the past and of the future in order to truly prove that God is omniscient. It is easier to begin with the past, then delve into the future.

As for the past, we can see several passages that indicate that God never forgets anything (cf. Heb 6:10 and Is 49:15). The strongest passage, following Rey’s criterion of God must declare it for it to be so, is Amos 8:7–“The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: ‘Surely I will never forget any of their deeds.'” God, therefore, has a perfect memory of the past.

God repeatedly equates knowing the future with being a deity. Look at Isaiah 40-48 for the best examples. Those chapters present a challenge to anyone who claims that God doesn’t know the future exhaustively (see here). One of the more clear statements can be found at Isaiah 48:5-6:

I declared them to you from of old, before they came to pass I announced them to you, lest you should say, ‘My idol did them, my carved image and my metal image commanded them.’ You have heard; now see all this; and will you not declare it? From this time forth I announce to you new things, hidden things that you have not known.

Still not convinced? Turn to Deuteronomy 18:20-22. God is telling the people not to fear a prophet who speaks a word that does not come to pass. God has supreme confidence in his ability to foretell the future. This is the kind of confidence that comes from the exhaustive divine foreknowledge of what the future holds. We can therefore conclude that God knows the future perfectly.

We have now, whether by direct statement or by inference, proven that God has an exhaustive and complete knowledge of the past, present, and future. Despite Rey’s claims, God is indeed omniscient.

About Cory Tucholski

I'm a born-again Christian, amateur apologist and philosopher, father of 3. Want to know more? Check the "About" page!

Posted on June 15, 2009, in Apologetics, God, Theology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Your entire blog has devolved into a “Cory vs Rey” tit for tat doctrinal squabble, I find it regrettable and very sad but that’s what religion, labels, denominations do, they divide and conquer, keep us petty, operating in the flesh and unfruitful in the kingdom here and now. The spirit rises above it all.

    How does this do anyone any good? Will some hurting, desparate soul wander into your corner of cyberspace and say “yes that’s it, that’s what my heart longs for, give me…doctrinal squabbling”. I dont think so. Our privalege is to manifest, express the life of the indwelling Christ in the earth for His glory, not to make “gods” out of our various theologies. Love (Himself) is who/what they want and need to see in us.

    I’m sure you guys wont miss me, but nevertheless I appreciate you all. I’m signing off for good, I wish you all the best, but mostly that we will grow up into the full measure, the stature of Christ and leave this other behind once and for all. Until then, we have nothing and no One to offer the world that they dont already have. JC

  2. Looks like you can’t find a verse where God proclaims himself omniscient either. Genesis 18:21 “I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto me; and if not, I will know.” Without the ability to take in new information, your brain is static like a lump of coal. A God who knows everything he will ever know is by very definition a god of wood or stone: an impersonal (i.e. not a person) object.

    • You just attempted to refute a 1500 word article by sound bite. Try again, this time supporting your arguments, maybe?

      • If that’s the way you want to put it. But your 1500 word article is nothing more than a long winded attempt to circumvent my question “Where in the Bible does God declare that he is omniscient?” by verbosity. You still haven’t shown a Scripture where God claims to be omniscient.

  3. *Venturing back in against my better judgment, arrgg.

    How could we even consider serving God if He werent omniscient/all knowing, all seeing? Isn’t that, by default one of the defining attributes of the very word, name…God?

    That said, a few verses come to mind to support what I believe to be the obvious answer:

    “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” (Heb 4:13)

    “Do you know the balancing of the clouds, The wondrous works of Him who is perfect in knowledge? (Job 37:16)

    “God sees all things, and nothing can be hidden from His knowledge—not even the secret intentions of the heart (Psalm 44:21)

    “His Spirit searches all things” (1 Corinthians 2:10)

    “Perfect in knowledge”, “God sees all things and nothing can be hidden from His knowledge”? Sounds pretty omniscient to me. The only time He doesnt know something is when He chooses not to, like our sin, praise God.

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