My first exposure to the concept of omniscience was linked to my childhood understanding of Santa Claus. I was told that he was “making a list and checking it twice.” I also thought the Easter Bunny lived in our attic (in the off-season) where he could invisibly keep his eye on me.
The word omniscience means “to have all (omni) knowledge (science).” It is a term that is properly applied to God alone. Only a being that is infinite and eternal is capable of knowing everything. The knowledge of a finite creature is always limited by a finite being.
God, being infinite, is able to be aware of all things, to understand all things, and to comprehend all things. He never learns anything or acquires new knowledge. The future, as well as the past and present, are completely known by Him. He is surprised by nothing.
Because God’s knowledge far exceeds our knowledge (it is of a higher sort), some Christians believe that His thinking differs radically in kind from ours. For example, it has become commonplace for Christians to assert that God operates with a different form of logic than ours. This concept is convenient when we run into snags in our theology. If we find ourselves affirming both poles of a contradiction, we can alleviate our tension by appealing to God’s different order of logic. We can say with ease, “This may all be contradictory to us, but it isn’t in the mind of God.” This kind of reasoning is fatal to Christianity. Why? If God, in fact, has a different order of logic whereby what is contradictory to us is logical to Him, then we have no reason to trust a single word of the Bible. Whatever the Bible says to us could then mean its exact opposite to God. In God’s mind, good and evil may not be opposites, and the Antichrist might really be Christ.
God’s superior knowledge allows Him to be able to resolve mysteries that baffle us. But that points to a difference of degree in God’s knowledge, not a difference in the kind of logic He uses. Because God is rational, even He cannot reconcile contradictions.
God’s omniscience also grows out of His omnipotence. God is not all-knowing simply because He has applied His superior intellect to a sober study of the universe and all its contents. Rather, God knows all because He created all and He has willed all. As sovereign Ruler over the universe, God controls the universe. Though some theologians have tried to separate the two, it is impossible for God to know all without controlling all, and it is impossible for Him to control all without knowing all. Like all attributes of God, they are codependent, two necessary parts of the whole.
God’s omniscience, like His omnipotence and omnipresence, also relates to time. God’s knowledge is absolute in the sense that He is forever aware of all things. God’s intellect is different from ours in that He does not have to “access” information, like a computer, might retrieve a file. All knowledge is always directly before God.
God’s knowledge of all things is a two-edged sword. For the believer, the idea offers security—that God is in control, that He understands. God is not puzzled by those problems that puzzle us. For the unbeliever, however, the doctrine highlights the fact that people cannot hide from God. Their sins are exposed. Like Adam, they seek to hide. However, there is no corner of the universe that God’s gaze, either in love or wrath, fails to reach.
The omniscience of God is also a crucial part of God’s promise to bring about justice in the world. For a judge to render a perfectly just verdict he must first know all the facts. No evidence is hidden from the scrutiny of God. All mitigating circumstances are known to Him.
- Omniscience means “all knowledge.”
- Only an infinite Being can possess infinite knowledge.
- God has a higher degree of knowledge than His creatures, but it is of the same logical order.
- To attribute a different kind of logic to God is fatal to Christianity.
- God’s omniscience is grounded in His infinity and His omnipotence.
- God’s omniscience is crucial to His role as the Judge of the world.