In a previous post I concluded that God is necessarily an infinite being. The concept of a beginning point no more applies to God than it does to the mathematical concept of infinity. God’s eternal existence is the basic underlying truth of reality. In this post I will seek to answer the question of omniscience – does God have infinite knowledge?
Omniscience is not a biblical term, but it is certainly used regularly in the discipline of theology. The current Merriam-Webster definition of omniscient is:
- having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight
- possessed of universal or complete knowledge
Does scripture make any statements about the limits (or lack thereof) of God’s awareness, understanding, insight, or knowledge? In fact, it does.
“Great is our Lord and abundant in strength; his understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5).
Well, that seems to wrap it up pretty easily! We do not even have to mention the myriad verses that testify to God’s knowledge about the exact number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30), our inner thoughts and motives (Jeremiah 20:12), the exact length of our individual life spans (Psalm 139:16), or how the basic physical properties and forces of the universe operate (Job 38:4). We certainly confess that his thoughts are “higher” than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9) and we realize that his understanding is inscrutable (Isaiah 40:28b).
Any Christian within the bounds of orthodoxy should be able to agree with this basic statement – “God knows everything that can be known.”
But here is where we move into controversial territory. Can the future actually be known? At least in regards to soteriology, it seems that a lot of arguments and mysteries boil down to this subject of foreknowledge. What exactly does God know about the future and how does he know it?
There are five main perspectives within Christianity that I will very briefly list:
- Process Theology – God’s knowledge is evolving along with the rest of reality.
- Openness – It is impossible to know the future decisions of free creatures, and therefore even God cannot know.
- Actual Foreknowledge – God can actually observe the future somehow.
- Molinism – God innately knew all possible versions of reality involving the decisions of free creatures and chose to create one of those versions (a hybrid of actual foreknowledge and determinism).
- Determinism – God controls every detail of what happens in the future.
Which of those five perspectives do I find most convincing at this point in my theological quest? God knows the answer to that question, but you will have to wait until my post on foreknowledge!
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and unfathomable his ways!” (Romans 11:33).