Apologetics Thursday – Does God know and see everything?

By Christopher Fisher

Skeptics Annotated Bible lists “contradictions” between verses where God “knows all things” and God is shown lacking knowledge. The standard Open Theist response is that God knows all knowable, just that events in the future are not able to be known. This answers most objections, but not all.

Alternatively, this response will be from an extreme Biblical Open Theist worldview, claiming God does not know some present knowledge.

SAB lists the following verses for God “knowing everything”:

No thought can be withholden from thee. Job 42:2

The better translation comes from the ESV or the NKJV, “no purpose of God can be thwarted”. This is a general rule of thumb saying that people cannot use their power to overthrow God’s purposes. This does not mean people cannot change God’s mind or God can’t change His own mind based on new developments.

In any case, if Job was talking about God knowing people’s minds (the phrase does not seem uncharacteristic of what Biblical authors could claim about God), the Biblical Open Theists would claim that God has mechanisms for figuring out the minds of people. Specifically, Romans talks about the spirit studying people to know their minds and Proverbs speaks about “eyes” watching people to know their minds.

For he knoweth the secrets of the heart. Psalm 44:21

The Biblical Open Theist claim is that God has mechanisms for knowing. God knows because God sees, God tests, and God does. In this particular psalm, the mechanism to which the author refers is God’s ability to see people’s hidden behaviors. That is the author’s point. God has abandoned His people, and this is perplexing because God can see that they have not abandoned God.

The writer of Psalms 44 is using the entire psalm to stir God to action. The context of the statement is that God would know if Israel had turned to other Gods, and the author claims that Israel has stayed true to God. The author did not assume the future was fixed, but that he could influence God to act. The writer implores God to awake and arise:

Psa 44:23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
Psa 44:24 Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?

Reading the psalm shows that the author did not have the same conceptions about God as the Augustinian Christians.

Whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. Psalm 139:7-8

This verse has more to do with God’s special watchfulness over King David than general applicability.

The eyes of the Lord are in every place. Proverbs 15:3

Eyes of the Lord are could mean general surveillance, but it would not be unprecedented for “Eyes of the Lord” to mean “angels”. Angels who report back to God are continually watching you.

For mine eyes are upon all their ways: they are not hid from my face, neither is their iniquity hid from mine eyes. Jeremiah 16:17

A general and reoccurring theme in the Bible is that God can see what man does. Man cannot hide from God, and even in secret places can God see what man is doing. God is saying here that He knows what these individuals have been doing. There are plenty of mechanisms to generate this knowledge. Statements like this case been easily taken as strong rules of thumb, and the language need not be extended to knowing ever single detail of ever single second ever.

Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? Jeremiah 23:24

See above.

Thou, Lord, which knowest the hearts of all men. Acts 1:24

See above.

God … knoweth all things. 1 John 3:20

The critical reading steps should be followed on this verse before determining general applicability. The question becomes “in what way and in what context does God know everything.” The context of the quote deals with God knowing if our heart is condemning Christians for not acting more humanely. In the text, God knows our history and actions and therefor can better judge over us.

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