Bavinck on Omniscience

Knowledge In addition God is conscious of and knows all that exists outside his being. Scripture nowhere even hints that anything could be unknown to him. True, the manner in which he obtains knowledge is sometimes stated in striking anthropomorphic language (Gen. 3: 9ff.; 11: 5; 18: 21; etc.), but he nevertheless knows everything. The notion that something should be unknown to him is dismissed as absurd. Would he who plants the ear not hear, and would he who forms the eye not see? (Ps. 94: 9). Over and over mention is made of his wisdom, might, counsel, understanding, and knowledge: תּבוּנָה, עֵצָה, גְּבוּרה, חָכְמָה, γνωσις, σοϕια (Job 12: 13; 28: 12– 27; Prov. 8: 12ff.; Ps. 147: 5; Rom. 11: 33; 16: 27; Eph. 3: 10; etc.). All creatures fall within the compass of his knowledge. It extends to everything and is therefore omniscience in the strict sense. His eyes run to and fro throughout the whole earth (2 Chron. 16: 9). Before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to his eyes (Heb. 4: 13). The most minor and insignificant details (Matt. 6: 8, 32; 10: 30); the most deeply concealed things: the human heart and mind (Jer. 11: 20; 17: 9– 10; 20: 12; Ps. 7: 10; 1 Kings 8: 39; Luke 16: 15; Acts 1: 24; Rom. 8: 27); thoughts and reflections (Ps. 139: 2; Ezek. 11: 5; 1 Cor. 3: 20; 1 Thess. 2: 4; Rev. 2: 23); human origin, nature, and all human action (Ps. 139); night and darkness (Ps. 139: 11– 12); hell and perdition (Prov. 15: 11); wickedness and sin (Ps. 69: 5; Jer. 16: 17; 18: 23; 32: 19); the conditional (1 Sam. 23: 10– 13; 2 Sam. 12: 8; 2 Kings 13: 19; Ps. 81: 14– 15; Jer. 26: 2– 3; 38: 17– 20; Ezek. 3: 6; Matt. 11: 21); and the things of the future (Isa. 41: 22f.; 42: 9; 43: 9– 12; 44: 7; 46: 10), particularly the end of a person’s life (Ps. 31: 16; 39: 6; 139: 6, 16; Job 14: 5; Acts 17: 26; etc.)— all are known to God. He knows everything (1 John 3: 20). This knowledge is not a posteriori, obtained by observation, but a priori, present from eternity (1 Cor. 2: 7; Rom. 8: 29; Eph. 1: 4– 5; 2 Tim. 1: 9). His knowledge is not susceptible of increase (Isa. 40: 13f.; Rom. 11: 34); it is certain and specific (Ps. 139: 1– 3; Heb. 4: 13), so that God’s revelations are all true (John 8: 26; 17: 17; Titus 1: 2). All his works make known to us his wisdom (Ps. 104: 24; 136: 5; Eph. 3: 10; Rom. 11: 33) and prompt us to worship and adore him (Ps. 139: 17ff.; Isa. 40: 28; John 11: 7ff.; Rom. 11: 33; 1 Cor. 2: 11).

Bavinck, Herman. Reformed Dogmatics : Volume 2: God and Creation (p. 166). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

6 comments

    1. Thanks David,
      Could you expand on that?

      I can make a comment on the references to “anthropomorphic language” .

      I think we need to be extremely careful with asserting (even implicitly) that verse x cannot be taken at face value – because it is “anthropomorphic language”.

      Who is to be the judge of what verse is to be called anthropomorphic? That person empowers himself with the ability to “make void” whatever scripture contradicts his tradition.

      1. ‘I think we need to be extremely careful with asserting (even implicitly) that verse x cannot be taken at face value – because it is “anthropomorphic language”.
        Who is to be the judge of what verse is to be called anthropomorphic? That person empowers himself with the ability to “make void” whatever scripture contradicts his tradition.’

        Yup! Well said! :-)

        1. I don’t know the source of the Lewis comment but I think it makes the point that we can have good philosophical ideas and they are needed to combat bad ones. To me have have always resisted the notion that God’s reasoning is mysterious or opaque. I have in another response mentioned that anyone who deems to make themselves the arbiter of want is literal and what is metaphoric sets themselves above the writer and makes himself the judge of the Scripture or even judge of the law. I have experienced that sound or right reason is revealed by God to those who understand that we were made to have a reciprocal relationship and that we were given true sovereignty over our will and the ability to love Him voluntarily. I think when we view the Bible and the world through the “philosophy” of free will and voluntary choice everything makes more sense.

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