The Omniscience of God

Each of the twenty-four International Church Council Project topics is essential to a sound understanding of historic Christianity, yet some have larger, more far-reaching implications than others. “The Omniscience of God and Human Freedom” is one of those. Dr. Wayne Grudem in his Systematic Theology (190-91) mentions that the quality of knowing everything is called “omniscience” and historic theology has claimed that God knows all things that are actual as well as all things that are possible, so God is always fully aware of everything. 

There have been seasons in the history of the Church when this topic has been hotly debated. Today a battle is quietly being fought on this topic among a percentage of evangelical theologians. Christ’s Church through the ages (the historic Body of Christ) has believed that God is omniscient, that is, that he knows all—past, present, and future. Among the orthodox (those who believe the simple fundamentals of Christianity), this all-knowing has meant that there is nothing that can be known or will be known that God does not already know. Christians have historically believed God knows the end from the beginning in all details in every area of life, in all places at all times. Though in theological debate, God’s omniscience and foreknowledge can be separated from God’s predestination of all things and all historical events, yet as life works out in reality for us humans, God’s omniscience and foreknowledge come out to be essentially the same as His predestination of all things. Those two attributes cannot really be separated, though they are distinct attributes from each other and can be discussed separately.

Theologians who seek to diminish God’s omniscience or His complete predestination in order to make God appear more loving and just than the Bible describes Him to be, do God a disservice by misrepresenting Him and create serious damage to the Body of Christ in trying to help God be more “loving” than He is. There are a few Biblical and theological questions we have which will probably never be answered to our complete, logical satisfaction, which we may describe as “mysteries” whose answers and complete understanding God has reserved for Himself alone, choosing not to share such answers with us humans this side of heaven. Among such “mysteries” are the Trinity, the incarnation, the problem of evil, and God’s omniscience and predestination as it relates to man’s free will and responsibility. It is our wisdom to be content to remain in the dark at those few points where God has chosen not to give us an answer that appears totally logical to us. Heresy has occurred often within the Church when men refuse to be bound by the knowledge limits of creature-hood, and keep insisting on creating an answer where God has chosen to not give us an answer. For example, early heretics who could not accept the possibility of God incarnating Himself into a human being, either wished to make Jesus less than fully God (the Arians, etc.), or wished to make Him less than fully human (the Docetists), both of which are heretical errors that needed to be condemned. In matters where Scripture claims that two seemingly opposite things are true at the same time without giving us a very satisfying explanation (such as Jesus being 100 percent God and 100 percent man, or God’s complete omniscience and predestination on one side and man’s free will and personal responsibility on the other), God expects us to accept both of His statements as true and just live with the tension and dissatisfaction of not having a completely satisfying explanation of how both can be true at the same time. 

Biblical Christianity has only a small handful of such seeming paradoxes. Though Christianity has a few “unanswered questions,” it still is far more logical, consistent, philosophically satisfying, and full of the answers to life’s larger questions than any other religion or philosophy on the planet. Anti-Christian philosophies and religions have far more “unanswered questions” than does Christianity, and usually have far more, huge, gaping holes in their perspective on life than Christianity. 

In November of 2001, the main emphasis of the Evangelical Theological Society’s (ETS) annual conference (involving theologians who believe in the inerrancy of the Bible) focused on this new form of denying God’s omniscience. This new form has been dubbed “the openness of God” after a book by the same name, written by several of its outspoken proponents: Clark H. Pinnock, Richard Rice, and John Sanders. This view teaches that God cannot know beforehand the free-will choices of the people He has created and therefore cannot know the future until it actually comes to pass. It was at that ETS meeting with that debate raging that their executive committee called for a vote to include in the ETS very short statement of faith “that what they mean by the inerrancy of the Bible is defined by the ICBI Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.” That vote passed, so it was easier for the traditional, orthodox theologians to win that debate on God’s omniscience when it was clearly defined what the ETS members meant by “the inerrancy of the Bible.” I know from past experience that some key proponents of this “openness of God” heresy within the ETS had given up on the ICBI definition of the Bible’s inerrancy back in the 1970s. Again, this ETS debate shows the foundational importance of having a clear and complete view of the Bible’s inerrancy, and shows how the Bible’s inerrancy is a basic guardrail and bulwark to keep any Bible student from “driving over the cliff into relativism.” 

We believe God has given us an inerrant Bible (Document 1 from the ICBI). When we come to any subject, especially the subject of God Himself, we search out what God says about Himself in His Word, the Bible. God is a God who sometimes hides Himself (Isaiah 45:15), and we cannot know Him clearly and accurately unless He chooses to disclose Himself to us which He has done mainly in the Bible, though not exhaustively. Though God gave us a vast amount of information which we need to responsibly carry-on life, theology, and ministry, etc., He has chosen not to tell us everything He knows or everything we would like to know. Mankind as a creature needs to rest peacefully in this fact. The Church through the centuries has believed in the omniscience of God, and though this is not a final proof, it is very significant, for through the centuries godly men from all different perspectives have searched the Scriptures and have continued to come to the same conclusion since the incarnation of Christ. 

If the “openness of God” professors feel that the teaching of these godly men and theologians through 20 centuries is in error, they should have compelling Scriptural proof for their view. We are convinced they have no such compelling Scriptural proof. In fact, the belief in “openness” undermines the foundation of our inerrant Bible, for if God cannot know the future until His free-will creatures make their choices, how can the predictive prophecy of the Bible be more than very good “guesses” or a prediction of possibilities? If predictive prophecy is only a possibility, it is also possible it will not come to pass. We would then conclude the Bible does indeed contain, or at the very least potentially contains, errors. What does the Scripture say about God’s knowledge? Isaiah 46:9, 10 — “…I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.’” 

An undeniable example of predictive prophecy fulfilled through the free-will actions of men is the crucifixion (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53) in which many specific actions were prophesied including the piercing of Christ’s hands and feet, the jeering of those who looked upon His sufferings, death among the wicked (the two thieves on crosses next to Him), the parting of His garments, and gambling for His outer tunic, His burial with the rich (in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea), etc. Couple this with the fact that the Bible says these actions of men were foreordained in the plan and purpose of God (Acts 2:23; 4:28). 

The denial of God’s omniscience leaves us with a God who cannot really be trusted, for such a God is ever learning and adjusting to new circumstances coming about through the actions of men. A non-omniscient God could not give trustworthy guidance to His people, for He Himself would not know the future; He would only be able to make educated guesses about the future. However, the primary reason anyone should believe in God’s omniscience is that the Bible makes this clear. Historic Christianity of the past 2000 years as well as ancient Judaism believed that God is omniscient, knowing all that is — past, present, and future. We believe from the Scripture that God knows the end from the beginning, and there is nothing that He needs to learn, or will learn, for all that is, is in Him and from Him.

Articles of Affirmation and Denial


We affirm that God knows all things and that His understanding is infinite. We deny that God ever changes in His essence, and that His infinite knowledge ever-increases.


We affirm that God’s knowledge comprehends all space and all time—past, present, and future. We deny that the present non-existence of future things and events entails their being unknowable to God, who “calls the things that are not as if theywere.”


We affirm that God’s knowledge is perfect and that His knowledge of the future is as certain as His knowledge of the past. We deny that God’s knowledge admits of either mistake or correction.


We affirm that God knows things present as present, things past as past, and things future as future. We deny that God’s knowledge of temporal relations compromises the certitude of His knowledge of the future.


We affirm that God’s knowledge of the future specifically includes the future choices of all free agents including Himself. We deny that the freedom of agents in choosing entails either the prior uncertainty or the prior unknowability of their choices.


We affirm that the freedom of moral agents entails that their choices are their own, not forced on them by anything external to themselves. We deny that the freedom of moral agents is founded on the complete liberty of the will from any restrictions inherent in the agents’ own moral character or intellectual apprehension.


We affirm that the moral character of free agents defines the moral content of their choices, and those moral choices reveal moral character. We deny that the will of moral agents either is free from determination by their moral character or defines their moral character.


We affirm that God’s moral character is infinitely, eternally, and immutably holy, righteous, and good, ensuring that His choices will always be holy, righteous, and good. We deny that God’s moral character is defined by His continuing choices.


We affirm that God created man in His own image, imparting to him, in man’s original state, His communicable attributes of knowledge and righteousness.


We affirm that the sin of Adam brought moral guilt and corruption on the whole human race, so that all natural descendants of Adam are born both guilty before the judgment of God and with their wills enslaved to the sin in their own characters, so that all men freely but necessarily sin. We deny that the effect of Adam’s sin is limited to imparting the mere potential for sin and guilt to his descendants, to shaping an environment that occasions or tempts to sin.


We affirm that just as every man inherits from Adam the image of God, the cultural mandate, and the dignity and rights inherent in being human, so also every man inherits from Adam the guilt and corruption of sin.


We affirm that the faulty definition of free agency as the “power of contrary choice,” as some define it, lies at the root of the contemporary movement among some professing Christians to deny the historic, orthodox doctrines of: (1) God’s infinite, eternal, and unchangeable knowledge and moral perfection; (2) man’s inherent guilt and corruption because of original sin; (3) the substitutionary, satisfactory atonement and redemption wrought in and by the death of Christ; (4) justification as the forensic imputation of the righteousness of Christ to guilty sinners on the grounds of faith; and (5) salvation as the work of God rather than of man. We deny: (1) that all who believe in the aforementioned faulty definition of free agency as the “power of contrary choice” recognize any or all of these logical implications of the theory; (2) that the fact many adherents to this faulty definition of free agency fail to recognize these implications either justifies a complacent attitude toward the theory or reduces the danger inherent in the theory; and (3) that this faulty definition of free agency is ultimately compatible with the central, orthodox doctrines cited in the Affirmation to Article XII above.


We affirm that the views of God, man, sin, the atonement, and salvation implied by the theory of free agency as the “power of contrary choice” are unBiblical, to the extreme of denying Christianity. We deny that the god of this theory is the God of the Bible. It is instead an idol constructed in the image of fallen and rebellious man.

We further deny that the humanity described in this theory is the humanity described in Scripture, that the atonement portrayed in this theory is the Atonement portrayed in the Bible, and that the gospel outlined in this theory is the true Gospel of the Bible.

This article is an excerpt from Dr. Jay Grimstead’s Nordskog Publishing book Rebuilding Civilization on the Bible: Proclaiming the Truth on 24 Controversial Issues.

© 2019 Used by Permisssion

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