Sunday word of the Week: Omniscience

By Elizabeth Prata

The thread of Christianity depends on a unity from one generation to the next of mutual understanding of our important words. Hence the Word of the Week.

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The simple definition:

Omniscience: God’s knowing all things that are proper object of knowledge, including all future events. Definition from Biblical Doctrine, MacArthur & Mayhue, p. 935

Longer definition & explanation:

God’s omniscience is his perfect knowing of himself, all actual things outside himself, and all things that do not become reality in one eternal and simple (not having any parts but having distinctions) act (exertion of energy). One should note that this definition does not say that God knows things that are “possible”, because in God’s eternal mind and plan there are only actual things, not possible things. He does know what would have occurred if circumstances had been different, but since in his mind and plan they would never occur, they are not ‘possibilities’. Source ibid.

Omniscience is considered by most theologians as an incommunicable attribute of God, though some disagree and believe omniscience will be communicated to us in glory. (Bavinck, Shedd, Hodge, Berkhof).

God’s omniscience is a demonstration of and affirmation of His sovereignty. He knows all because He is the first cause of all. Every plan in the universe originates from God’s all-knowing mind.

While in some ways it is a fearful thing to understand that God is omniscient, in many other ways, it is comforting. He is in control. He loves His believers, even though He knows us and He knows what we think, say, and do, now and in the future. He loves us sinners anyway.

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
(Psalm 139:1-6)

omniscience

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Further reading

Previous entries in the Word of the Week Series-

8. Heresy
7. Orthodoxy
6. Glorification
5. Sanctification
4. Propitiation
3. Immanence
2. Transcendence
1. Justification

8 Comments

  1. Thank you for the teaching you provide. I realize this takes study time on your part, and my husband has told me that you have a full-time teaching job in addition. Although I don’t have time to read your post every day, I appreciate what you write, knowing that you have a desire to give that knowledge to others.

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  2. This is a wonderful and powerful word to meditate on. Omniscience.

    We may each define it differently, and be right, yet grasp a mere fraction of Omniscience, Omnipresence, and Omnipotence. My take is that each of us, and every living thing in the universe is a fractal of Omniscience. LIMITLESS God.

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    1. Hi Sheila,

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting. If I understand your comment, you’re saying in effect, that we are all chips off the old block, and we possess a certain amount of omniscience? As do worms and butterflies and sea slugs etc? (“every living thing”).

      God has attributes, some of which are communicable (love, patience, mercy, kindness and so on). He also possesses certain attributes that are incommunicable, or not shared. These attributes are His alone, such as Transcendence, Omnipresence, and Omniscience. So, Omniscience is one of the incommunicable attributes. Only He knows all things. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways.” Isaiah 55:8-9.

      Also see 1 Kings 8:39; cf. Ps. 139:1-6; Prov. 3:19-20; 1 Cor. 2:10. This page has more: https://www.monergism.com/communicable-incommunicable-attributes-god
      🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No one is “limiting God” by acknowledging He and only he knows all things, i.e, is omniscient. God’s view of His own omniscience is as in the verses above and the one below.

        “Who can fathom the Spirit of the LORD, or instruct the LORD as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge, or showed him the path of understanding?” (Isaiah 40:13-14).

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Super! Thanks. God is the only God and He is omniscient – meaning limitless in His knowledge. His omniscience is not communicable to us, though, nor to any other living creature.

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