The Knowledge of God

God’s Knowledge

Aslan, the great Lion in The Chronicles of Narnia, is C. S. Lewis’ figurative character that represents God. Though Lewis portrays Aslan excellently, not everything written about Aslan was completely accurate. We see a glimpse of this in the third book of The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. In it, Lucy realizes that she should have followed Aslan instead of following her sister and brothers. She asked Aslan if she is ever to know what would have happened if she had followed him. Lewis gives us Aslan’s response by writing, “‘to know what would have happened, child?’ said Aslan. ‘No, Nobody is ever told that.’”[1] Though an emotional moment happens between Aslan and Lucy, how accurate is this statement? Does God never reveal what could have happened? Does God even know what could have happened? This certainly is an important question to answer because, in the words of John Calvin “Nearly the whole of sacred doctrine consist of these two parts: knowledge of God and of ourselves”[2] This means that if we are to be even slightly off course with our doctrine of God, a great amount of our theology could be at stake. The first sin ever committed began with a misconception of God’s knowledge and mankind has continued in regression ever since. When the Serpent tempted Eve, he tempted her by saying that God had not revealed his full knowledge to her about the fruit of the tree. He said “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God.”[3] This should be a startling reminder to Christians that a proper understanding of God’s knowledge is vital to our walk with him. Let us explore this crucial doctrine of God.

Knowledge of God

The knowledge of God is both a humbling and uplifting doctrine. Humbling to the proud of heart and uplifting to those who trust in God. God’s knowledge can be defined as, “God fully knows himself and all things actual and possible in one simple and eternal act.”[4] The surprising thing about this definition is that it indicates that God knows all things, not only those that will happen but all things that could have potentially happened. He is not limited to that which he has ordained, but also knows what he could have ordained to happen. There are numerous examples in Scripture where God reveals details about events that could have happened. One may be found in the book of Jeremiah. When the city of Judah was surrounded by enemies, King Zedekiah asked for a word from the Lord through the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah responded by saying,

“If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.”[5]

 

God reveals to us through this passage that he is capable of understanding that which could come to pass. He always fully knows both the actual and the possible. Another example of this is where the Lord would have given Israel peace like a river and “righteousness like the waves of the sea” if they had only obeyed the commandments of the Lord.[6] The implication is that since they had not obeyed, they would not receive the reward of peace and righteousness. Similarly, Ezekiel is commissioned by God to speak to the people of Israel. God explains to Ezekiel that he is intentional about sending him only to Israel and not to anyone else:

 For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel—not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.[7]

 

So God knew what would happen in the future, Israel would not repent. God also knew the outcome if Ezekiel had gone to a different people group, they would have repented. The obvious conclusion to these examples is that God’s vast knowledge knows no bounds. He knows precisely what will happen in the future and he also knows every possibility as well. The knowledge of God is certainly not without its objections.

Misunderstandings and Objections

The obvious popular objection to this doctrine is Open Theism—the belief that “God does not know much of the future and has to learn what happens as the future unfolds.”[8] This understanding limits God to the point that he does not even know the possible future, much less the actual future. So an open theist would say that when God speaks about the future, he is simply giving an educated guess.[9] This belief is inconsistent with both historical and biblical theology. Indeed, it is said that Polycarp, a Christian in the 2nd century, prayed “may I be accepted before you today, as a rich and acceptable sacrifice, just as you, the faithful and true God, have prepared and foreshown and brought about.”[10] So God’s sovereignty was affirmed even in the infancy of church history. Likewise, we find that Scripture affirms God’s foreknowledge of both actual and possible events. The aforementioned verses should be enough evidence to convince one of the possible events, but does Scripture truly affirm that God knows the end of everything? Does God not only know all contingencies, but also those that will actually happen? Numerous passages affirm that he, in fact, does. Isaiah wrote, “I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done”. [11] We can rest assured that God does know everything, both actual and theoretical. Open theism is not the only objection to this view of the knowledge of God.

Another objection is one of the Arminian views that God is not able to know specific details about the future and that he is completely ignorant of all future human choices. [12] The problematic verses for the Arminian point of view are multitudinous. Many events are prophesied in Scripture that relate to particular individuals. In Genesis God predicts that Abraham will have a son who is his own flesh and blood.[13] Indeed, even the death of Jesus Christ was foreknown by God. [14] So this simple foreknowledge is rather inaccurate when placed against the truth of God’s word. God knows all events that will ever happen in time. He also knows every single event that ever could have happened in time. As John writes, “He knows everything”.[15] The application of the doctrine of God’s knowledge is immeasurable.

 

Application

There are three main points that should bring conviction and encouragement in every Christian’s life: We need to trust God implicitly, follow him humbly, and rest in him faithfully.

We are able to trust God implicitly since he knows all things. We can trust that he has a purpose for everything that he knows. How often have we questioned difficult circumstances in our life only to find out that God’s purpose was much greater than we could have imagined? He has planned the end from the beginning, so he knows precisely what he is doing. This should be a source of comfort for all Christians. What if God did not have this knowledge? What if we reached the pearly gates only to see God apologizing with the look of agony on his face? What if he explained that even though he thought the blood of his Son, Jesus Christ, would cleanse us from all sin, his plan just did not work out like he expected? What if he did not have complete knowledge, and our salvation rested on pure speculation and educated guess instead of his complete and full knowledge of the future? Because of the complete knowledge of God, we do not need to worry about our future. His plans are based on his infinite knowledge. He knows the perfect plan he has created for our lives and we can trust that he has placed us in the precise scenario wherein he will get the ultimate glory. This doctrine allows us to trust him implicitly with our lives. This is not the only application we can get from this doctrine.

God’s knowledge should humble us when we come to realize that we cannot and will not ever know as much as he does. He is the source of all knowledge and all truth. We should be greatly humbled when we realize that our knowledge will never match his. Therefore we should humble ourselves with the knowledge that since we are not omniscient, we need to seek God to reveal truth to us. Everything that we have ever known has been revealed to us. Again, everything that we will ever know will only be revealed to us through God. So why would we not ask him, the fountain of all truth, to impart wisdom into our lives? The author of Proverbs writes “The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom, and whatever you get, get insight”.[16] Since we are to get wisdom and insight, let us turn to God who is the source of it all. Since he is our only source of knowledge, why would we withhold prayers from God asking for knowledge? May our prayer be with the psalmist “Teach me good judgment and knowledge.”[17] We should be humbled and go to God’s throne since he is our ultimate source of knowledge. We should likewise be empowered by this doctrine.

W should feel empowered knowing that the omniscience of God means that we are always on his mind. He always has his knowledge in his random access memory, so to speak, and knows all things at all times. Even though God thinks of an innumerable number of things at any given time, he is also thinking about us at all times. J. I. Packer writes,

I am graven on the palms of his hands. I am never out of his mind. All my knowledge of him depends on his sustained initiative in knowing me. I know him because he first knew me, and continues to know me. He knows me as a friend, one who loves me; and there is no moment when his eye is off me or his attention distracted from me, and no moment, therefore, where his care falters.[18]

 

We are never out of God’s mind. This shows his supreme love and care for us through his knowledge of us. How humbling this should be to every Christian. We can rest in him knowing that he is watching and caring for us at all times. I know I have certainly grown by writing this paper.

Conclusion

Even though C. S. Lewis did not depict God perfectly in the character of Aslan, we can find encouragement in knowing that our God is beyond the realm of being fully depicted by any human author. His knowledge has no beginning or end; he forever knows all things. He knows every possible outcome of every situation, but he also knows the end from the beginning. He has revealed to us this end and it is that Jesus gets the victory, the glory, the honor, and the praise.[19] Those who trust in him as their Savior get to join in this joyous celebration forever.[20] We can trust that Jesus Christ wins because it is based on the eternal, unlimited, knowledge of God revealed in his Word. We do not need to question whether or not God will truly work out his plan. He already has. So let us approach the throne and seek knowledge from the one who knows all things. Let us be comforted in knowing that he knows and controls the future. And let us be empowered to go out and do the will of the Father, knowing that he has your very future already fully known.


[1] C. S. Lewis, The Complete Chronicles of Narnia (New York, NY: Harper Collins, 2000), 256

[2] John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion. Translated by Marion D. Battles. (Grand Rapids, Mi: William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975), 15

[3] Genesis 3:5 ESV

[4] Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000), 190.

[5] Jeremiah 38:17-18

[6] Isaiah 48:18

[7] Ezekiel 3:5-6

[8] Bruce A. Ware God’s Lesser Glory (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2000), 18.

[9] Dr. Joseph R. Nally “The Ever-Guessing God of Open Theism,” Third Millennium Ministries, last modified October 20, 2013, http://thirdmill.org/answers/answer.asp/file/40614.

[10] Church Publishing INC. Holy Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints (New York, NY: Church Publishing Incorporated , 2010.), 238.

[11] Isaiah 46:10

[12] Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2000.), 347-348.

[13] Genesis 15:4

[14] Acts 2:23

[15] 1 John 3:20

[16] Proverbs 4:5

[17] Psalms 119:66

[18] J. I. Packer. Knowing God. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 41.

[19] Revelation 5:12

[20] Psalm 73:25-26; 1 Corinthians 10:31

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