Got God-questions? 05
Updated: Jan 31, 2022
Is Yahweh omniscient?
The answer to this question isn’t all too complicated. Let’s first look at some clear textual examples where god tells us in his own god’s word that he doesn’t know everything.
Genesis 1: 11-14 God doesn’t know about photosynthesis and tries to grow plants before he creates the sun.
Genesis 6: 6-7 “The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, “I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.” With Numbers 13:33 “We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.”
Genesis 18: 20-21 Then the Lord said, “The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know.”
Genesis 18: 26 The Lord said, “If I find fifty righteous people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place for their sake.”
Genesis 32: 24-28 compared with Genesis 35: 9-10: the omniscient god renames Jacob, forgets that he did so renames him three chapters later. In the first passage, god asks Jacob his name.
Jeremiah 17:10 “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward each person according to their conduct, according to what their deeds deserve.”
Then there are a multitude of things god cannot know because of his limited nature. You can probably add a few of your own examples to the short list below.
God doesn’t know how it feels to learn something or the joy of discovery.
God doesn’t know what it’s like to feel utterly helpless or powerless.
God doesn’t know what it feels like to be faced with a moral dilemma.
God doesn’t know what it feels like to make love to another human being.
God doesn’t know what it feels like to cheat on your husband or wife.
God doesn’t know what it feels like to be horny.
God doesn’t know what it feels like to starve to death. etc., etc.
An expression of love god will never experience.
Finally, we give two instances where it is unclear whether god is ignorant, impotent or evil. Again, you are undoubtedly able to give more examples yourself.
Every year around 200 to 210 million women become pregnant. Ten to twenty per cent of those pregnancies - in whatever stage of the pregnancy - , are ended prematurely by miscarriages. Otherwise said, 20 to 42 million fetuses (“babies”) are killed by spontaneous abortion every year.
God deliberately causes these abortions, for whatever pleasure he derives from it,
Wants to stop them but doesn’t know how,
Knows how they could be stopped but chooses not to stop them
Or maybe he simply doesn’t care.
Almost 10 million people die of cancer annually. Analogous to the above example:
God designed cancer to torture human beings (and therefore wouldn’t do anything to stop it)
Cancer is a natural phenomenon over which he has no power
He knows how to eliminate cancer but chooses not to
Or maybe he simply doesn’t care
To sum up:
1. we have god telling us in his god’s word he is not omniscient
2. his very nature excludes the possibility of being omniscient
3. and in the third category his omniscience is only sustainable if you discredit either his omnipotence and/or omnibenevolence.
Based on the undisputed elements above, the answer is clearly no, god is not omniscient. Of course, you are always welcome to dispute the above presented basis that led to the conclusion, especially if you think that the bible does not say what it says.
Richard Dalet PHD, May 19, 2021
Notes, sources, references:
Biblical quotations from the New International Version
David Plotz, “The bible’s most hideous war crime”, August 23, 2006, Blogging the Bible, Slate, https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2006/08/the-complete-book-of-numbers-the-bibles-most-hideous-war-crime.html
1 Samuel 15: 1-3 from NIV, KJV, NET
John Allister, “The Amalekite genocide”, 12 August 2013, The Briefing, Matthias Media, http://thebriefing.com.au/2013/08/the-amalekite-genocide/
Yearly pregnancies around the world: “Facts and figures from the World Health Report 2005”, World Health Organisation, https://www.who.int/whr/2005/media_centre/facts_en.pdf
John Elflein, “Pregnancy – Statistics and Facts, Statista”, November 29, 2019, https://www.statista.com/topics/1850/pregnancy/#dossierSummary, [1 million miscarriages out of 6.2 million pregnancies in the US for the year 2010.]
Michelle Starr, “New Research Shows Most Human Pregnancies End in Miscarriage”, 01 August 2018, Science Alert, Humans, https://www.sciencealert.com/meta-analysis-finds-majority-of-human-pregnancies-end-in-miscarriage-biorxiv
Minesh Khatri, MD, “How Many People Die of Cancer a Year?”, May 18, 2020, Web MD, Cancer Center, https://www.webmd.com/cancer/how-many-cancer-deaths-per-year
Max Roser, Hannah Ritchie, “Cancer”, first published in July 2015; updated in April 2018 with latest cancer data for the year 2017 – and revised substantially in November 2019, Our World in Data, https://ourworldindata.org/cancer
Photograph source: “Sexual orientation & homosexuality”, 2008, American Psychological Association, Psychology topics / LGBTQ, https://www.apa.org/topics/lgbtq/orientation