Category Archives: Omniscience

Why did God create human beings knowing they would sin?

Image result for clipart omniscience public domain

(image courtesy ya-webdesign.com)

By Spencer D Gear PhD

God knows all things, past and present. This is the attribute of God’s omniscience? What is it? If he knows all things, why did he fashion human beings who would soon defy his command?

1. Theologians define omniscience

These evangelical theologians define omniscience as:

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‘Historically, the omniscience of God was a straightforward doctrine: God knows everything—past, present, and future’.

This is confirmed in passages such as Gen 6:5; Job 21:22; 36:4; 37:16; Ps 139:2-4, 17-18; 147:4-5; Isa 40:28; 42:9; 46:10. In the New Testament this teaching is affirmed in Matt 6:8; 10:29-30; Acts 15:17-18; Rom 8:29; 11:33; Eph 1:11 and Heb 4:13.

‘His omniscience can be arrived from a number of his attributes. These include His infinity, His causality, His necessity, His knowledge of reality, His eternality, and His absolute perfection’ (Geisler 2003:180-181).

clip_image002[1]Dr H C Thiessen: ‘He knows Himself and all other things, whether they be actual or merely possible, whether they be past, present, or future, and that He knows them perfectly and from all eternity. He knows things immediately, simultaneously, exhaustively and truly. He also knows the best ways to attain His desired ends’ (Thiessen 1949:124).


clip_image002[3]Louis Berkhof: ‘The knowledge of God may be defined as that perfection of God whereby He, in an entirely unique manner, knows Himself and all things possible and actual in one eternal and most simple act. The Bible testifies to the knowledge of God abundantly, as, for instance, in I Sam. 2:3; Job 12:13; Ps. 94:9; 147:4; Isa. 29:15; 40:27-28’ (Berkhof 1941:66).


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Dr Wayne Grudem gives a simple definition: ‘God’s knowledge may be defined as follows: God fully knows himself and all things actual and possible in one simple and dental act’. He used Job 37:16 and 1 John 3:20 to support this view’ (Grudem 1999:88).

2. God created human beings to sin?

Is that reasonable or is this a sign that He’s a wicked God who creates or endorses evil?

Image result for clipart SIN public domain(Adam & Eve in garden scenery, courtesy publicdomainvectors.org)


These are penetrating questions that any thoughtful person could ask, which is what a person did on a blog. Since God is all-knowing (Ps 139:4, 7-12; Matt 10:30; Heb 4:12-13; 1 John 3:20), he would have known Adam & Eve would sin by making the wrong decision to eat of the tree. Why, then, did God bother to tell them not to do it?

‘If all humans are meant to be sinners, why did He even create us in the first place already knowing that we would be so imperfect?’[1]

This leads to the questions: What place do sinners have in God’s redemptive plans? My human mind would think of another way to do it of making human beings so they could not sin (taking free will away from them) and making the crucifixion of Jesus unnecessary.

That’s my befuddled human thinking and not the mind of God.

Let’s examine a few reasons why a holy God who knows everything would make human beings, knowing they would sin.

2.1 There was fellowship in the Trinity but …

Have you thought about what God was doing before creation? That’s a fair question. St. Augustine cited one person’s provocative answer: ‘He was preparing hell … for those who pry into mysteries’ (Confessions, Book XI, ch 12.14). Don Stewart explains:

Before any finite creatures were created, God existed. Although God is a unity, He is a compound unity made up of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each member of the Trinity was conscious of the other two. Therefore God was never alone. There was love and communication within the members of the Godhead before humanity was created. Consequently there was no need on his part to create the human race. God did not need anything. Therefore the reason for the creation of humankind cannot be found in something lacking in the nature of God (Was God alone before he created the universe?)

The Psalmist hit the mark to help us better understand this dilemma: ‘what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?’ (Ps 8:4 NLT).

3. God doesn’t tell us the reason.

God could have chosen not to create human beings who would not fall into sin. However, they would be robots who had no power to choose anything, including agreeing with God or refusing his offer of salvation.

As to why he still created humankind with the knowledge that humanity would bring sin into the world we are not told. We are only told that he has done it this way. Since God has not explained his motives it would be fruitless for us to speculate. No one knows the answer because God has not revealed it to us (Don Stewart).

Let’s ponder a possibility:

4. Sinful human beings to glorify God!

God has provided an answer to this mystery that He knew people would sin, but he created human beings anyway.[2] The reason for creation of the universe and human beings starts in Genesis 1:27,

‘So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them’ (NLT).

What’s the point of an image?

An image is to image. Images are erected to display the original — to point to the original, glorify the original. God made humans in his image so that the world would be filled with reflectors of God — images of God, seven billion statues of God. So that nobody would miss the point of creation. Nobody (unless they were stone blind) could miss the point of humanity, namely, God — knowing, loving, showing God (Why did God create the world? John Piper).?

God created human beings and the universe for his glory. Even sinful human beings still retain the image of God and he wants to use all these people to bring him glory.
Isaiah spoke to the Israelites:

I will say to the north, ‘Let them go!’
And I will say to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’
Bring my sons from far away.
Bring my daughters from the farthest places on earth.
Bring back everyone who belongs to me.
I created them to bring glory to me.
I formed them and made them” (
Isa 43:6-7 NIRV)?

As far as I can see, that’s why God created human beings who sinned. They were formed from the beginning, sinned from the commencement, but they were created to bring glory to God.

4.1  Meaning of bringing glory to God

I found James N Anderson’s explanation to be powerful:

If God’s primary purpose in creation and redemption is the display of his glory, what does that tell us about why he allowed the fall? Both logically and chronologically, the fall comes between creation and redemption. Without a creation there could be no fallen creation; without a fallen creation there could be no redeemed creation. Salvation presupposes sin; restoration presupposes a fall. Thus it’s reasonable to infer that God’s primary purpose in allowing the fall was to showcase his glory both in the original creation and also in his powerful and merciful restoration of that creation from its rebellion and corruption (The Gospel Coalition 2017).

How can Christians bring God glory? We glorify God by our faith, worship, and humble service.

Image result for clipart Glory to God

5.  Works consulted

Berkhof, L 1941. Systematic theology. London: The Banner of Truth Trust. Also available online at: https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/berkhof/systematic_theology.html#communicable (Accessed 1 March 2020).

Geisler, N 2003. Systematic theology, vol 2: God, Creation. Minneapolis, Minnesota: BethanyHouse.

Grudem, Wayne 1999, Bible doctrine: Essential teachings of the Christian faith. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press.

Thiessen, H C 1949. Lectures in systematic theology. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

VanDrunen, D 2019. 3 Ways to Glorify God in Your Life. The Gospel Coalition U.S. Edition (online), 24 June. Available at: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/3-ways-glorify-god-life/ (Accessed 1 March 2020).

6.  Notes


[1] Christian Forums.net 2018. Bible Study: Adam and Eve, 9 January, HeIsRisen2018#1. Available at: http://christianforums.net/Fellowship/index.php?threads/adam-and-eve.73372/ (Accessed 10 January 2018).

[2] This is my response at: ibid., OzSpen#28.

Copyright © 2020 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 01 March 2020.

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Does God change his mind?

Golden calf (image courtesyWikimedia.com)

By Spencer D Gear

The heretical doctrine of open theism that has been promoted in recent years has influenced these kinds of statements: There were 4 scriptural references cited on a Christian forum ‘as proof that God does not know everything: Genesis 6:6; 22:12; Exodus 32:14; and  Jonah 3:10. To me these prove that God tested people to prove to themselves that they can trust God’, is what this person stated.[1]

What is heresy? Gillian Evans in her examination of the history of heresy, based on the Greek word, heresies, stated that it had three main senses, but the latter is what applied to the early days of Christianity. It ‘began to be used for a “false teaching” which purported to be true faith for Christians. Therein lay its danger, for it could mislead the faithful’ (Evans 2003:66).

I had provided this earlier overview. Open theism questions these fundamentals of orthodox theology:
clip_image002    God’s omniscience (all knowledge);
clip_image002[1]    God’s immutability (unchanging);
clip_image002[2]   God’s eternity;
clip_image002[3]    God’s omnipresence;
clip_image002[4]    God’s unity;
clip_image002[5]    God’s omnipotence (all-powerful).
See the article, “An examination of open theism“. Also see, “The doctrine of open theism“.
In my understanding, this doctrine is a serious threat to an orthodox understanding of the attributes of God.[2]

A website promoting open theism provided this definition: ‘Open Theism is the Christian doctrine that the future is not closed but open because God is alive, eternally free, and inexhaustibly creative’.[3] For a critique of this perspective, see, ‘Michael Hanson responds – a critique of open theism’.

An example

Let’s take Exodus 32:14 as an example: ‘And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people’ (ESV). Does this indicate that God changed his mind in his anger towards the Israelites over their worship of the idol of the golden calf by ‘relenting’?

I find Norman Geisler & Thomas Howe’s explanation to be consistent with and supported by Scripture:

EXODUS 32:14 — Does God change His mind?

PROBLEM: While Moses was upon the mountain receiving the Law from God, the people were at the foot of the mountain worshiping the golden calf which they had constructed (32:4–6). When God instructed Moses to go down to them, He told Moses that He would “consume them” and make a great nation from Moses (32:10). When Moses heard this, he pleaded with God to turn from His anger. Verse 14 states, “So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.” This implies that God changed His mind. However, in 1 Samuel 15:29 God says that “He is not a man, that He should relent,” and in Malachi 3:6 God says, “For I am the Lord, I do not change.” Also, in Hebrews, God demonstrated the “immutability of His counsel” (Heb. 6:17) by swearing an oath. Does God change His mind or doesn’t He?

SOLUTION: It must be emphatically maintained that God does not change (cf. Mal. 3:6; James 1:17). He neither changes His mind, His will, nor His nature. There are several arguments that demonstrate the immutability of God. We will consider three.

First, anything that changes does so in some chronological order. There must be a point before the change and a point after the change. Anything that experiences a before and an after exists in time, because the essence of time is seen in the chronological progress from before to after. However, God is eternal and outside time (John 17:5 ; 2 Tim. 1:9). Therefore, there cannot be in God a series of before’s and after’s. But, if God cannot be in a series of before’s and after’s, then God cannot change, because change necessarily involves before and after.

Second, anything that changes must change for better or for worse, for a change that makes no difference is not a change. Either something that is needed is gained that was previously absent, which is a change for the better, or something that is needed is lost that was previously possessed, which is a change for the worse. But, if God is perfect He does not need anything, therefore He cannot change for the better, and if God were to lose something He would not be perfect, therefore He cannot change for the worse. Therefore, God cannot change.

Third, if anyone were to change his mind, it must be because new information has come to light that was not previously known, or the circumstances have changed that require a different kind of attitude or action. Now, if God changed His mind, it cannot be because He has learned some bit of information that He did not previously know, or God is omniscient—He knows all (Ps. 147:5). Therefore, it must be because the circumstances have changed that require a different attitude or action. But, if the circumstances have changed, it is not necessarily the case that God has changed His mind. It may simply be the case that, since the circumstances have changed, God’s relationship to the new circumstances are different because they have changed, not God.

When Israel was at the foot of the mountain engaged in idol worship, God told Moses that His anger was burning against them and He was prepared to destroy them in judgment. However, when Moses interceded for them, the circumstances were changed. God’s attitude toward sin is always anger, and His attitude toward those who call to Him is always an attitude of mercy. Before Moses prayed for Israel, they were under God’s judgment. By Moses’ intercession for the people of Israel, he brought them under God’s mercy. God did not change. Rather, the circumstances changed. The language used in this passage is called anthropomorphic, or man-centered, language. It is similar to someone moving from one place to another and saying, “Now the house is on my right,” “Now the house is on my left.” Neither of these statements is meant to imply that the house has moved. Rather, it is language from a human perspective to describe that I have changed my position in relation to the house. When Moses said that God relented, it was a figurative way of describing that Moses’ intercession successfully changed the relationship of the people to God. He brought the nation under the mercy of God’s grace, and out from under the judgment of God. God does not change, neither His mind, His will, nor His nature (Geisler & Howe 1992:85-86).

Conclusion

God can never change and whenever he reveals that he has ‘repented’ of doing something, he is using language of the people (anthropomorphic lingo) to explain his actions. The eternal God stands outside of time. He has all knowledge of what has happened to humanity and what will happen from his eternal perspective.

Open theism has become a heretical attempt to explain God’s omniscience, but from a distinctly, sinful, human perspective. Matt Slick’s assessment is penetrating. Openness theology is

a dangerous teaching that undermines the sovereignty, majesty, infinitude, knowledge, existence, and glory of God and exalts the nature and condition of man’s own free will. Though the open theists will undoubtedly say it does no such thing, it goes without saying that the God of Open Theism is not as knowledgeable or as ever-present as the God of orthodoxy (Slick 2014).

For another brief overview, see my article: What is open theism and what are the dangers?

Works consulted

Evans, G R 2005. A brief history of heresy. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing.

Geisler, N & Howe, T 1992. When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Books. The book is available online HERE.

Slick, M 2014. What is open theism? (online) CARM (Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry). Available at: http://carm.org/what-is-open-theism (Accessed 14 August 2014).

Notes:


[1] Charis #12, UK Christian Web, ‘Open theism might make sense’, available at: http://www.christian-forum.co.uk/index.php?topic=12533.0 (Accessed 14 August 2014).

[2] Ibid., OzSpen #6.

[3] ‘What is open theism?’ Available at: http://godisopen.com/what-is-open-theism/ (Accessed 14 August 2014).

 

Copyright © 2014 Spencer D. Gear. This document last updated at Date: 19 November 2015.