The Lord looks down from heaven, He sees all the sons of men; from where he sits enthroned he looks forth on all the inhabitants of the earth, he who fashions the hearts of them all, and observes all their deeds. (Psalm 33:13-15)
One of the main attributes of God is His omniscience. Omniscience basically means that God knows everything; He’s “all-knowing.” But what does it mean to know everything? As human beings, we know what it’s like to be sinners. Would God know something like that as well? Let’s take a closer look at what omniscience means.
Omniscience means that God knows and believes all true propositions. He does not believe any false ones. A proposition is a statement that has truth value to it, which means it can either be true or false. God cannot be said to know false propositions. For example:
- The earth is flat.
- That is a married bachelor.
The first proposition is obviously false. God wouldn’t know this because there is no truth to it. He would, however, recognize its falsity, whereas we can fail to know its falsity. The second one is false because it is incoherent. God wouldn’t “know” this proposition, but just like the first one, He would recognize its falsity.
The traditional view of God affirms that He exhaustively knows the future as well. The prophet Isaiah states:
I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, “My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.” (Isaiah 46:9-10)
This means that God would know the truth value of future tensed propositions like:
- Patrick will run 25 miles tomorrow.
- Colleen will be married in 2013.
God, of course, won’t know (1) to be true since it will not happen (at least I highly doubt it!), but He will know (2) to be true, because future tensed propositions also have truth-value.
There is some knowledge out there, however, that seems strange to apply to God. Does God know what it’s like to be a sinner? Does God know that He is Kyle Hendricks? Does God know what it’s like to have a headache?
This is where we make a distinction between propositional knowledge and non-propositional knowledge. Whereas propositional knowledge has truth value, non-propositional knowledge, like experience, does not. I know what it’s like to be a sinner experientially because I am one, but God does not know something like that experiencially. He does know the propositions “Kyle knows what it feels like to be a sinner” or “God is not a sinner”, but God doesn’t know it in an experiential way. God also wouldn’t know that He is Kyle Hendricks, because obviously He isn’t Kyle Hendricks!
This isn’t placing limits on God’s omniscience in any way. It is due to God’s perfection that He doesn’t have all non-propositional knowledge. If God knew that He was God and knew that He was Kyle Hendricks, He’d be crazy. If He knew sin experientially, then God wouldn’t be morally perfect, and then He wouldn’t be worthy of worship.
So, God, being omniscient, knows all true propositions and also has the appropriate non-propositional knowledge that a perfect being would have.
But this can make God sound very unsympathetic. How can God truly understand us if He’s never experienced our suffering? The answer is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came down in the flesh and suffered the very same things we suffer. While He never sinned, He experienced temptation, pain, loneliness, and even death, to save us and show God’s love towards all of mankind.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)