We often describe God in infinite terms. We call Him all-seeing, all-powerful, and ever-present.
In this writing, we examine the question “Is God omniscient (all-knowing)? Is it even possible for anyone—even God—to know everything?
The Bible describes God as omniscient. His infinite knowledge is closely related to His infinite power, presence, and love.
In its simplest definition, omniscient means “all-knowing,” but since knowledge itself is nuanced and layered, let’s look to the dictionary for a more comprehensive definition:
Having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things. – dictionary.com
From this definition, we see that omniscience involves more than just containing a complete data set. It also involves perception (sensing all things), awareness (the capacity to access and retrieve all stored knowledge), and understanding (the application of all information).
Taken together, these components provide us with a much fuller picture of God’s omniscience as it is described in the Bible.
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”Romans 11:33-34
This doxological hymn from Romans 11 celebrates the vast mind of God. As in the dictionary definition above, Paul identifies distinct aspects of God’s infinite mind:
- Knowledge: Facts and information
- Wisdom: Application of knowledge
- Judgment: Perceptions and opinions
- Paths: Instructions
Intuitively, we have an easy time accepting that God knows all facts and information since His mind is infinite. We might even defer to His wisdom and instruction, trusting that they are informed by His perfect knowledge.
Where most of us get hung up, though, is on God’s perfect judgment. When we consider the evil and suffering in the world, we might wonder if God sees everything. Other times, we might seek to justify our own behaviors or criticize God’s pronouncement of sin if it differs from our own opinions. But even in these matters, we must defer to the one whose knowledge is perfect and acknowledge that ours is not.
When Job had endured terrible suffering and was made to defend himself to his friends, he grew increasingly perplexed over God’s actions. When God broke His silence and addressed Job, He reminded Job of the difference between our limited human knowledge and His omniscient divine mind:
“Listen to this, Job;
stop and consider God’s wonders.
Do you know how God controls the clouds
and makes his lightning flash?
Do you know how the clouds hang poised,
those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge?Job 37:14-16
Like Job, we cannot begin to comprehend the vast mind of God or fully realize His plans. There is always something that we don’t know, can’t see, or do not understand.
Can God Learn New Things?
There is one other curious passage that prompts us to wonder if God learns new things? So we ask, if God has to gain knowledge in some situations, is God omniscient after all?
Let’s examine the troublesome passage more closely:
When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.”Genesis 22:9-12
If you’ve read our previous article about whether God can choose not to know something, then you know that multiple Hebrew words have been translated as “know” and they don’t all mean the same thing.
The word used here is the Hebrew Yawdah, which means “to know (or learn) by experience.” This is the same word that we see in the King James Version that describes sexual intimacy (Adam knew his wife…, etc.).
So there is no challenge to God’s complete omniscience in this passage. God (factually) knew Abraham’s faith from the beginning. But this event marks the point where God experienced Abraham’s faith through demonstrated action.
God’s Infinite Character
Abraham’s story shows us how God meets us where we are and engages with us within time and space. Yet, God is not limited to our temporal confines. So we cannot separate God’s omniscience from the rest of His infinite character. Each of the facets of God’s infinite mind relates to other aspects of His nature.
Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.Isaiah 40:28
As Creator, God is completely powerful over all things. If God’s knowledge were incomplete, then He would not be able to exercise complete creative power. Likewise, if His power were limited, God would not be able to apply all knowledge. So His omniscience and His omnipotence go hand-in-hand.
The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.Proverbs 15:3
God sees all that happens. There is no place where any of us can go to keep an action, a thought, or a sentiment hidden from God. God’s continued omniscience is interrelated with His omnipresence.
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.Hebrews 4:13
Because God sees everything and knows everything, God is the judge of all things. There is no fooling God, and no “reasonable doubt,” because God’s knowledge and reason are complete.
Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.Matthew 6:8
On the surface, the idea of an omniscient God whose judgment is perfect might seem scary. So we do well to remember that God’s love is also complete and perfect. He is already fully aware of our needs (more aware than we are), and fully prepared to meet them.
Jesus also reminds us that God’s care for His creation not only affirms His omniscience but also proves His love for us:
Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered.Matthew 10:29-30
God knows our thoughts and our actions. He also knows our construction at the microscopic level.
And this is great news!
God’s omniscience is why we can go before Him in confidence. He has perfect knowledge and complete power to go with His infinite love. We can be sure that God not only wants to meet our needs but that He understands them and has the power to act on them.