March 30, 2003 / Volume 3, Issue 13
THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Does God know and see everything? Some Bible texts say yes (Psalm 44:21; 139:7-8; Proverbs 15:3, etc.), other Bible texts say no (Genesis 3:8; 18:20-21; 22:12; Numbers 22:9, etc.). Is there a contradiction?
One of the intrinsic characteristics of God is omniscience (all knowing). Since He is the creator of all things, such should not be a surprise to us. But, as the questioner indicates, there are some Bible texts which suggest that the Lord does not know everything or see everything. Just a couple of points which will help us to understand texts such as Genesis 3:8; 22:12, etc.
Genesis 3:8 speaks of Adam and Eve hiding themselves from the Lord's presence. That statement in no way reflects upon the ability of God to know all and see all. It was man vainly attempting to flee the presence of God (see Psalm 139:7-8). However, as we continue through Genesis 3 (v 9-11), we see the Lord asking questions, like "Where are you?", "Who told you that you were naked?", and "Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you that you should not eat?" These questions are not the Lord seeking to find knowledge that He did not have, but rather God compelling the man to confess to him what he had done. Most, if not all parents, have used this method of securing information (which was already known) from their children when they've done wrong.
Now, in Genesis 22:12, it does appear that God did not know what the outcome of His command to Abraham would be. Would Abraham go ahead with the sacrifice of this son of promise, or would he refuse? If God is an all powerful Creator, is it not possible that He has the ability to limit His own knowledge if He so chooses? Such an action would not nullify His omniscient ability. An attribute of God is that He is the Creator, but He does not cease to be God (or the Creator) simply because He ceases to create. God is able (and has at some times) limited His own knowledge, in order that He might discover the truth about certain things.
There is no contradiction.
This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible