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Answering The Atheist
April 22, 2007 / Volume 7, Issue 16

THE ATHEIST'S COMPLAINT:
Does God know what is in everyone's heart? Some verses say yes (Acts 1:24; Psalm 44:21; 139:2-3), but others say no (Deuteronomy 8:2; 13:3; 2 Chronicles 32:31). Is there a contradiction?

RESPONSE:
Omniscience (all knowing) is among the characteristics attributed to God in the Scriptures. As is revealed in the three texts provided by the questioner, God knows the heart of men (Acts 1:24; Psalm 44:21; 139:2-3). The question must be considered, can God choose not to know something?

God is also attributed as the Creator. To be the Creator, must God perpetually create? It is entirely possible for God to possess an attribute, but to not use it at all times. Though He is the Creator, He is not perpetually creating. That doesn't nullify the fact that He is Creator.

Though God knows the heart of man, there are times when the Scripture reveals that He chose to not know the heart of man. Among these are Genesis 22, when God commanded Abraham to offer his son on a mount. God was not interested in Isaac as a sacrifice, but in Abraham. Seeing the faith of Abraham, the Lord stated, "Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me." (Genesis 22:12).

Deuteronomy 8:2 indicates that God, at least at some points during the wilderness wanderings chose not to know what His people would do, but awaited their response to His will to display their heart to Him.

Deuteronomy 13:3 reveals that God would allow deceivers and dreamers among them, and that in these, their heart would be tested, whether they love the Lord with all their heart and soul.

2 Chronicles 32:31 speaks of God testing Hezekiah's heart, to see what he would do with regard to the princes of Babylon.

We are considering the attributes and exercise of those attributes of a being far greater than ourselves. It may be easy for a man, reading that God knows the heart of man to conclude that God ALWAYS knows the heart of man. And yet, in these other texts, He has revealed that He at times has chosen not to know the heart of man, so that He may learn the nature of our heart.

There is no contradiction.

This article is a response to Skeptic's Annotated Bible