God's Omniscience

Dave Farcas

Traditionally, when people speak of God's omniscience. It's in the context of a theistic concept of an all powerful, super cosmic intelligence type of deity. But I think God's self-disclosure in Jesus is quite unlike that. God doesn't know all things in the sense of having a cosmic vantagepoint that allows him to see all places and times. Rather, he "knows" all things because He empathetically experiences everything in the creation - even the death of a sparrow.

I believe it's not a matter of whether or not God wills or permits evil and suffering in the world. God does not cause suffering or even allow it. What the self-revelation of God in Jesus Christ shows, is that God acts to overcome all suffering, at great cost to Godself. There is a verse in Matthew that blew me away when I read an English translation faithful to the original Greek: Jesus said, "Are not two sparrows selling for a penny? And not one of them will be falling (dying) on the earth without your Father." (CLT.Matt.10:29-30). Most English translation add the word will: "And not one them will fall to the ground without your Father's will." (RSV). By adding the word will an entirely different meaning is given to what Jesus is saying. This meaning is more in line with a theistic concept of God who is all-powerful and all knowing: a God who micro manages everything from a distance with almighty power. This is a concept of God that is more akin to the Islamic Allah: the omnipotent, cosmic potentate, who fatalistically predetermines everything - "It is written." In such a universe there is no freedom, because there is no love - only the unrelenting determinism of almighty power.

On the other hand, the translation that is faithful to the Greek that simply says "....without your father" conveys an entirely different understanding of God. God does not micro manage events and lives. God is not the distant, cosmic potentate pulling the strings. To the contrary, God literally experiences the death of the sparrow; God suffers its death empathetically. I would like to quote Jacques Ellul's comments on this, "In other words, death comes according to natural laws, but God lets nothing in his creation die without being there, without being the comfort and strength and hope and support of that which dies. At issue is the presence of God, not his will."

Jesus' concept of God as the empathetic, compassionate Abba is fundamentally different from a theistic, transcendent, wholly other, almighty deity; or from pantheism or panentheism, where God is thought to be in everything or everything is in God. For Jesus God doesn't know all things, God feels all things; God is not almighty power, God is self-emptying love; God does not remotely manipulate lives and events, rather God overcomes all that oppresses and threatens the creation at great cost to Godself. God is not self-existent, but has freely chosen coexistence with the Other (the creation). God's life is inextricably intertwined with the creation. God takes the pain, suffering, loss and death experienced by everything in the universe and in exchange pours out His life to sustain and transform the universe into a radically new reality. A reality where death is no more and everyone and everything exists in a mutually, empathetic, relationship with everything else.