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I've often heard of the concept of Omniscience which is based on scripture that states God knows all things.

Isaiah 46:10 10 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,’

1 John 3:20 in whatever our heart condemns us; for God is greater than our heart and knows all things.

Psalm 139:4 Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all.

Does this quality of God include knowledge of everything that does not yet exist nor has yet occurred on the earth? More specifically:

Does God already know every action and decision every human will choose to make in the future? How does this correlate with the objective truth that He has included free-will in the design of His creation? Please provide scriptural support.

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    Omniscience is normally taken as meaning that God's knowledge has no limits - everything that can be known is known by God. This includes the future, as God is outside of time (outside the universe entirely!) The only things that God doesn't know are things that can't be known, things like what a 4 sided triangle would look like. How that is reconciled with humans having free will is complicated, and the various denominations have various answers.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 10, 2022 at 22:49
  • I've answered, but down voted as the scope of the question is very broad, and will get different answers from different groups - from reading the comments it also seems like the aim of the question is to pursue a different line of thought entirely.? Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 3:09
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 3:32
  • Scope the question to denominations believing in predestination and you will get a different answer from those who do not. Ask 2 questions and get both pov
    – 007
    Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 17:44
  • @user 14 What does predestination mean? It means something different to even those who use the concept as a word. This question seeks to help clarify the ambiguity of that idea. Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 17:52

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Does God already know every action and decision every human will choose to make in the future? How does this correlate with the objective truth that He has included free-will in the design of His creation? Please provide scriptural support.

Yes, the Bible helps us to understand that God knows every action and decision each of us will make in the future. More than this, God knows even our thoughts ahead of time.

Personal Bible-based Example

And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24, KJV)

This promise in Isaiah was once literally fulfilled in my own experience in a miraculous way. I prayed for guidance on a particular day, and asked God for a particular set of materials I would need if He wanted me to go forward with my desired project. I needed His approval because I was not sure if my desire was merely prompted by my own self-interests or pride that I could do such a great work, and because, if God actually was putting this idea into my heart, the project would require His wisdom. Due to my schedule, I prayed specifically that the materials would come within three weeks from that date; and I promised to tell no one of my request--it was up to God to answer. A week later, a person I had never met, but whom I had emailed a few times, emailed me with the requested materials--and even exceeded what I had asked. When I wrote back to him saying his email had been an answer to prayer, he then wrote again, telling me that several weeks earlier he had felt strongly impressed that he needed to drop everything else and prepare those materials for me, because I needed them.

And here's the interesting part. Several weeks earlier, when God told him I needed those materials, I had not even been thinking of praying for them.

Did God know I would pray that prayer? Evidently, He did. He knew my thoughts before I did.

King Solomon

The Bible says God understands our hearts, thoughts and imaginations.

And thou, Solomon my son, know thou the God of thy father, and serve him with a perfect heart and with a willing mind: for the LORD searcheth all hearts, and understandeth all the imaginations of the thoughts: if thou seek him, he will be found of thee; but if thou forsake him, he will cast thee off for ever. (1 Chronicles 28:9, KJV)

The LORD knoweth the thoughts of man, that they are vanity. (Psalm 94:11, KJV)

Mary

A prophecy given to Mary, mother of Jesus, showed an indication of her future heart anguish.

(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. (Luke 2:35, KJV)

King Cyrus

But one of the greatest evidences, in my opinion, is found in the Old Testament story of Cyrus.

The prophet Isaiah lived during the time of King Hezekiah--the same who was granted 15 extra years of life. Following Hezekiah, his wicked son Manasseh reigned for 55 years--the longest reigning monarch in Judah's history, and that of Israel, too. Several kings came afterward, until the time of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon who took them into captivity, ending the independence of Judah (and Israel's independence had already been lost well before this).

Cyrus was not born until sometime during the seventy-year period of Babylonian captivity. Isaiah's prophecy, therefore, preceded Cyrus' birth by more than a full generation.

That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid. (Isaiah 44:28, KJV)

In this prophecy, God even gives us Cyrus' name. But even his parents were not yet born! The only way for God to have known Cyrus' name so far in advance, was for God to have known the very thoughts of his parents and/or guardians. (Cyrus' story is actually fascinating, as his parents sent him away as a boy to be killed, and he was adopted by a poor peasant when the soldiers could not bring themselves to such a barbarity as to kill the innocent babe. The legend lives online via multiple sources.)

But, as if that were not enough, God predicted more about Cyrus, and used the story to prove God's own foreknowledge!

Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut; (Isaiah 45:1, KJV)

I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron: (Isaiah 45:2, KJV)

And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel. (Isaiah 45:3, KJV)

For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me. (Isaiah 45:4, KJV)

I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: (Isaiah 45:5, KJV)

That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:6, KJV)

What was that about the "gates shall not be shut"? The river that passed under the wall and through the city of Babylon had been cleverly designed with gates to prevent even an under-water entrance on the part of enemies. The city was well built to sustain virtually any siege, with a continual water supply and with its famous hanging gardens and internal agriculture within the city walls. But Cyrus had the bright idea of diverting the river from its course, and, managing to do so temporarily, marched his soldiers under the wall through the riverbed, undetected in the dead of night while the Babylonians were in drunken revelry, thinking themselves secure. And just as God had foretold, those river gates had not been shut.

How could God have known that Cyrus would have such a bright idea? This would only be possible if God knew Cyrus' future thoughts.

Peter

God also knew, better than Peter, that Peter would deny his master thrice.

Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. (Matthew 26:34, KJV)

Peter didn't even believe it.

Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples. (Matthew 26:35, KJV)

As the Bible says...

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9, KJV)

Final Thoughts

Though we do not know our own hearts, God does--even clear into the future. Both the Word of God and personal experience has proven to me that God knows us just as He says He does. And yet, though He knows what we will do, He does not cause us to do it. He has given us a sacred right--the freedom of choice, which is why He asks us to choose Him.

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  • "Did God know I would pray that prayer? Evidently, He did. He knew my thoughts before I did."......Perhaps that is but one Rational explanation. Evidently implies this. Let me share another rational explanation revealed to me... He did know you would pray that prayer because He is sharing His Spirit(consciousness) with you at THAT moment He has decided to tell you, in HIS way, what to do. And He knows you will do it and hear Him because you are child of Him and we hear Him through His son.... It's a concept from the Spirit I'm trying to better explain with words. Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 13:12
  • This shows that God knows many things about the future but it doesn't prove that at any instant he does know every little detail. This answer says "was granted 15 extra years of life". Extra with respect to what? If God already knew every detail, he would already know about this, so there wasn't any "extra". — "… Thus saith the LORD … thou shalt die, and not live. … Then Hezekiah … prayed unto the LORD, … I have seen thy tears: behold, I will add unto thy days fifteen years." This shows that God's future knowledge changed. God knows possible futures (as well as some certain ones). Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 13:17
  • @RayButterworth The Hebrew for "thou shalt die" which you have quoted is a verbal qal participle, which makes it more like -ing participles in English. Could it perhaps be translated as "you are dying"? I'm not sure, as I've only completed two courses in Hebrew (took the first one twice, for emphasis). Hebrew is complex. In any case, if God had intended to mean that Hezekiah would die at that time, then God clearly misspoke (i.e. "lied"). As God does not and cannot lie, we know that the fault must be with our interpretation. I suggest we better be careful of putting words in His mouth.
    – Biblasia
    Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 13:31
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    @ReadLessPrayMore and Biblasia I would add Psalm 139:4-5,16 for additional support. The trick is how to balance it with free will, hence Boethius's solution. Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 13:52
  • @GratefulDisciple NLT is much different than the KJV, NASB, ESV, etc. Commented Jul 3, 2023 at 0:48
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To the first part of your question: Yes. You will of course encounter groups that disagree, but the majority of Christians would affirm that God knows all things, including future actions, thoughts and decisions of all humans. I personally like to define omniscience as: God knows everything it is logically possible to know. There is no logical impossibility to knowing future decisions.

To the second part of your question, how does this work with free will: simple, knowledge does not preclude free will. Our decisions are logically prior to God's knowledge of them; that is to say, we do not do things because God knows we will do them. Rather, God knows what decisions we will make because we will make them. It's a kind of backwards causation; my decision to buy a sandwich for breakfast this morning is what informed God's knowledge from eternity past of what I would do for breakfast this morning.

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  • Your decision to buy a sandwich was your free will, God already knew what you would choose, but you really did have free will at the time of the decision, because unlike God you didn't know that it was certain that you'd make that choice. ¶ The Bible records several instances when God regrets a decision he has made. His knowing the future means that he made those decisions while already aware that they would be wrong. That sounds like it is God himself that doesn't have free will, having to make decisions that he already knows he will regret. Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 4:06
  • I think God has a reason for every decision He makes, and if a verse seems to indicate He regrets a choice it is not what we usually mean by the phrase. He made the decisions knowing that the outcome might not be in accordance with His perfect will, but it would still be perfectly in accordance with His antecedent will, or what we call His plan Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 8:56
  • Thanks Isaac, I have added a bounty to this question if you'd like to improve it. Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 1:21
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Yes I look at it like the weather reporter person we see on the Tv, they tell us when it will rain and when is not but they don’t make it to rain or stop the rain. God knows what we will do but He doesn’t make us do. He doesn’t make us do so that he doesn’t violate the self will He himself gave us (self will He gave us so that we can love him willingly, if there is no a will to love we will be like a robot that He made to comply) as long us we understand why He is faithful to Himself, the knowledge He has about the very things He alone created can be accepted easily. If there is anything that He doesn’t know and/or if there is someone or something that knows everything,our God will cease to be God. Omniscient shall forever be our God.

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    – Community Bot
    Commented Oct 11, 2022 at 12:43
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    As the OP asked for scriptures in answers, the addition of ones appropriate to your points would really enhance your answer. The OP also asks for correlating free will with God knowing everything, even things that do not yet exist or that have not yet happened. Can you add some scriptural points about that? Hope so!
    – Anne
    Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 15:10
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The first part is answered in the Biblical quotes in the original question, so I'll just address free will and foreknowledge.

This question occurred to at least one who'd never heard of Abraham's omniscient God: Aristotle:

For any future act you will perform, if some being infallibly believed in the past that the act would occur, there is nothing you can do now about the fact that he believed what he believed since nobody has any control over past events; nor can you make him mistaken in his belief, given that he is infallible. Therefore, there is nothing you can do now about the fact that he believed in a way that cannot be mistaken that you would do what you will do. But if so, you cannot do otherwise than what he believed you would do. And if you cannot do otherwise, you will not perform the act freely.

But it's worse than that, really. Suppose no one has any idea whether you'll (say) wear a blue shirt tomorrow. Still, either it's true that you will wear a blue shirt, in which case you have no choice -- you will wear a blue shirt. Or else it's true that you won't, in which case you have no choice: you just won't. So either way you have no choice. No foreknowledge needed -- we just need statements about the future to be either true or false!

The problem is the assumption that if something about your future choice is true -- or that somebody knows that it's true -- this somehow makes it not be your choice any more. Stated that way, it seems absurd. At the very least, this assumption isn't consistent with (say) Roman Catholic doctrine, which explicitly states that God's foreknowledge includes our free choices rather than eliminating them:

To God, all moments of time are present in their immediacy. When therefore he establishes his eternal plan of "predestination", he includes in it each person's free response to his grace.

(Catechism, paragraph 600).

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  • Further: Roman Catholic writer G. K. Chesterton suggests that when two points of view both are consistent with the evidence (like free will v. determinism), we should take the one that allows us to thank someone for passing the mustard (Chesterton, Orthodoxy).
    – Maverick
    Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 19:27
  • Indeed; as I mention in my answer, the truth value of statements about the future is determined by what we choose in the future, not vice-versa Commented Oct 12, 2022 at 20:40
  • Thank you Maverick. Can you cite the scripture which has brought you to this understanding? I think this would greatly strengthen this answer. Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 1:20
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Aside from the Scriptures listed in the OP which, if left without the addition of qualifiers, establish God's perfect and complete foreknowledge quite nicely, i.e., "declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done", there is an argument to be made from the unfolding of redemptive history.

If God did not know that Adam would freely choose to disobey then the sending of His Son was a reactionary and not a primary act, a plan B if you will. This seems to conflict with the Lamb having been slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8) and we having been chosen "in Him" before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).

The Scripture says that God sent His Son at a specific and chosen point in time:

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, - Galatians 4:4

And He accomplished this sending through the long process of calling a single man (Abram) who then begat a son who begat two more sons. One of those sons begat 12 sons and a nation was brought into being. This nation was enslaved, rescued, lost in a wilderness, and given a land. They established a throne, underwent division and both conquered and were conquered in a long, drawn-out cycle of being judged until, finally some 2000 years after the call of Abram, Jesus was born.

It would be impossible to lay out all of the Scriptures detailing the decisions and choices made by all of the characters listed above. That is to say nothing of the decisions and choices made by all of the other characters, such as Pharaoh, Abimelech, Cyrus, and so many of the Caesars, which had direct and specific consequence and influence upon their decisions, circumstances, and choices.

I believe that there are only four options, only one of which is supportable by both the meta narrative and the specifics of Scripture:

  1. There is no such thing as human choice. We may feel as though we are choosing but in actuality everything is pre-programmed and directly controlled by the deity and, in this way, redemptive history has unfolded just as God determined from the beginning.

  2. God has been continuously altering and tweaking His redemptive plan from the very beginning in response to at least every single human choice which affected the birth and history of Israel, in order to bring about not only the birth of the Christ at "just the right time" but also His death and burial. He has never actually known when or how the advent of His Son would occur because He has never known what anyone's choice would be in advance; He was just sort of determined to "make it happen".

  3. God has "peaked" into the future and chosen to foresee certain crucial items in order to develop and institute His redemptive plan but has chosen not to foresee everything in order to protect human choice. How God foreknows what He needs to foreknow and what He can safely choose to remain ignorant of without actually foreknowing everything to begin with is a mystery.

  4. In order to carry His redemptive plan out amidst the chaos of human decision-making in a fallen world, given how each choice can affect each tangential choice, God actually has to have foreknown literally everything. P.S. He loves us anyway.

I see option 4 as appropriately magnifying Almighty God in a manner worthy of His Name and in accordance with Scripture.

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The answer belongs more to theology than biblical verses. For every scripture affirming divine omniscience one can find others that affirm God does not truly know the future. For example:

  • Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.” (Genesis 18:20–21)
  • Moses besought the Lord his God, and said, “O Lord, why does thy wrath burn hot against thy people, whom thou hast brought forth out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? ...Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, thy servants, to whom thou didst swear by thine own self, and didst say to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.’” And the Lord repented of the evil which he thought to do to his people. (Ex. 32:12-14)
  • If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will repent of the evil that I intended to do to it. (Jeremiah 18:7-9)

The essential dilemma in this question boils down to free will vs. divine omnipotence. If God is truly omniscient and omnipotent then free will for humans is a paradox. Philosophers and theologians have debated this for millennia. Since there are biblical verses that support both positions, the answer must be that when scripture says, God "knows all things", this does not NECESARILY include every action and decision every human will choose to make in the future. The issue is resolved through theology not the study of the bible per se. My personal answer is that God does not know every action or decision that we will make. Humans, who are created in God's image, like surprises; and so does God.

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  • fair enough... I'll change it Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 13:52
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    I would humbly suggest that your understanding is colored by the English translation which does not carry the same meaning as the original Hebrew. For example, in Gen. 18:21, the word "see" is from a Heb. word in its cohortative form. This form occurs in first-person usage in place of a jussive (a command), so it is similar to commanding oneself. When God speaks in this manner, it is to emphasize a directed or concerted action, and in this verse it is strengthened by the addition of the particle נָא (not translated here). The verb itself can also mean "give attention to" or "look after."
    – Biblasia
    Commented Oct 21, 2022 at 13:53
  • The paradox is the result of a modal error. iep.utm.edu/foreknow Commented Oct 25, 2022 at 12:38
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God's Omnipotence allows Him to limit His own Omniscience.

Our Heavenly Father is thee supreme artist/designer/engineer. In His wisdom of all things that exist, He chose to not know things that do not exist. If He were to know every last detail of every choice His creation makes, there would be little pleasure for Him. Why did He create? When one begins to know their Father as a child does, many details are revealed.

God created an amazing system that is mostly automated. He can change/alter the automated sequence by His Spirit. He has righted the ship many times; Noah, Moses, and finally by sending His son, Jesus, as the final fix in this age.

Matt 21

35 And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. 36 Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. 37 Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’

God is the beginning and the end.

Rev 1:8

"I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty."

What is left between is mostly up to free will. God knows what He will do and when. He knows exactly when He will till His garden and bring on the end of this age.

Its plain to see that mankind did not live up to God's original intent. Noah of course, but also Moses and Abraham both changed His mind by pleading for the mercy of their people.

We see here that YHWH acts based on the free will choices of His creatures.

Jer 18

5 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 6 O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. 7 At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; 8 If that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. 9 And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; 10 If it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them.

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