Wednesday, 6 April 2011

God's Omniscience

I've just read "Defining Omniscience: a Feminist Perspective", by Daniel Farmer in Faith and Philosophy (Vol. 27 No. 3 July 2010). He draws on Lorraine Code and Jonathan Kvanvig to suggest the inadequacy of the traditional model of omniscience, viz, that God know all true propositions and believes none that are false.

Is propositional knowledge the right paradigm of knowledge, or is that perhaps a Western male philosophical bias?

Psalm 139 says:
You have searched me, LORD, and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, LORD, know it completely.

Farmer suggests that God's omniscience is more fundamentally about people than about propositions. God knows *me*, not just facts about me. Our hope is not in a God who knows every *thing* but in an assurance that when we meet face-to-face "then I will know fully, even as I am fully known" (1 Corinthians 13:12).

I can imagine weaving that into a sermon about Mark 5:21-43 (Luke 8:40-56) -- the healing of Jairus' daughter and the woman with long-term haemorrhaging. Jesus understood that the girl needed privacy, while the woman needed a public display of her cleansing. The traditional philosophical boundaries around "God" are cold, dry and misleading. But to understand, through these acts of Jesus, that God knows each person's needs and cares for each as a beloved individual, radically changes our perception of God and inspires a similar commitment to people over facts in our own motivations.

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