Another great quote from Goldingay.

Another great quote from Goldingay. It’s a bit longer than the others but it really got me thinking…

Sometimes God manifests supernatural knowledge, and no doubt God could know everything, including everything about us, whether we are willing for this or not (cf. 1 Chron 28:9; 1 Jn 3:20). But even God’s supernatural knowledge of us comes about through discovery, through “searching out,” rather than because God possesses this knowledge automatically (e.g., Ps 33:15; 139:1-6). Stories about Babel and about Abraham (Gen 11; 18; 22) will concretely show God taking steps to come to know things. They will again show that God has extraordinary knowledge, but will incorporate no declaration that Yhwh is omniscient, and preclude that by the way they portray God acting so as to discover things: “I will go down to see whether they have acted altogether in accordance with the cry that came to me. If not, I will know” (Gen 18:21). “Now I know that you are one who reveres God” (Gen 22:12). To judge from Psalm 139, God could have looked into Abraham’s mind to discover whether he would be willing to sacrifice Isaac, but instead God tests Abraham in order to discover something about him— after which God can say, “Now I know. . . .” Talk of God acting to find something out is anthropomorphism, but like talk of God having a change of mind or loving or speaking, such anthropomorphisms presumably tell us something true about God’s relationship with the world.

On the eve of the exodus God outlines to Moses a course of action if the people do not believe what he says on the basis of his first sign— and his second (Ex 4). Again, God does not seem to have looked into their minds to discover what their reaction will be, or to project forward into the future that is already present to God as the one who covers all time, so as to be able to witness their response as it happens. If some such possibility was open, God chooses not to take it. God’s knowledge of us comes about through having a relationship with us. Perhaps this is because his knowing everything without our ever revealing anything would severely qualify the mutual relationship between human beings and God. As a seminary principal I had access to confidential student files, but I exercised that freedom with some restraint because it changed the nature of the ordinary relationships I had with students. Perhaps God does the same. Perhaps there would be something abusive about looking into our minds all the time, like a parent reading a child’s journal. One would do that only in exceptional circumstances. Instead God lets people reveal who they are. God’s not knowing everything is thus another aspect of the gospel. In dialogue with Greek thinking, Christian tradition let God’s possession of supernatural knowledge turn into God’s possession of all knowledge. It thereby let that override the good news of the correlative evidence in Scripture that God does not always know everything and that God finds things out. Creation would not have been much of an adventure if God had known everything about how it would turn out. One of the angels in Wim Wenders’s film Wings of Desire wants to become a human being partly because he is bored with knowing everything. A life with no surprises is no life.

Goldingay, John. Old Testament Theology Series, Volume 1 : Israel’s Gospel. Downers Grove, IL, USA: InterVarsity Press, 2010. ProQuest ebrary. Web. 12 March 2015.

Copyright © 2010. InterVarsity Press. All rights reserved.


  1. imprint1 · March 13, 2015

    Maybe God chooses to self-limit. I have had this discussion with the Holy Spirit and had trouble getting my mind around it all. God it seems likes to interact with us – sentient beings, we will be like Yeshua when He comes again, in fact scripture tells us we will be Elohim like Yeshua ruling and judging. Of course we will never be as Big or powerful as YHVH God but we will be much more than we are now. God then chooses to treat us in a very special way. Yeshua limited himself when He took on flesh and became man as well as God.

    The Heart and mind and purpose of God YHVH is far larger than we can comprehend.

  2. vivian garner · March 13, 2015

    That is such a great way to view our interactions with God. Now I don’t have to feel guilty about my conversations. I wasn’t wasting God’s time confessing – and negotiating.He wanted to know.

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