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.
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