How Much Does God Know and Why Does It Matter?
Last Sunday a youth group from Glory Baptist Church, a sister church of ours in Aitkin, MN, worshiped with us on their way to a mission’s trip. As they left church the youth pastor’s wife gave me a prayer request slip for three of their teens. It turns out that they come from homes ravaged by one of the very issues mentioned in the Sunday message. The youth pastor and his wife seemed appreciative that this had been addressed from the pulpit. I am sure they were hoping it would reinforce their efforts to show these teens that God offers them a better life free from the destruction of sin.
As I reflected on all of this, I thought how interesting that the very Sunday this youth group would be in our church this issue would be dealt with from the pulpit. How interesting that three teens living the reality of this at home would travel across three states and hear that God offers them the hope of freedom from the very thing they have suffered under their whole lives. Accidental? I think not. I think God arranged it so their trip would coincide with the preaching schedule so these kids would hear the very message that would offer them direction.
Incidents like this confirm to me that God exhaustively knows the future including what humans will do before they’ve even decided to do it. That’s why I think the teaching of Open Theism is a dangerous error that undermines our trust in God’s sufficiency. Open Theism is the teaching that because our future human decisions have not occurred yet they do not exist. Therefore they cannot be known. Since even God cannot know what does not exist (so it goes), part of the future is open and humans have the freedom to determine the future, even a future that surprises God. Proponents of this view argue that this let’s God off the hook for allowing certain tragedies to occur. If God knew, for example, that Hitler would murder six million Jews and many multitudes more, why did God simply not create Hitler or at least interfere with his path to power after he was born. One pastor I know said that God didn’t know that 9-11 was going to happen. This seems to make God look more compassionate and we have an answer to give people for all the suffering in the world. God just doesn’t know what free people will do. He’s as surprised as we are. The problem is that it diminishes God and a diminished God is less deserving of our wonder and our trust.
Where does the Bible fall on this? Well, consider one passage—Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial inMark 14:30. It is impossible to read this passage and not conclude that Jesus knew in advance exactly what Peter was going to do. Jesus knew what Peter would do in the future—deny me. Jesus knew how many times Peter would do it—three times. Jesus knew when it would occur—before the rooster crows twice. Such precise detail would be impossible to predict if Jesus did not know all the possible decisions Peter could have made to change the outcome. Only because Jesus exhaustively knew the future could He make this prediction.
We serve a big God Who knows and can orchestrate the tiniest details. Because He knows the beginning from the end He can work all things together, even tragedies, for our ultimate good. Because nothing surprises Him, He can accomplish all His good purposes for us. Such a God is worthy of our worship and trust.
Your friend, Pastor Brian (:-})