Monday, December 24, 2018

The Omniscience Paradox (Journal Entry Dec 2018)

Bear with me - I'm going to write down all my questions BEFORE I google and try and find the answer, as I think my current lack of an answer helps me write the questions better.

I've been struggling with my faith a bit lately - asking more difficult questions.  At least they are more difficult for me.  I only have one year of bible college and I've never taken a hard-core theology or philosophy course in my life, so keep that in mind and humour me.  Here's an example of one of the 'questions' I struggle with.  I call it the 'Omniscience Paradox.'  I'll need to frame it with a bit of a story to help you understand where I'm coming from....

My daughter is spending this Christmas break with her fiance in Cincinnati, OH.  She had a bit of a cold before she left, so we were a bit concerned as we had to get up at 5am for her first flight and she'd be 'on the road' for about 12 hours.  Originally she was going to stay with friends, but a couple of days ago they discovered that the room she was going to stay in was infested with bedbugs, so that wasn't an option.  Christmas holidays being what they are (family time, etc.) her Mom and I felt most comfortable renting her a self contained Airbnb apartment for her time there.  This put us out a fair bit of cash, but as any parent knows, you can't put a price on things like your daughter's safety and well-being.

Imagine then our disappointment when after travelling for 12 hours, our daughter gets to the
Window condensation after shampooing carpets and furniture.
apartment to discover the landlord has just shampooed the floor and furniture that morning (less than 12 hours before, and the carpet and furniture are still damp and there's heavy condensation on the windows.  Sure, its nice that they cleaned everything so thoroughly, but since she has a cold, we're concerned about her well-being.

As a parent, I'm tempted to send a message to the landlord and say something like: "What were you guys thinking?!  She comes to this after 12 hours of travelling and what? Is she supposed to rent a room for the first night or two while everything dries out?  If she catches pneumonia, this won't be the last you'll hear of me!"  My ultimate problem in this scenario?  I'm not in control and I don't know what is going to happen.  The future is unknown to me.  My daughter's well-being is at stake.  I'm up at 3am writing this because I was concerned thinking about her and realized I need to trust God in this situation.  I have to exercising faith and hope that everything is in His hands, praying that His kingdom will come and His will will be done in and through this situation.

Here's where the 'omniscience paradox' comes in.

As Christians we believe that God is omniscient (all-knowing), and omnipotent (all-powerful). I guess my question, in a nutshell is this:  Is ALL of God omniscient and omnipotent, or does He withhold a part of Himself from being omniscient and omnipotent?  Here's where that question comes from....

If I was God and omniscient and omnipotent and my daughter was in this situation, I wouldn't be worried or concerned for a couple of reasons:  I'd know exactly what the future holds, and frankly it wouldn't be an issue because if there was a problem I'd just fix it because I'm all powerful.

The 'omniscience paradox' in my mind - Does God really know what 'faith' and 'hope' are if He's omniscient?  If He's omniscient and omnipotent, why does he need faith or hope?  Everything is already known and available to Him.  To me, that's a paradox.  One cannot be omniscient AND know (experientially) what faith or hope is at the same time.... can they?

* * * * *

Before I google and see what other people have to say about this (as I'm sure someone else has thought about it before), I have a couple of thoughts on an answer....
  1. Originally I considered that perhaps Jesus was the 'part of God' where God allows Himself to be not fully omniscient or omnipotent, so that he could say he's 'acquainted with our griefs and sorrows.'  I can't quite grasp how He can fully understand how we feel when He already knows the outcome to everything.  The Bible says a couple of interesting things that seem to point in different directions here:  Col. 2:10 "For in Christ lives all the fullness of God in bodily form", and then what Jesus said himself in Matt. 24:36, Jesus talking, said "But that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels, nor the Son, but only the Father."  So... perhaps Jesus is the part of the Trinity that isn't fully omniscient?  
  2. I wonder if one of the reasons God wanted to create us (as humans) was so He could experience faith and hope.  Because He's given us free will, He has to 'hope' that we'll all return to Him in the end, and have faith in us believers that we'll do His work until then....?

Boarding a jet plane on a sunny day
Having said all of that, ultimately the theology and philosophy are secondary to me.  In my mind, experience trumps both of those.  My daughter had an experience yesterday while travelling that makes it all worthwhile....

She was very nervous about travelling because she gets bad vertigo and on the last trip to Cincinnati there was a fair bit of turbulence.  She was a bit 'undone' the night before the flight - concerned about flying, the connection (it wasn't a direct flight), not feeling 100%, etc.  So we all prayed together about the trip.  As it turned out, she really enjoyed the trip, talking with people, and there was no turbulence.  On the second flight she got a whole row of seats to herself and other than feeling tired, she felt quite well once the trip was complete.  We all saw this as God's answer to prayer.

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