Posts tagged ‘Omniscience’

What makes God, God?

What makes God, God? Traditionally, God’s fundamental attributes have been described as omnipotence – that God has power over all – omniscience – that He knows all – and omnipresence – that He is with all. Certainly, these are all true and critical attributes of God. But as the prophet Micah closes His book, He sees something else foundational to God.

Micah begins with an announcement from God that He will rescue Israel in power. God says to Israel:

“As in the days when you came out of Egypt, I will show them My wonders.” Nations will see and be ashamed, deprived of all their power. They will put their hands over their mouths and their ears will become deaf. They will lick dust like a snake, like creatures that crawl on the ground. They will come trembling out of their dens; they will turn in fear to the Lord our God and will be afraid of you. (Micah 7:15-17)

God’s power will overpower all the powers of the world, Micah says. This is God’s omnipotence at its most expansive. But it’s not just this traditional attribute of God that makes God, God. For Micah continues with a critical question:

Who is a God like You? (Micah 7:18)

What is it, Micah muses, that makes God so unique? What is it that sets Him apart? His answer is as stunning as it is soothing:

Who is a God like You, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of His inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy. You will again have compassion on us; You will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:18-19)

It is God’s mercy – and not only His power, knowledge, or even presence – that makes God, God. What makes God utterly unique is that He does not treat us as our sins deserve. Instead, He hurls our sins away and, by doing so, becomes our hope and stay.

Martin Luther spoke of two types of God’s work – His strange work and His proper work. God’s strange work is His work of judgment in power. It is a work that is meant to reprove and, if not heeded, condemn. But though God does this work, it is strange to Him. It is not His preferred mode of operation. His preferred mode of operation – His proper work – is that of mercy and grace. God’s desire is to redeem and not just to reprove – to commute the sentence of sin instead of condemning people in sin. This is what makes God, God. And for this, we can be thankful. Because it is God’s mercy that allows us to approach Him, to rely on Him, and to find our rest in Him.

In Hebrew, the name Micah means, “Who is like the Lord?” The answer is, of course, “No one.” But because of what the Lord is like, we can like the Lord. We can love the Lord. Because He loves us.

August 1, 2022 at 5:15 am 1 comment

Power, Knowledge, and the C.I.A.

President George W Bush visits CIA Headquarters, March 20, 2001.

Credit: BBC

When news broke this past Tuesday that WikiLeaks had released thousands of pages of C.I.A. intelligence documents, government officials scurried anxiously to analyze what kind of danger these leaks would present. The New York Times outlined the contents of the leaked documents, which revealed that the CIA had developed extraordinarily advanced methods of spying on even state-of-the-art encrypted electronic communication:

Sophisticated software tools and techniques used by the agency [can] break into smartphones, computers and even Internet-connected televisions…

In one revelation that may especially trouble the tech world if confirmed, WikiLeaks said that the C.I.A. and allied intelligence services have managed to compromise both Apple and Android smartphones, allowing their officers to bypass the encryption on popular services such as Signal, WhatsApp and Telegram. According to WikiLeaks, government hackers can penetrate smartphones and collect “audio and message traffic before encryption is applied.”

The New York Times also noted that the C.I.A. had tools at its disposal to spy on “Skype; Wi-Fi networks; documents in PDF format; and even commercial antivirus programs of the kind used by millions of people to protect their computers.”  In other words, if a person is connected in some way to the Internet, the C.I.A. can see.

Of course, the C.I.A. maintains that it uses such tools not to spy on Americans, but to gather much needed information about communications between suspected terrorists.  C.I.A. spokesman Ryan Tripani explains that the intelligence agency:

…is legally prohibited from conducting electronic surveillance targeting individuals here at home, including our fellow Americans, and C.I.A. does not do so…C.I.A.’s job to be innovative, cutting-edge, and the first line of defense in protecting this country from enemies abroad.

The ethics of intelligence gathering have always been complex.  On the one hand, the benefits of discovering terrorist plots before they are launched cannot be overstated.  Saving lives is always preferable to responding to carnage.  On the other hand, when imperfect people – even when they are in government and are constricted by the regulations of government – get a hold of great power, the possibility always exists for corruption.  These leaks have brought this tension, once again, to the forefront of our public conversation.

For all the power C.I.A. officials have to hack into people’s communications and for all the information they are able to garner from these communications, the C.I.A. is still limited in its power and in its knowledge.  It cannot do everything or know everything.  This is why Christians can be thankful that we serve a God who has not only great power, but all power.  He is omnipotent.  And He has not only much knowledge, but all knowledge.  He is omniscient.  But frankly, all this would be cold comfort if God was as we are.  If He was imperfect, the specter of what He could – and probably would – do with His total power and knowledge would only terrify us.  Thankfully, God has not only all power and all knowledge, but all goodness as well.  He is omnibenevolent.  Thus, His power and knowledge do not come with the same concerns the C.I.A.’s do, for His power and knowledge will never be misused or abused.

The moral ineptitude that would lead WikiLeaks to fecklessly release documents that would compromise our national security should be forcefully denounced.  We did not need these illegally obtained documents to know that there are ethical concerns and quandaries when it comes to intelligence gathering.  But at the same time these ethical concerns and quandaries endure, we can be thankful that we have a God who uses both His power and knowledge perfectly.  His wise knowledge is unmatched by any nation’s intelligence.  And His protective power is better than any nation’s security.  So why we might be thankful for the generally good work of the C.I.A., we can wholly trust in a God who knows exactly what He’s doing – for us and for our world.

March 13, 2017 at 4:29 am 1 comment

ABC Extra – God’s Immutable Provision

An old spiritual says:

I don’t know about tomorrow;
I just live from day to day.
I don’t borrow from its sunshine
For its skies may turn to gray.
I don’t worry o’er the future,
For I know what Jesus said.
And today I’ll walk beside Him,
For He knows what lies ahead.[1]

These words are simple, but powerfully true.  And, I would add, they are also sorely needed in our world.

We live in a world full of uncertainty.  The stock market can swing several hundred points in a day.  A single poll can crown a new frontrunner in our current presidential race.  Tragedy can strike in an instant.  It’s impossible to know what tomorrow will bring.  That’s why I love the words of this spiritual:  “Today I’ll walk beside Him, for He knows what lies ahead.”  Jesus, the song says, knows with certainty what lies ahead in an uncertain world.  The chorus continues:

Many things about tomorrow
I don’t seem to understand,
But I know who holds tomorrow
And I know who holds my hand.

We cannot even manage to predict the weather of tomorrow, much less control the events of tomorrow.  But Christ can do both.  Tomorrow is held by Christ.

In ABC this past weekend, we kicked off a two-week mini-series titled “More Blessed” where we are taking a look at faithful stewardship.  The Bible calls us to steward our resources faithfully by stewarding them generously.  The Psalmist puts it succinctly when he says, “The righteous give generously” (Psalm 37:21).  However, I know that in such a shaky world, sometimes the call to give generously can be a daunting one.  After all, the specter of being generous with our resources only to watch them evaporate in the calamity of a terrible tomorrow is unsettling.  This is why so many people prefer to keep what they have while they still have it!

Contrary to the world’s call to keep what you have while you still have it, Christians are called to be givers and sharers.  And we can be givers and sharers – and feel at peace about it – thanks to the doctrine of God’s immutability.  For with the rock-solid assurance God’s changeless character, we can trust Him to provide for our needs, even as He has done in the past (cf. Luke 11:3).  This frees us up to fearlessly share with others that which God already has provided us.  For more good gifts are sure to come from His hand.

The church father Augustine connected the doctrine of God’s immutability to the doctrine of God’s omniscience:

God does not pass from this to that by transition of thought, but beholds all things with absolute unchangeableness; so that of those things which emerge in time, the future, indeed, are not yet, and the present are now, and the past no longer are; but all of these are by Him comprehended in His stable and eternal presence.[2]

Augustine’s argument concerning God’s immutability and omniscience is an important one.  Because God, Augustine argues, knows all – past, present, and future – nothing catches God off-guard.  Thus, God responds to the tragedies, trials, and terrors of this world not spastically or sporadically, but intentionally and wisely because He is already thoroughly familiar with them, even before they happen.  We can therefore trust God with our futures and be assured that He will carry us through by “His stable and eternal presence.”

Augustine’s words are a great comfort to me.  For if God knows all, then he knows all that I need.  And He will surely provide for what I need in His changeless, steady, stable, and immutable way.  For nothing – none of my needs, tragedies, or trials – catches my God off guard.

The final verse of that old spiritual goes:

I don’t know about tomorrow,
It may bring me poverty.
But the One who feeds the sparrow
Is the One who stands by me.

This is the precious promise of God’s immutable provision.  I hope you steward your resources like you believe it.

Want to learn more? Go to
www.ConcordiaLutheranChurch.com
and check out audio and video from Pastor Tucker’s
message or Pastor Zach’s ABC!


[1] “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow,” http://www.hymnlyrics.org/newlyrics_i/i_know_who_holds_tomorrow.php

[2] Augustine, City of God, 11.21, http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/120111.htm

October 17, 2011 at 5:15 am Leave a comment


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