The Omniscience of God
by Mike Clark © 2020
This came on as a result of a series of comments by a number of posters on the Mormon Dialogue and Discussion Board concerning the nature of God’s omniscience. My response below was to bluebell’s comment on the three "omnis" generally attributed to God (omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscience), as she writes:
bluebell writes: "They don't seem to really apply as we've gotten used to defining them. God has a physical body so He isn't actually omnipresent in a literal sense. He is bound by laws so He's not exactly omnipotent in a literal sense. It wouldn't be surprising if He's not exactly omniscient in a literal sense either.
"Though in exactly what sense He is omniscient I don't know. That seems to be the difficult omni to figure out."
I have a basis in science, and computing, and for quite some time it was hard for me to visualize this omniscience. Starting with and most especially given the utterly incomprehensibly enormous size of the Universe. We're talking billions and probably trillions of galaxies, each with billions and possibly trillions of stars, each with thousands and possibly millions of bodies, including planets, dwarf planets, moons, comets, asteroids, and other smaller and smaller bodies. And then drill down to just this earth. It's 4.5 billion years old, and life has existed here since about 4.4 billion years ago, just after the oceans began to form. You think there are lot of humans on the planet right now, something like 7 billion of us, which is a lot, but consider how many individual lifeforms have ever lived on this planet, from the very first one-celled plant or animal, all the way up to blue whales (the largest single animal which has ever existed here). You cannot conceive of it. And then expand to every habitable planet in the Universe, and all the plants and animals which have ever, or will ever exist on ALL of them, from the beginning not terribly long after the Big Bang all the way to the heat death of universe, quadrillions of years hence.
To paraphrase Richard Feynman, if you think you understand the enormity of the universe and the extent of all of God's creations, then you don't understand it.
So how can God possibly know about every single bit of it, as enormous as it is? This had me flummoxed for a time. I've written data processing programs that deal with large numbers of records, and in order to keep all that data in a database requires a large amount of data storage and memory. I quailed at the impossibility of God being able to know where single every thing or particle of His universe was at all times, what condition it was in, and how each and every thing therein related to every other thing. As far as I could see, this was an utter impossibility, even for God.
If God had a computer system capable of keeping track of all that matter and energy, from Year Zero to Year Infinity, he would have to have a computer system that was as large as the Universe, impossible in itself already, and it would have to have a hard drive that could hold a googolplex of data points for every nanosecond of the Universe's existence. At a minimum.
Have you ever heard of the number called the "googolplex"? (Look up googolplex HERE). It is triply incomprehensibly large, and so large that if every single elementary particle in the Universe were to be used to represent every zero in the decimal form of the number, you would still run out of subatomic particles before you could ever finish representing it, even once. And you'd have to have a googolplex times a googolplex bytes of data on that hard drive in order to come even remotely close to being able to accurately represent the Universe. And that much processing power would have to exceed the size of the Universe a googolplex number of times.
Pack a lunch. You'll be at it for a Very. Long. Time.
Well, this assailed my faith a bit, I have to tell you. But the solution eventually occurred to me.
It is a fact that God does not exist inside the Universe. This should be evident from the Big Bang. When the Big Bang occurred, from Nothing suddenly all the mass and energy in the Universe showed up, all at the same point, all in the same nanosecond, and began to expand to create Space and Time. If God were in the Universe, it would have to be the case that He created Himself, because before the Universe existed (before the Big Bang) there was Nothing, not even God. But God does not create Himself - it is an absurdity to believe that He did. There are no mathematics nor physics that can explain what is outside the Universe. Some like to think of multiverses, or Universes outside of this one, but even to think that requires that there is something outside of any universe. Not even quantum physicists can explain it; Stephen Hawking had a shot, maybe, but even he miffed it. Anyway, if God is outside of the Universe, then He is outside of both Space and Time. And being outside of Space and Time, having created the Universe, He sees the entire Universe from the moment of its creation to the end of its destiny. In short, for God the Universe itself, with all its Time and Space, is the computer and the database that represents it. Problem solved.
Imagine it this way. Consider the author of a well-written Novel. One of my favorites is Tom Clancy's Without Remorse. It tells the story of a former Navy SEAL who falls in love, has his girlfriend murdered by a drug gang, and himself seriously injured, and then he spends the rest of the novel getting revenge on every last member of it. It's quite gripping. In the universe of the novel, the main character John Kelly goes from a hospitalized man who has just discovered his girlfriend has been brutally murdered, to a recovering convalescent, to a quietly investigating intelligence operative looking for the gang and its members, to an avenging angel tracking down and killing the gang members one or two at a time, until he finally knocks off the leader of the gang and his few remaining thugs. Spoiler alert.
Well, in the universe of the novel, Tom Clancy is god. He existed outside of the novel, in fact he existed before the novel was even conceived. Having written the novel, and holding a copy of the book in his hand, he knows every single detail and every single event from beginning to end, and every single character in the novel, both major and minor. Meanwhile, John Kelly, the main protagonist, starts out meeting the girl, falls in love with her, suffers her brutal loss, and experiences every event in the novel in the order and in the manner that it is portrayed in the novel. At any given moment, he only knows what has happened so far, and what he plans to do next -- as does every other character in the book. There are characters in the novel that John Kelly doesn't know, and many who don't know him, but all of them have an effect on every other of them. It is quite complex, including a series of sub-events in which Kelly goes off briefly to Viet-Nam to carry out a mission unrelated to his self-imposed mission of vengeance. But regardless of what Kelly and every character in the novel knows at any given moment during the events of the novel, the author Tom Clancy knows everything at every time. He is the Omniscient Author. This analogy breaks down by the fact that Clancy writes everything that Kelly does, and Kelly has no free will – he’s a fictional character, after all. But we do have free will, and God doesn’t “write” us. He just knows what we will decide to do from beginning to end.
Just as our God is the Omniscient Creator.
I don't know if this helps you at all, but I thought I would give it a shot.