Do gods exist? 12 An all-knowing god?

Photo: centre of Milky Way galaxy from NASA & ESA/Hubble

Is an all-knowing god possible? This is the twelfth of a series of short posts about whether gods exist and why the question is an important one.

Theologians often claim that their god is all-knowing. But does this make sense? If a god is all-knowing, then it would know the look, sound, taste, smell, or feel of everything.

Among an incalculable mix of permutations, it would know the look of a sunset on Malibu beach in California, the sound of a philharmonic orchestra, the taste of red pepper hummus, the smell of freshly cut grass, and the feel of a prickly cactus plant.

The problem with this is more fundamental than the range of details involved.

The problem is that, if the god has no body and therefore no senses, then how can it know the look, sound, taste, smell, or feel of anything?

And if the god does have a body and therefore has senses, then it is not beyond time and space but is a part of the natural universe.

If you respond that the god has no senses but that it knows the truth of propositions about looks, sounds, tastes, smells, and feels, then the god is not all-knowing. It is less than all-knowing.

More significantly, from a moral perspective, if a god is all-knowing, then it knows what we are going to do in the future.

But if it knows that, then either we do not have free will, or else the god has consciously created free agents that it knows will do evil. In either case, the god is responsible for any suffering that we cause to others.

This means that an all-knowing god is either not all-good, or not all-powerful, or not either.

The more you examine how it would work out in practice, the more self-contradictory the idea becomes of a god that is all-good, all-knowing, and all-powerful.

Like this article? It is one of a series on this topic.
Click here to read the other articles in this series.

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1 Comment

  1. A theist might reply:
    1. God could “know” sensory perceptions through knowing what his creatures think and feel – so this would be indirect and and would also need to be corrected due to imperfections in his creation, e.g. a colour blind person would not be able to see a red sunset but God could know from people with normal eysight. A very intrusive god – no privacy then!
    2. The inability of humans to understand interactions between the supernatural/ spiritual does not rule out that such interactions could not exist; as in miracles. Of course the problem here is the lack of evidence.
    2. Freewill: God could choose not to know our future and thus enable us to have freewill. But it seem we don’t have freewill anyway when account is taken of neuroscience research (functional MRI).

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