How We Handle Omniscience

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I don’t have many ways to exercise because my surgeon has confined me to hopping on my left foot with a walker [no weight on the right foot], or sitting or pushing myself around in a wheelchair. As you can imagine, that makes “strenuous” exercise problematic.

What I have done many times is go to the gym at my church and push a wheelchair around as my wife walks for thirty minutes. On the wall at the gym is the warning sign in big letters “Don’t do anything in this gym that you wouldn’t want Jesus to know.”

Oh no, you mean I can’t drop a chewing gum wrapper on the floor, or say a “bad word” when I get my finger jammed in the spoke of my wheelchair?

No, I had better not do that; God will know.

How do we handle the God who knows all? Do we admit that He does and just behave properly 100% of the time?

Sorry, I think we have a problem with that 100% target.

We never make it.

So what do we do?  Bingham Hunter* says we have three ways of dealing with the God-is-everywhere problem.

The fact that God is everywhere is a threat to most people. You can’t sneak anything past God. He sees you when you sin and knows your heart when you are trying to hide your less-than-perfect intentions from others. When you are in the dark with the doors locked, He is there. Many may feel that God has hemmed them in as we have our own secret sins and moral irregularities.   Also, is it not a sin when we have many opportunities to do good and we turn those down? So feeling God everywhere can be oppressive. In Hebrews 4:13 it says “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” Bingham says we just “keep ideas like God’s omniscience…stashed safely away with other curious and dusty oddities on that shelf called Interesting Theological Truth….You just sort of, well…forget it.”

Another coping mechanism is putting God in His box. After all, in Habakkuk 2:20 we see “The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.” The idea is God is localized in a place where His flock comes to worship. We begin to think that we walk in to be in His presence and we walk out when the service or prayer meeting is over. People who think this convenient thought don’t see God on the beach, at the factory or in the store.   God is not part of the kiss we give our wife when we leave for work. God surely is not present when we wax the kitchen floor or clean the cat litter boxes.   God is in the sanctuary. Practicing the idea that God is present everywhere takes a great deal of “God awareness” and a great deal of mental discipline. Bingham also admits that inserting God in the acts of daily life is not a popular modern concept. To do this, you must “swim upstream” against American culture.

If you are not putting God in a box, maybe you are compartmentalizing Him. Life for many of us is a steady stream of activities that repeat daily. We fragment life into various compartments. For example, you may have your work compartment, you may have your golf life compartment, you may have your family activity compartment and you may have your religion compartment. As we move from compartment to compartment we change roles, we can change language and we may even change nonverbal behaviors.   Have you ever heard someone say, “I leave my work problems at work and I leave my family concerns at home.” They are compartmentalizing. How does this relate to God’s omniscience? Well, He is not really omniscient is He? He is only “all knowing” in the religion compartment.   How do you think people justify their very unchristian behaviors at work or on the golf course? Compartmentalization.

This all flies in the face of how God really operates. Bingham compares God in your life to chicken pot pie: “Everything in it relates to the other parts; the flavors interact. Too much or not enough of any ingredient can affect the whole lot” [Bingham, 39].

I can’t think of a better way to confound the coping mechanisms of forgetting, God in a box or compartmentalization than using Bingham’s own strong words: “God does not just hear your prayers. He ‘hears’ your whole life. He doesn’t respond to what you say. He responds to what you are.  He responds to you. You are the factor that ties all the boxes, the compartments together.”

Just because we don’t want to see God in every aspect of life, doesn’t make it so. Like the Old Testament prophet Jacob, we need to be candid: “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it” [Genesis 28:26]. We also need to be candid and admit that our modern world does not encourage an ever-present God but that does not mean He is not ever-present just because the idea is inconvenient.

“Don’t do anything in this gym that you wouldn’t want Jesus to know.” I guess I had better put that gum wrapper in my pocket.

He is there.


From his book The God Who Hears

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