Claims Of Omniscience Confuse Ignorance With Knowing It All
A reader recently commented, I think facetiously, at another Irregular Times article about claims of the Christian deity and marriage, that “Of course God knows all about marriage. He doesn’t have to have been married to know about it, or about anything, because He is omniscient. He knows everything.”
This statement struck me as very interesting in its logical foundations and implications. The theological position it represents is a human assertion of the omniscience (all-knowing nature) of the god of Christianity.
The question that arises naturally, for critically thinking minds, from assertions of the doctrine that the god of Christianity knows absolutely everything, is this: How do Christians know that their god is omniscient? How could anyone ever have known this for certain?
Let’s put aside, for the sake of argument, the considerable reasons to reject the very idea that this god has any true existence at all. Let’s just address the question of how, if this god exists, anybody could have reasonably arrived at the conclusion that the god is omniscient.
Did the god show up in person and tell Christian prophets, priests and popes that he is omniscient? So what if he did? I’ve had plenty of human beings state to me that they know everything, but I did not accept their mere assertions as reasonable evidence.
Isn’t it possible that this god merely believes that he knows everything? How could the truth of the god’s claims be tested?
It’s logically impossible. Think it through: The only way that the god’s claims of knowing everything, and not just a lot of things, could be tested would be through the comparison of the god’s range of knowledge with the range of knowledge of another sentient being already known to be omniscient. If the other omniscient being knew just one thing that the god didn’t know, then the god would not be omniscient.
So, only when the god had proven knowledge of every single thing that the second omniscient being knows, could the god be reasonably described as omniscient. There’s a big problem with this kind of test, though, which is that true omniscience would require full documentation of everything that has happened in the past, that is happening in the present, and that will happen in the future. There’s good reason to believe that the very test of omniscience would take longer to conduct than the entire length of time that the universe will be in existence.
But, for the sake of argument, let’s suppose that, by some magical hocus pocus, the test can be performed instantaneously, through the creation of an eternal testing sphere completely outside of the realm of time, yet with results that could be confirmed and communicated through human beings. The results of the test still wouldn’t be trustworthy.
Here’s why: The second omniscient being, whose omniscience is the standard that the Christian god must meet in order to be proven omniscient… well, how do we know that this omniscient being is, in fact, omniscient? The only way to tell for sure would be to subject this supposedly omniscient being to an omniscience test of its own, by finding another omniscient being to serve as another standard of what it is to truly know it all. That omniscient being’s omniscience would have to be confirmed by yet another omniscient being, and on and on, into infinity.
Christian theology doesn’t even claim that such a test has taken place. So, the Christian claim of its god’s omniscience hasn’t even made it to the starting line in the race for credibility. There’s good reason for that: Christian theologians have surely realized that any attempt to actually prove that their god is omniscient is doomed to failure. By failing to even try, they have admitted that they don’t really know that their god is omniscient.
From this, it doesn’t take too long to realize that pretty much every significant idea in Christianity is a fancy of the imagination. That’s okay. Lots of great stories and entertaining ideas have been concocted out of nothing more than imagination. Sometimes, these invented stories are good ways to begin open discussions about what it means to be human.
The problem comes when people assert that they know for certain they have a god that knows absolutely everything, and that this god absolutely knows that denying human beings equal rights under the law is the only morally right thing to do.
I might as well suggest that a gigantic divine platypus who lives in the sky knows everything, and has told me that corporate CEOs should have a capital gains tax rate of 76.5 percent.