According to the wording of the New King James version of the Bible, which is our source throughout this article when quoting Scripture, God says in Jeremiah 32:27, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” And, Jesus declares in Matthew 19:26, “with God all things are possible.”
These scriptures indicate that God is omnipotent, which Webster’s Dictionary defines as “almighty,” which, in turn, is defined as “having absolute power over.” But, even someone who is omnipotent may be limited to some extent, due to practical considerations.
In this regard, John W. Haley, M.A., on page 55 of his book entitled Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, explains,
Omnipotence does not imply the power to do every conceivable thing, but the ability to do everything which is the proper object of power. For example, an omnipotent being could not cause a thing to be existent and non-existent at the same instant. The very idea is self-contradictory and absurd. When it is said that God can do “all things,” the phrase applies to those things only which involve no inconsistency or absurdity.
Haley goes on to assert that it is morally impossible for God to do certain things. For example, God cannot lie, because lying would be incompatible with God’s character.
Thus, on the basis of both what the Bible states and practical considerations, there is no valid reason to believe that God is not omnipotent. And, if God is omnipotent, miracles are possible.
On page 86 of their book entitled Answers To Tough Questions, Josh McDowell and Don Stewart assert,
The basis for believing in the miraculous goes back to the biblical conception of God. The very first verse of the Bible decides the issue. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1, RSV).
If this verse can be accepted at face value, that in the beginning . . . God created the universe, then the rest should not be a problem. If He has the ability to do this, then a virgin birth, walking on water, feeding 5,000 people with a few loaves and fish, and the other biblical miracles become not only possible but expected.
Earlier in their book, on pages 81-82, McDowell and Stewart declare,
When reading the miraculous accounts in the Bible and especially in the Gospels, a person has to note the fact that the miracles weren’t denied by the critics. In the life and ministry of Jesus, He was never asked if He performed miracles; He was always asked how He was able to do them. They wanted to know where He derived the power and authority (Matthew 21:23).
On the day of Pentecost, less than two months after the crucifixion of Jesus, Simon Peter told a large gathering, “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22, KJV).
Peter here, in front of a hostile crowd, states that the people themselves were aware of the miracles of Jesus. Just the fact that he wasn’t immediately shouted down demonstrates that the wonders Jesus performed were well known to everyone.
The first hand testimony to the miraculous is something that does not occur either in other religions or in Greek or Roman mythology. The straightforward account of the supernatural works breaking into the natural order [is] recorded for us in the Bible by eyewitnesses to these events.
With regard to God’s omniscience, there are several biblical verses that indicate God knows things He could not know unless He is omniscient, which Webster’s Dictionary defines as “having infinite awareness, understanding, and insight.”
Psalm 44:21b declares, “He [i.e., God] knows the secrets of the heart.”
And, Psalm 94:11a asserts, “The Lord knows the thoughts of man. . . .”
Likewise, 1 Corinthians 3:20 states, “The LORD knows the thoughts of the wise. . . .”
However, there are several scriptures in the Bible that seem to suggest that God is not omniscient.
First, we will consider Genesis 6:5-6, which states,
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man [i.e., mankind] was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.
This biblical passage raises the question, if God is omniscient, wouldn’t He have known how man would behave, so He would not have been disappointed with man’s behavior? In this regard, Gleason L. Archer asserts on page 80 of his book entitledEncyclopedia of Bible Difficulties,
While it is perfectly true that God in His sovereign omniscience knows all things in advance, and that nothing that happens can ever come to Him as a surprise, yet it is a mistake to infer from this that He is incapable of emotion or reaction to the willful depravity of His creatures. The Scriptures never present Him as an impassive Being, incapable of sorrow or wrath, but quite the contrary. This is because He is a God who cares, a God who loves. . . .
A second biblical passage that may lead some people to question if God really is omniscient is the Genesis 22 account of God’s testing of Abraham’s faith in Him by asking Abraham to sacrifice his only son. God says to Abraham in verse 12, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” This implies that God did not know beforehand whether or not Abraham would be willing to sacrifice his son. If God already knows what the outcome will be, why is it necessary for Him to test a person?
Haley addresses this situation on page 57 of his aforementioned book, as follows:
The language in [chapter 22 of] Genesis may be illustrated as follows: A chemical professor, lecturing to his class, says: “Now I will apply an acid to this substance, and see what the result will be.” He speaks in this way, although heknows perfectly well beforehand. Having performed the experiment, he says, “I now know that such and such results will follow.” In saying this, he puts himself in the place of the class, and speaks from their stand-point.
Exodus 32:14 is a third scripture passage that seems to indicate that God is not omniscient. Although 1 Samuel 15:29 states that God does not relent, Exodus 32:14 indicates that, as a result of a plea by Moses, “the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.” (According to Webster’s Dictionary, relent is defined as, “to become less severe, harsh, or strict. . . .”) So, Exodus 32:14 infers that God changed His mind. But, if God is omniscient, He would have known immediately the decision He would make (i.e., He would not have changed His mind). How is it possible for God to relent, if He already knows what He will do in the future?
Norman Geisler, Ph.D., and Thomas Howe, M.A., provide an explanation of Exodus 32:14 that is based upon the premise that God exists outside the constraints of time. On page 86 of their book entitled When Critics Ask, they assert,
[A]nything that changes does so in some chronological order. There must be a point before the change and a point after the change. Anything that experiences a before and an after exists in time, because the essence of time is seen in the chronological progress from before to after. However, God is eternal and outside time. . . . Therefore, there cannot be in God a series of before’s and after’s. But, if God cannot be in a series of before’s and after’s, then God cannot change, because change necessarily involves before and after.
Although there are scripture passages that indicate God is eternal (i.e., He has always existed and always will continue to exist), there do not seem to be any passages in the Bible that provide strong support for the premise that God exists outside the constraints of time. However, the Scriptures do indicate that, somehow, God knows the future, so perhaps He does exist outside the constraints of time. The most cogent evidence that God knows the future is provided by numerous fulfilled prophecies recorded in biblical writings by men who were inspired by God. [For a discussion of the biblical prophecies that were fulfilled as a result of the coming of Jesus Christ as Messiah, click on “Was the Coming of Jesus Christ Prophesied?”]
Furthermore, the Bible contains many prophetic passages that have not yet been fulfilled. The vast majority of these passages pertain to the so-called “end times,” which includes the period immediately before, during, and after the Great Tribulation. [For perspectives regarding what will occur during the end times, click on “How Will People Behave during the End Times?” and “Will Christians Need to Endure the Tribulation?”]
Despite the biblical prophecy evidence, some people may question whether it is even possible for God to be omniscient, especially with regard to the distant future. However, Einstein’s Theory of Relativity supports the possibility. Although it is beyond the scope of this article, not to mention our expertise, to try to adequately explain this Theory, the Theory does support the ability for the past, the present, and the future not only to coexist, but also to be observable at the same time. Therefore, it is theoretically possible to know in advance what will occur in the future.
A fourth biblical passage that may cause some people to question the omniscience of God is 1 Samuel 15:11, in which God declares, “I greatly regret that I have set up Saul as king. . . .” This suggests that God was not aware in advance that Saul would be an unsatisfactory leader of the nation of Israel. Why would God express regret, if He knew the outcome beforehand?
On page 174 of his previously cited book, Archer provides the following explanation of this scripture passage:
The Lord . . . said to Samuel, “I regret that I have made Saul king” (using the verb niham, a term that implies deep emotion and concern about a situation involving others). This does not imply that God was deceived in His expectations about Saul but only that He was deeply troubled about Saul and the suffering and failure that would come on Israel because her king had turned away from the path of obedience.
We believe that questions about God’s omnipotence and omniscience can be satisfactorily resolved through explanations such as those we have provided. The person who truly desires to understand the attributes of God can be confident that God is indeed almighty and that He has infinite awareness, understanding, and insight.